Do You Know What an Error Message Means When Trying to Add Users to Canvas?

The Do You Know? series provides tips for working with quirks in Canvas. Please email Courseware Support at if you have any questions.

Why Can’t I Add a Person to My Canvas Site?

Ever try adding someone to a Canvas site and receive this message?

Adding-user error messageThe first thing to do when receiving this error message is to double-check the user’s PennKey, making sure that you have entered it correctly into Canvas. If you have, then this error message means that the user you are trying to add doesn’t have a Canvas account.

Wait, Wait, Wait–Doesn’t Everyone at Penn Have a Canvas Account?

No. Only users who have taught, taken, or performed some support, design, or grading  function in a Canvas site (e.g., TAs) before your attempt to add them to a site have accounts in the system.

For instructors who are first-time Canvas user, the system automatically generates a user account for them when their site is made. Likewise, the first time a student registers for a course with a Canvas site, the system automatically creates their account and adds them to the site within an hour of their registration.

User for whom this error message occurs tend to be new departmental staff who need to perform editing or support functions in a Canvas site, TAs who were assigned to a course late, and visiting scholars or students. If such users have PennKeys, and we have the instructor’s permission to add them to a Canvas site, Courseware Support can create their Canvas accounts and add them to sites.

So the Person I Want to Add Needs a PennKey to Have a Canvas Account?

Yes. A user must obtain a PennKey before we can create their Canvas account. If you know a user doesn’t have a PennKey, please contact Courseware Support at so we can send instructions for the user to request one.

And What Should I Do if I Run into Problems?

We encourage you to contact Courseware Support at if you need assistance adding users to a Canvas site.

Hello, It’s Me, Your Test Student!

There's a Test Student in each of you Canvas sites!

There’s a Test Student in each of your Canvas sites!

The folks at Courseware Support want me to let you know that you can contact them at if you need Canvas help.

Hi there! Perhaps you haven’t noticed me before? It’s okay if you haven’t, seeing as how I don’t contribute much to class unless you prompt me. Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m your Test Student. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Another student this late in the semester?! But it’s after Spring Break!” Please don’t be alarmed! Maybe if I tell you what I’m doing in your Canvas site you’ll be eager to start working with me.

Okay, first things first, I’m not a real student. This means you don’t have to worry about me adding to your workload. In fact, you’ll be happy to know I’m only in your Canvas site to serve you. My main purpose is to let you see your Canvas site as your students see it. Through me you can you can take your own quizzes, grade your own assignments, and perform other actions just as if your were a student in your site. Pretty useful, huh?

If you haven’t fully made my acquaintance yet, I welcome you to learn more about me, which you can do here. Once you feel like you know me well enough, try using me by following these instructions.

Courseware Support has asked me to make more contributions to the Canvas at Penn blog in the future, so you’ll be hearing from me again, specifically about what I can and can’t do, as well as scenarios in which I’m especially useful. Until then, I look forward to working with you! If you have any questions about me, please contact Courseware Support at

How Do I Find My Canvas Sites from Past Semesters?

The “How Do I . . .” series gives instructions on how to use Canvas features and tools. If you have any questions about what’s covered in this series, please contact Courseware Support at

What Happened to My Old Canvas Sites?

Man raising hands in frustrationCourseware Support has removed Canvas sites from past semesters from users’ Courses menu and enabled date restrictions on past courses in Canvas to make them read-only. This prevents both students and instructors from making any additional changes to the site. This action was taken to resolve some issues where instructors were editing past sites (instead of current ones) and for basic housekeeping (since these courses get moved out of a user’s course list).

How Do I Find My Old Canvas Sites?

To access a Canvas site for a past course, please log into Canvas, click on the Courses tab, and then click on the View All Courses link. On the next page under “Past Enrollments,” you will be able to view your past courses. You can enter a course by clicking on its link.

Why Can’t I Access Certain Content in My Old Sites?

The read-only status affects your access to certain content in your old Canvas sites. For instructors, if there is any content in any previous sites you have problems accessing, please let us know and we can re-enable full editing access to them. For students, please ask your instructor for permission to access this content, and if they allow it have them send an email to Courseware Support at in which they request to have their site re-enabled.

