Canvas - Setting Up Course Sites (for Instructors)


Canvas is Virginia Tech's learning management system (LMS). Instructors use Canvas to manage teaching materials like assignments, quizzes, feedback, and student grades. 

  • Official courses are automatically created in instructors' Canvas accounts.
  • Enrolled students are automatically added.
  • Instructors can reuse teaching materials by importing them to a new course site.
  • Canvas provides 24-7 support by phone (833-639-7621) and chat (click Help on any Canvas screen).

The Canvas Instructor Guide has full instructions on using Canvas. These instructions are specific to Virginia Tech. To see other Canvas topics, please see How to Use Canvas at Virginia Tech (for Instructors).


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Canvas Site Types

Official Course Sites

Canvas creates an official course site for instructors of record and populates them with student enrollments. To create teaching materials before an official course site is available, instructors can make a draft course site and then move materials to an official course site later. Students cannot see these sites until instructors publish them. 

Official course sites appear in instructors' accounts around:

  • Fall semester:                     June 15
  • Winter semester:                November 1
  • Spring semester:                December 1
  • Summer (all semesters):     March 15

Official course sites have term dates based on the academic calendar.

  • When the Start date passes, students can see the sites. Students can see materials only after instructors publish the sites and materials.
  • When the End date passes, official course sites are concluded.
  • Instructors can change their sites' term dates (see Term dates under Configuring course settings). 

If your site doesn't appear:

  1. Check the All Courses page (click Courses -> All Courses).
  2. Make sure your course gets a Canvas site. Per department request, the following courses don't get Canvas sites:

    • All 5904 and 6904 (graduate project and report) courses.
    • All 5964, 6864, 7864, 7944, X974 (independent study), and X994 (undergraduate research) courses.
    • All VTC, VCOM, and REG courses.

      For these courses, you can make a draft course site and add your students

  3. Check the Timetable on HokieSPA and make sure you're the instructor of record.
  4. Contact your department administrator and ask about teaching assignments.
  5. Be patient. Once you're assigned as the instructor of record, Canvas takes up to a day to update with the course. 

If you still don't see your site, contact 4Help by clicking Get Help on the 4Help portal

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Draft Course Sites

Instructors can create draft course sites in which they add teaching materials. They can then transfer the teaching materials to official course sites. 

Draft course sites:

  • Do not have term dates.
  • Do not have automatic student enrollments.

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Canvas Site States

A Canvas course can exist in three states: unpublished, published, and concluded. See What are the different states of a Canvas course?

  • An unpublished site is visible only to instructors.
  • A published site is visible to students. 
    • Once students have submitted materials to a course site, you cannot unpublish the site. 
    • To hide it from students, in course Settings, change the term dates (see Term dates under Configuring course settings).
  • A concluded course is read-only, so you cannot edit its content.

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Copying a Course Site's URL

  1. Log into Virginia Tech's Canvas and navigate to the course site by clicking Courses and then selecting the course from the menu.
    • If the course is not listed, click All Courses to see a complete course list, and select it from there.
  2. Select the whole URL listed at the top of your browser.
  3. Copy the URL by right-clicking on the URL and clicking Copy.

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Finding Courses

Canvas courses are automatically created for courses students are officially enrolled in. Know that:

  • Not every instructor uses Canvas.
  • Instructors must publish courses before students can see them. 
  1. Log in to Canvas. You'll go to the Dashboard.
  2. Scroll down, past announcements, to see your courses.
  3. Click any course.

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    Click Courses -> All courses. This will let you see Current, Past, and Future Enrollments.

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Changing Course Display

You can choose which courses show up on the Dashboard and Courses menu.

  1. Log into Canvas.
  2. Click Courses -> All courses.
  3. Click the star next to a course to show it on the Dashboard and Courses menu.
    • You cannot star Past or Future Enrollments.

      Image of the above instructions

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Setting Up Canvas Sites

Cross-listing Sections

If you're teaching more than one section of the same course, you can cross-list the Canvas sites. See: Cross-listing Canvas Course Sites.

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Transferring Teaching Materials

Move your teaching materials from the draft or previous course site to your official course site. See: How do I import content from another Canvas course?

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Configuring Course Settings

  • Configure your term dates, grading scheme, course visibility, material licensing, and whether people can join the site.
  • Access settings by clicking Settings in the Course Navigation Menu.
Term Dates

Courses automatically appear to students based on the semester schedule (they can only see teaching materials if the course is published). To manually control course display, you can change the course Start and End dates. 

