Add Your Syllabus to Canvas

How Do I Add a Syllabus to a New Canvas Site (No Copied Content)?

You can upload your syllabus anywhere in Canvas that has a Rich Content Editor. Typically, instructors add their syllabus to the “Syllabus” page, but you can also add it to the homepage or

another page. Basically, you can add a document like a syllabus anywhere in Canvas with a Rich Content Editor (the MS Word-like text editor in Canvas).

Here are directions for adding your syllabus to the “Syllabus” page:

1.) Enter your Canvas site.  Then, upload the syllabus to the “Files” area of the course site (click here for instructions).

2.) Click on Syllabus. Then, click Edit Syllabus Description.*

3.) Follow these steps to add the syllabus file (click here for instructions).

If you added your old syllabus to an area in your site that doesn’t use the Rich Content Editor (e.g., a module), please open that area’s edit mode and proceed.

Have everyone on the same page by adding your syllabus to Canvas site!

How do I Add a New Syllabus to a Canvas Site that Has Copied or Revised Content?

Instructor who’ve used Canvas before might copy content from an old Canvas site into their current site. Additionally, instructors who make changes to their courses during the semester will find they’ll need to revise their Canvas sites. In either case, instructors most likely have to delete an old syllabus (one from a previous semester or from earlier in the current term) and add a new one to their site. If you find yourself having to do this, please follow these instructions:

Enter your Canvas site and follow these steps:

1.) Delete the old syllabus file (click here for instructions).

2.) Add the new syllabus file by following these instructions (click here for instructions).

3.)  Click on Syllabus. Then, click Edit Syllabus Description.*

If you added your old syllabus to an area in your site that doesn’t use the Rich Content Editor (e.g., a module), please open that area’s edit mode and proceed.

4.) Delete the link to the old syllabus file.

5.) Follow these steps to add a link to the new syllabus file (click here for instructions).

**The same steps apply to anywhere in Canvas with the Rich Content Editor. The only difference will be where you go for step 3 (“Home,” “Pages,” etc.).

6.) Click on Save to commit the changes.


Please email Courseware Support at

Canvas Production Release: August 29, 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.

8/29/15 Production Release Highlights:

Publish Link: In new Canvas courses, the top of the Course Home Page no longer includes a link to publish the course. The message about publishing the course is the same, but it no longer includes a direct link to publish the course. If users have permission to publish their courses, users can publish via the Course Home Page sidebar or open the Course Setup Checklist.

Clone Group Set: After assigning a group to an assignment, instructors will receive a warning message if they try to modify a group set that has student submissions. Instructors can choose to modify the group, or they can clone the existing group set. Cloning a group set will copy the entire group set, including all groups, group leaders, and memberships; instructors only have to make changes to the affected users. Instructors can also create a new name to differentiate the cloned group set. Group sets can be cloned at any time in the Settings menu for the group set.

SpeedGrader External URLs: When an instructor views an online submission URL in SpeedGrader, the original URL submission from students appears in the SpeedGrader window. Additionally, a second link labeled View in a new tab lets users choose to open the submission in an external window. Note that some submission types cannot be displayed in SpeedGrader and must be viewed outside Canvas. This change is a modification from the SpeedGrader feature update in the July 18 release.

External Mail Handling: In the June 27 release, Canvas made a change that was inadvertently omitted from the release notes and may affect users for the fall term. Canvas now verifies incoming mail sender addresses against the address originally sent from a Canvas notification. This change may affect institutions that may use an additional email from their mail account, such as and; any replies originally sent from Canvas with the simple domain would be returned to Canvas as the additional domain. If users are not able to view their email replies in Canvas, their account may have been affected by this email verification where Canvas cannot recognize both mail accounts as the same user. Users can update their email address for notifications in their Canvas user account and match the email with the incoming mail sender.

For a complete production release update, please see:

August 29, 2015 Canvas Production Release Notes

View the script for this video.

DATE CHANGE: Canvas for Student Success Event on 10/5!