Why Can’t I Enroll People in My Old Canvas Sites?

As with content access, the read-only status prevents you from editing your old Canvas sites, including any attempts at enrolling new people. If you want someone to have access to your old Canvas site, please contact Courseware Support with that person’s full name, PennKey username (NOT their password), their email address, and the role they should have in the site (e.g., TA), and we can re-enable the site and enroll them in it.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Yes. Please note that the read-only status for past courses does not affect the ability for instructors to copy old course content into new Canvas sites. Copying content from an old course into a new site occurs during the course-site creation process. For more information about requesting Canvas sites, please see:

Requesting Your Canvas Sites

Also, please note that the read-only status affects how your course links display in your Courses drop-down menu, as only Canvas sites for current semester courses appear on it. If you want to customize the links on your Courses drop-down menu, either to show links for old courses or to remove links from the menu, please follow the instructions in this link:

How do I customize my Courses drop-down menu?

And What Should I Do If I Need Help?

Please contact Courseware Support at if you need assistance.

Do You Know Students Can Submit Late Assignments Unless You Use an “Until” Date?

The Do You Know? series provides tips for working with quirks in Canvas. Please email Courseware Support at if you have any questions.

Why Does Canvas Let My Students Submit Their Work After the Due Date?

The guiding principle behind this default ability is that decisions about whether or not an assignment should be accepted late is an instructor’s prerogative, so rather than deciding for the instructor that students cannot submit their work after the due date, Canvas leaves the choice about whether or not to accept the late submission up to the instructor, marking it “late” without taking any further action.

"Late submission messahe for students

If Canvas were to automatically block students from submitting after a due date, allowing extensions would require working with complex settings, and intervention from a Canvas support specialist would most likely be necessary. By accepting late submissions by default, Canvas obviates this need and defers to the instructor’s judgment, letting them manage late submissions according to their personal policies.

The gradebook cell for a late submissiomn is pink.

A pink gradebook cell means a submission was late.

Thus if you gave a student an extension, the submission would be marked “late,” but you would be able to grade the submission according to the grading terns you defined for the extension (full credit, partial credit, etc.). If you did not give a student an extension but they submit late anyway, you can decide how or if to grade the submission according to your lateness policy.

SpeedGrader has a message in red for late assignments.

SpeedGrader labels late assignments with a message in red text.

I Don’t Give Extensions. Can I Stop Late Submissions?

Yes, in addition to a due date, you can use an “Until” availability date to completely cut off student access to assignments after a certain date, including the ability to submit an assignment.

Set the "Until" Availability Date for at least 5 minutes after the due date to allow for technical difficulties.

Set the “Until” Availability Date for at least 5 minutes after the due date to allow for technical difficulties on your students’ end and to account for possible slight time differences between computers and Canvas.

Students see a "locked" message when they access an assignment after an "Until" availability date.

Students see a “locked” message when they access an assignment after an “Until” availability date.

More Information

Please click on the following link for information and instructions on using availability dates in Canvas:

What is the difference between due dates and availability dates?

Please contact Courseware Support at if you have any questions.

Feature Highlight: Adding Extra Time to Canvas Quizzes for Students with Accommodations

The Feature Highlights series shares information about neat and useful things you can do with Canvas features. Please email Courseware Support at if you have any questions about the features discussed in this series.

It isn’t uncommon to have a student in your class who needs extra time on an assessment like a quiz, test, or exam due to an accommodation. If you are giving the assessment in Canvas, you can set up the “quiz” (Canvas’s term for any question-and-answer-based assessment) so that the student can have extra time to complete the activity while his classmates have the standard time you gave for it. To learn more, please see the section called “Adjust Additional Options” in the following link:

Once I publish my Quiz, how can I give my students extra attempts?

In the screenshot for this section, you will see an option labelled “Extra time on every attempt.” This is where you would add extra time for students.

Enter Extra Time in the "Extra Time on Every Attempt" Box

Please contact Courseware Support at if you have any questions.

Best Practices: Using Discussions for Sharing Among Students

The Best Practices series focuses on what instructors and students can do to effectively use Canvas. You’re welcome to contact Courseware Support at if you have any questions about best practices.

