Canvas Production Release: September 16, 2017

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 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.

9/16/17 Production Release Highlights:

  • Student Assignments Filter Buttons: When assignments are organized by assignment group, the student “Assignments” page displays buttons to filter by date and by type. The buttons have been updated to read as “Show by Date” and “Show by Type,” respectively.
  • Notifications & Course Sender Name: When students view course notifications in their email, all notifications are sent from the course name. This change helps students more easily identify notifications from a specific course. Previously, notifications were also sent from Instructure Canvas or the institution’s name. This update does not affect any other elements in course notifications.
  • Conferences Updates: There are a number of updates to the Conferences tool in this release–
    • Interface Enhancements: The Conferences interface has been updated with a brighter design and modern icons, which render as a font to provide better support for higher resolution monitors. Additionally, the menu bar buttons have been simplified and grouped together for easier access.
    • Presentation Downloads: When adding files to a presentation, presenters can choose to let students download the presentation. By default, this option is disabled. When enabled, the download icon is included in the bottom of the presentation window.
    • Promote Viewer to Moderator: In the user settings, a presenter can promote a viewer to be a moderator at any time. Presenters can also change a moderator’s status back to a conference viewer.
    • Public Chat Downloads: In the chat window, the Options tab allows users to download the chat transcript as a text (.txt) file. Users can also copy the chat contents, and clear the public chat history. Clearing the chat history cannot be undone.
    • End Meeting on Logout: When logging out of a conference, moderators can choose to log out and end the meeting at the same time. Ending the meeting will remove all users from the conference and start to process the recording (if applicable).
    • Full Screen Mode: Conferences provides a full screen mode, which allows moderators to display presentations in a full-screen window. This update is helpful to users who may present the conference on a separate screen and want to display the content in a maximum presentation size.
    • Multiuser Whiteboard: The presenter can enable the multiuser whiteboard at the bottom of the presentation toolbar. When enabled, users can view the toolbar options and contribute to the whiteboard. The name of each user displays next to the user’s cursor. Additionally, each user has a separate layer in the whiteboard and cannot affect another user’s whiteboard (including clearing annotations). The presenter can disable the multiuser whiteboard at any time. Once the multiuser whiteboard is disabled, the presenter can click the Clear button to remove all annotations from the whiteboard. As an additional enhancement to the whiteboard, shapes drawn with the pen tool are smoothed automatically.
    • Shared Notes: In the “Shared Notes” window, users can view when another user is typing in the notes window. The “Undo/Redo” icons undo or redo content for the last user who contributed to the notes. Shared notes supports a text toolbar for content formatting that can be opened and closed using the “Text” icon. Before the session ends, users can also download notes as formatted text (.html) or plain text (.txt). Notes are not recorded as part of a presentation. Moderators can also clear all note content for all users. Clearing content cannot be undone.

For a complete production release update, please see:

Canvas Production Release Notes: September 16, 2017

2017-09-16 New Feature Screencast from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.
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How to Publish Your Canvas Site with the New Modules Homepage Default

As of July 15, 2017, the Canvas homepage defaults to the Modules layout in new sites that do not contain copied content. If you have not added any modules to a Canvas site, then you will see the follow message when you attempt to publish your site:

“Before publishing your course, you must either publish a module in the Modules page, or choose a different home page.”

An example of the "Choose Home Page" window displaying the modules-publishing message.

If you do not want to use modules for your Canvas site’s homepage, you can change your homepage layout by following these instructions:

To learn more about the different homepage-layout options, please consult the following information:

If you decide not to use modules for your Canvas site’s homepage, and you want students to be able to access your course’s syllabus from the homepage, you can add the document file containing your syllabus to the “Syllabus” area of you Canvas site, set the “Syllabus” area as your site’s homepage, and then publish the site by following these instructions:

1. If you have not already done so, upload the syllabus to the “Files” area of the course site:

2. Click on Syllabus. Then, click Edit. Next, follow these steps to add the syllabus file:

3. Change your Canvas site’s homepage layout to “Syllabus” by following these instructions:

4. After you have changed your site’s homepage to “Syllabus,” you can publish the site by following these instructions:

Please email if you have any questions.

Fall 2017 Start-of-Term Canvas Checklist

Green pen adding checkmarks to a checklist

The following are a few tips to help you get started with Canvas for the Fall 2017 term.

1. Create a Course Site. If you haven’t requested your site yet, now’s the time. It’s easy! Use these instructions to request your Canvas site.