Are you an instructor or TA interested in student-centered learning in Canvas? If so, start off the Fall 2015 term right by coming to the Canvas for Student Success event! Click on the following link to register:

Canvas for Student Success, Monday, October 5, 2015, 10:00am -12:00pm, Goldstein Electronic Classroom (Rm 114), Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center

During this event, we will explore techniques for engaging your students with your Canvas courses. We plan to discuss the use of screen videos for reinforcement outside class time, connecting to external resources and readings through Pages, structured exploration through Modules, interaction and peer learning though Discussion Boards, and more. We plan to provide informal personalized assistance for an hour immediately following this two-hour workshop. We will provide desktop computers, but please feel free to bring your laptop along if convenient. Designed for faculty, instructors and TAs.  We hope you can make it!

Remember to Publish Your Canvas Site!

Student sitting at a table discussion a book and several documents

It’s almost time to publish Fall 2015 Canvas sites!

What should I do?

The Fall 2015 term at the University of Pennsylvania starts Wednesday, August 26th. Courseware Support recommends that instructors publish their Canvas sites before their first class meeting. Here are instructions for how to publish a Canvas site:

How do I publish my course?

What does “publishing” mean?

Publishing means giving registered students access to your course’s Canvas site. All Canvas sites are made in an “unpublished” state, meaning that only people in the Teacher, TA, or Designer roll can access the sites (the intention is to give these users time to create and edit the site before students see it).  When a site is “unpublished,” you can see registered students using the People button , and students see this message for your site in their “My Courses” list:

"Unpublished" message for a Canvas site.



When students place their cursor over this message, the see the following explanation:

Message that appears for users when they place their cursor over the "unpublished" message. It reads, "This course has not been published. Students should contact the course instructor for access."

Once published, the site appears in registered students’ Courses tabs, and they can enter the site by clicking on the link for it in the tab.

But what do I do if I don’t want students to see certain things in my site yet?

You can control when students see certain items in a Canvas site through a feature called Draft State. For more information on Draft State, please see:

Working with Draft State

Anything else I should know about before Fall 2015 begins?

For a detailed start-of-term Canvas checklist, please click here. If you have any questions or need help, please email or register for Canvas office hours for in-person assistance.

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

Important: The following information only applies to manual-enrollment situations (meaning, when you need to add someone who isn’t officially enrolled in or affiliated with your course to your Canvas site). Usually, staff and some TAs fall in this category. If a course has a Canvas site (if you’re an instructor who doesn’t have one, please click here to request a site), students are enrolled in that course’s Canvas site within an hour of their registration. If you’re an instructor or TA who has a site but can’t access it, please contact Courseware Support at for help.

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.

Best Practices: Store Media Files on Pages, Not in Files

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.

Storing Files in Canvas

At the University of Pennsylvania, each Canvas site has a 1000 MB storage limit for files. While this limit tends to give users more than enough space to store document files in a Canvas site, it is usually not high enough for storing media files. Thus Courseware Support does not recommend storing media files in Canvas sites.

Adding Media Files to Canvas Pages

Instead of storing media files in a Canvas site, we suggest uploading media files to Canvas Pages. When you upload a file to a Canvas Page, it is stored on a server that has much more allotted storage space than a Canvas site’s default file-storage quota.

Here are instructions for creating a Canvas Page:

Don't let media files fill your site to the brim.

Media files can fill your site to the brim.

How do I create a new Page?

Here are instructions for how to upload an audio file to a Canvas Page:

How do I upload an audio file using the Rich Content Editor?

Here are instructions for how to upload a video file to a Canvas Page:

How do I upload a video using the Rich Content Editor?

Please note that uploading a media file to a Canvas Page does not make it downloadable; rather, the media file is only embedded in the Page.

Increasing Your File Storage Quota

Canvas will not let you upload files if doing so will exceed your file-storage quota, and you will see an error message in the “Files” area of your site. When this happens, you can request a file-storage-quota increase by writing to Courseware Support at

We do not recommend increasing your file-storage quota above 4 GB. Any site with more than 4 GB of files may present copying issues in future semesters, meaning that you may not be able to copy content from the site into a new Canvas site because if its size.

Uploading media files to a Canvas site greatly increases the likelihood of your reaching the 4 GB limit.


Please direct questions about media files in Canvas to Courseware Support at

New Semester Checklist: Fall 2015

Here are a few tips to help you get started with Canvas for the Fall 2015 term.

1. Create a Course Site. If you haven’t requested your site yet, now is the time. It’s easy! Use the Canvas Site Request Form.

2. Get Help.  Register to drop in to Canvas Office Hours at the Weigle Information Commons  to meet with experts who want to help you.