Thinking Outside the (Discussion) Box

Students working together

Canvas discussions harness your students’ collective knowledge for your whole class.

The content-sharing options in Canvas discussions are often overlooked. To go beyond the ho-hum implementation of this tool, it’s useful to think of a Canvas discussion like a crowd-sourcing  resource for collecting students’ input on one anothers’ work.

Pedagogically, this discussion practice might sound risky, especially if you’re concerned about the quality of students’ contributions. To protect against any misuses or misunderstandings, it is recommended that you, a co-instructor, or a TA vet discussion posts, and the easiest way to do this is to subscribe to the discussion so you are alerted about each post. If you have multiple TAs or co-instructors, it’s a good idea to have a discussion monitoring schedule to equally distribute the vetting responsibilities.

Using Discussions to Facilitate Conversations about Student Work

One way to use Canvas discussions effectively is to have students post their work as an attachment in a discussion and then have their classmates provide feedback in discussion replies. Here are the steps required for doing this:

1. Grant your students the permission to create their own discussion boards in your Canvas site, which you can do by following these instructions:

How do I allow students to start a new Discussion?

2. Give students the permission to upload attachments to discussions, which you can do in the same settings area as step 1 or by following these instructions:

How do I allow students to attach files to a Discussion?

3. Ask each student to create a discussion, which they can do by following these instructions:

How do I start a new Discussion?

When they at set up their discussion boards, ask students to do the following:

  • Upload their assignment files as attachments to the discussion by clicking on Browse next to “Attachment” in the discussion set-up interface and uploading the assignment file.
  • Check the box next to “Allow threaded replies,” which will create a threaded discussion that will let students reply to one another’s replies (this way, the student who posted the assignment can respond to a classmate’s question directly in a reply to the classmate’s reply to the original post).

4. Have students look at one anothers’ discussion boards and then reply, which they can do by following these instructions:

How do I reply to a Discussion?

Explore More Alternative Uses for Canvas Discussions

If you would like to learn more about what you can do with Canvas discussions, please see the Discussions section of the Canvas Instructor Guide. If you have any questions, please contact Courseware Support at

Canvas Production Release: March 14, 2015

Canvas operates on a three-week release cycle through which features are added or updated. Courseware Support posts highlights from Canvas’s production release notes, a link to these notes, and other relevant content to the Canvas at Penn blog a few days before the production release, which usually occurs on Saturdays. Please contact Courseware Support at if you have any questions about an upcoming production release.

3/14/15 Production Release Highlights:

  • Modules- Manage Files: Instructors can manage files directly from the Modules page. This feature aligns publishing functionality of all items within Modules and allows an instructor to publish, unpublish, or restrict a file. The state of the file is aligned with the Files Index page. If a file is unpublished within Files, the file will also be shown as unpublished on the Modules page.
  • Quizzes- Average Scoring Policy: When allowing multiple attempts in a quiz, instructors can choose to score a quiz by the average score. This feature generates an average score for all attempts in a quiz.
  • Announcements- Settings Menu: The Announcements Index page includes a settings menu for each posted announcement. In addition to improving accessibility, this feature aligns Announcements with all other areas within Canvas and allows quick access to closing an Announcement for comments or deleting an announcement.
  • Announcement Content: If an instructor created an announcement but did not include any content (i.e. if the announcement only included an attachment), Canvas created a page error when the page was saved. Canvas code has been updated to generate a message if content is not included in the announcement.
  • Gradebook Drop-down Menu (Chrome): When Chrome users tried to access the Gradebook section and settings drop-down menus, users could not access the menus or select items after they had initially been viewed. Canvas code has been updated to to support a rendering issue in Chrome 40 and 41.

Additional Updates

  • Quiz Log Auditing will be set to “Allow” as part of this weekend’s release so that users may opt in. This feature is designed to help instructors investigate problems that a student may have encountered in a Canvas Quiz.For more information please see the January 31, 2015 Production Release Notes.
  • On April 4th, Facebook will no longer be supported as a Canvas integration. More information will be posted to the Canvas at Penn blog closer to this date.

For a complete production release update, see:

March 14, 2015 Canvas Production Release Notes

2014-03-14 New Feature Screencast from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.