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

3. Learn about What’s New in Canvas and Other Tools:

  • New Default Homepage–Modules: In new courses that do not contain copied content, the “Course Home” page defaults to the Modules layout. Teachers can still choose any home page for the course, but this change replaces the Recent Activity Stream as the Home page default. The Modules page includes two links to help new Teachers either create a new module or add existing content through a course import. An example of the If Modules is set to the Home page but no modules content exists, Canvas will prompt the Teacher to either publish a module or choose a different home page layout.
  • Canvas Teacher App:  The Canvas Teacher app allows Teachers and TAs to manage their courses and use Canvas more efficiently from a mobile device. Download the Canvas Teacher app on Android and iOS devices. Learn more about the Canvas Teacher App.
  • Course Setup Tutorial: The Course Setup Tutorial appears by default in new courses for all new Teachers in Canvas, and it replaces the existing Course Setup Checklist. For the Course Setup Tutorial, “new Teachers” are defined as users with Teacher roles created in an account after July 15,2017. Learn more about the Course Setup Tutorial.
  • Duplicating Pages and Assignments: Canvas now lets Teachers, TAs, and Designers duplicate pages and assignments within an Canvas site. Learn more about duplicating pages and duplicating assignments.
  • Late and Missing Status for Assignments: The submission details page, student Grades page, and SpeedGrader now display labels for missing submissions. Additionally, areas that already displayed labels for late assignments have been updated to reflect the same styling. Learn more about late and missing assignment status labels in Canvas. 
  • New Canvas Icons: The icons throughout Canvas have been updated. All new icons default as line vs. solid icons to better support the context in Canvas. Learn more about new Canvas icons. 
  • Documentation Request Form:  Want instructions or information on Canvas or related technologies? Submit a request to the Documentation Request Form.

4. Request Your Course Reserves. Planning to have the Penn Libraries’ Course Reserves Service add content to your Canvas site? Please review the Course Reserves Information.

5. 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

Here’s to a great term!

RESOLVED: Canvas Job Delays Affecting Processes

Job queues in Canvas were back to normal levels and minimal processing time by 6:30pm last night. All queued jobs should be completed and student enrollments are also running hourly again in Canvas.

If you are encountering slowness or delays with student enrollments, course copies, downloads, or notifications, please contact

We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused. Thank you for waiting while our vendor worked on this issue.

Canvas Job Delays Affecting Processes

Starting at about 12pm this afternoon, Canvas’s job server began experiencing some delays. Our vendor is posting status updates at:

Affected processes include:

  • Student Enrollments
  • Course Copy/Content Import
  • Blueprint Syncing
  • Gradebook and Assignment Downloads
  • Notifications

All queued processes will complete,  but these processes may take an hour or more to finish.

We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may cause. Updates will be posted to Canvas at Penn as our vendor shares them.

Canvas Production Release: August 26, 2017

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 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.

8/26/17 Production Release Highlights:

  • Point and Area Annotation Comments in DocViewer: To save an annotation, Point and Area annotations do not require comments. Comments can be added to the annotation like all other annotation types. This change was deployed to the production environment on August 9th.
  • Session Expiration Warning in DocViewer: When a user creates annotations in DocViewer, Canvas will display a session expiration warning at 9 hours 50 minutes, followed by a 5-minute and 1-minute warnings until the 10-hour limit has been reached. This change helps users be able to save their work before the session automatically refreshes at 10 hours. A session can be restarted at any time by refreshing the submission page.
  • Insert/Edit Media in the Rich Content Editor: The Rich Content Menu toolbar includes an option to insert or edit media. This change allows users to easily add online media content to a course without having to use the HTML Editor. The “General” tab includes fields for the media source location and dimensions. The media can be resized and set to constrain size proportions.
    • The “Embed” tab includes an HTML field for embed code.
    • The “Advanced” tab includes fields for providing alternative source URL(s) and poster image information. Alternative sources pointing to different video encodings can be specified to be used as a fallback if the browser doesn’t support the initial encoding offered. The poster URL source indicates the image that displays until the user clicks the play button. If the poster option is blank, the first frame of the source video will be used as the poster image.
    • Links from common providers (like YouTube and Vimeo) often link to custom media players, rather than directly to video files, and will not recognize any content added to the alternative source and posted image options.
  • SpeedGrader Performance Updates: SpeedGrader has been optimized for performance in large courses and includes an increased submission threshold per student submission. Previously averaging at 800 submissions, the current minimum threshold has improved to 1500 submissions. Assignments with more than 1500 submissions may result in delayed SpeedGrader loading times.

For a complete production release update, please see:

Canvas Production Release Notes: August 26, 2017

2017-08-26 New Feature Screencast from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

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Intermittent “HTTP 500 Error” Issues Affecting Canvas

Instructure, the maker of Canvas, reports that users may see intermittent page and “HTTP 500 Error” messages when attempting to access Canvas as of 11:48 a.m. EST.

Updates on these issues will be posted to Canvas at Penn and on Instructure’s status page:

We apologize for the inconvenience these issues may cause. Instructure is working to resolve these issues as soon as possible. Please direct questions to Updates will continue to be posted as they are received.