3. Publish Your Site. Students are added to Canvas course sites automatically, but they can’t access course content until the site is published. Just click the Publish button when you are ready!pblsh_cnvs_st

Questions? Email us at, or contact your local support provider.

Here’s to a great semester!

Creating Custom Canvas Homepages

Giant panda in tree

You’ve done your part: Canvas site requested. Content uploaded. Assignments and quizzes created. Course site published.

But maybe that basic Canvas site could use a little something extra, a little visual interest . . . a little glitter and glam, if you will.

The solution, asserts Jenn Steplowski, an instructional designer from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is to create a custom homepage for your Canvas page. The following tips can help you get started:

  • Before you start designing, consider the mood of your course. What kind of atmosphere do you want users to experience while in the course site?
  • When choosing imagery, quality and consistency are key. Select images from the same family or apply the same filters/effects so they look more uniform. To prevent pixelization, start with larger images and scale them down as needed.
  • Try to limit the design of the page to one or two colors, plus black and white. Variations of one color promote harmony. Flat, colorful design (no gradient or shadows) is very popular right now. For a harmonious course site, choose a color theme and stick with it throughout all pages.
  • Pick a focal point. The eye usually gravitates to the top left corner of the page, then moves toward the center.
  • Create adaptive headers by putting images in a 1×1 table at 100% width. This allows the image to adjust with the screen size. Choose a header that is attention-grabbing.
  • Maintain uniform spacing and respect the background and white space of the design.
  • Avoid using more than two fonts on a page.

For free design ideas and tools, check out the following resources:

Maintenance Enrollment Outage in Canvas: Monday, August 10th-Tuesday, August 11th

Sign that reads, "Construction Zone Authorized Parking Only"

Due to scheduled maintenance, student enrollments will not be running in Canvas on Monday, August 10th. Any enrollment changes made during this period will not be reflected in Canvas until Tuesday, August 11th when enrollments begin running again.


We apologize if the enrollment-delay causes any inconvenience. If there are any questions, please email Courseware Support at

Canvas Production Release: August 8, 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.

8/8/15 Production Release Highlights:

  • New Canvas User Interface: This feature is used in conjunction with the New UI Feature Option, which can be enabled by any Canvas admin in Account Settings. Enabling the New UI affects the user interface for the entire Canvas account. Adjustments to the New UI will be made throughout the upcoming year. The new Canvas UI is an updated interface structure designed for easier navigation and an enhanced responsive user experience across several components.
    We have elected to NOT enable this UI change for Fall 2015. Please follow the Canvas at Penn Blog and Twitter (@CanvasPenn) to stay informed about when this change will take place.
  • Student Interactions Report: Instructors who access the “People” page in their course have a corresponding button to the Student Interactions Report. The Student Interactions Report shows an overview of the last interaction with each student in their course, in addition to the student’s current score, final score, and any ungraded assignments.
  • Gradebook Link: For consistency in all user roles, the instructor Gradebook link in Course Navigation has been changed to Grades. However, the link behavior has not changed and still opens to the Gradebook.
  • Excuse an Assignment in Individual View: In the Gradebook Individual View, instructors can excuse an assignment for a student. After an instructor selects the student and the assignment from the drop-down menus, instructors can excuse the assignment by clicking the “Excuse an Assignment” check-box.
  • Total Column Decimals: In the Gradebook, if the “Total Grade” column is shown as a percentage, the percentage is rounded to two decimal places. The student “Grades” page also now shows the percentage rounded to two decimal places.This change also retains two decimals in student view when an instructor uses percentage-weighted assignment groups in the Gradebook.
  • Rich Content Editor Default Icons: The default Rich Content Editor icons have been updated for consistency and style. Updated icons include link to URL, embed image, insert math equation, and record/upload media. Icons added from LTI tools are not affected.
  • Term-concluded Courses & Unpublished Modules: Instructors in term-concluded courses can view unpublished modules.

Other Canvas Changes:

Canvas no longer supports Etherpad as a collaboration tool. All existing Etherpad collaborations that are hosted by Canvas will be permanently deleted.As a product alternative, users can create Google Docs collaborations in Canvas

For information on using Google Docs for Collaborations, please see: How do I create a Google Docs Collaboration?

For a complete production release update, please see:

August 8, 2015 Canvas Production Release Notes