  1. Go to your official course and click Settings Course Details.
  2. Next to Participation, change Term to Course. Doing so de-couples the course term dates from the default semester dates. 
  3. Under Term, next to Starts and Ends, enter start and end dates. You need to enter both dates! 
  4. Choose whether to restrict students from viewing the course before the start date and after the end date. 
  5. Scroll down and click Update Course Details. Changes are not automatically saved. 
Other Settings
  • Content License: You can change the copyright settings for your teaching materials by selecting from the options next to License. The default setting is private, copyrighted materials.
  • Content Visibility: You can make your teaching materials visible to those not enrolled in the course. Student work is always protected. The default visibility setting is Course, where only you and your students can see the materials. To change visibility:
  1. Next to Visibility, click Course to share with people who are already in the course, click Institution to share the course with those in Virginia Tech, or click Public.
  2. To make only your syllabus visible outside of your course, check Customize and choose a syllabus visibility setting.
  3. Click Update Course Details

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Making Joinable Sites

You can make draft course sites "joinable," so others can self-enroll. Training sites often use this feature. To do so:

  1. Go to the draft course that you manually created and click on Settings.
  2. Locate the SIS ID field and ensure it is blank, otherwise the self-enroll option will not be available for the course.
  3. Under the text box below Description, click more options
  4. Check Let students self-enroll by sharing with them a secret URL. 
  5. Check Add a "Join this Course" link to the course home page.
  6. Tell students how to self-enroll. 
    1. Copy the course's Home page URL.
    2. Email students the URL and tell them: "Log into Canvas, then go to the course URL included here, click Join this Course, and then click Enroll in Course."

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Adding Links to the Course Navigation Menu

You must use the Canvas Redirect tool to add a link to an external website or a Canvas Page to a Course Navigation Menu. To add a link: 

  1. Collect the URL of the website or Canvas Page you want to add. 
  2. Go to the course site where you want to add a Course Navigation Menu link. 
  3. Click Settings and go to the Apps tab.
  4. Click the arrow icon for the Redirect app.

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  5. The +Add App button will appear. Click it.

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  6. The Add App window will appear.
  7. Next to Name, name your link. This text will appear on the Course Navigation Menu.
  8. Next to URL Redirect, paste the URL of the website or Canvas Page.
  9. Check Show in Course Navigation.
  10. Click Add App.

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Importing Links to New Canvas Sites

If you copy a course's content into a new site, the linked URL in the Redirect tool will be copied.

  • If you linked to a non-Canvas website, you don't need to do anything. The link will still work. 
  • If you linked to a Canvas Page in the old site, the old page will be linked to from the new site. So, make a new Redirect link that points to the new site's Canvas Page and hide the old link.

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Adding External (LTI) Tools

Canvas can be extended by integrating external tools. Software companies, textbook publishers, and training websites all make Canvas external tools. 

See: Canvas - How to Request and Use External Tools (LTI Tools) for details.

  • You can use most external tools without help from a Canvas admin.
  • A Canvas admin needs to set up Cengage Learning and WebAssign.
    • To request an admin add them, on the Canvas Learning Management System request form, under Service Requested, check Add Sapling Learning or WebAssign to Canvas
  • Virginia Tech must approve new external tools before they're added to Canvas.

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Concluded Course Sites

Concluding a Canvas course site is like archiving it. The site is accessible, and you can import material to a new site, but you can't change the concluded site's teaching materials.

  • Course sites automatically conclude after the end of the term, unless you override the term dates in course Settings.
  • Concluding a course will lock it for editing; you can't change teaching materials or add/remove People. 
  • Students can still see concluded course site materials.
  • You can access concluded courses by going to Courses -> All Courses. They're listed under Past Enrollments.

Concluding Course Sites

There are two ways to conclude a course before the end of the term:

  • Go to Settings and click Conclude This Course.
  • Go to Settings and change the ends date to a date in the past. Be sure to check Users can only participate in the course between these dates. Click Update Details.

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Importing Materials from Concluded Course Sites

To import content from a concluded course to a new one:

  1. Go to course Settings and click Import Course Content in the bar on the right side.
  2. Under Content Type, click Copy a Canvas Course.
  3. Under Search for a course, check Include completed courses to make your concluded course sites searchable.
  4. Choose if you want to import All content or Select specific content.
  5. You can adjust events and due dates for your content if needed.
  6. Click Import.

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Unconcluding Course Sites

  • You need to unconclude a course site to make changes to the site, such as adding people or editing teaching materials.
  • Instructors can unconclude official course sites by changing the term dates so the end date is in the future. See Term dates under Configuring course settings
  • If the term dates are inaccessible and the Participation field is set to Course already instead of Term, a VT Canvas admin will have to unconclude the course for you. Request this through 4Help by clicking Get Help on the 4Help portal

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Adding People to Concluded Course Sites

The +People and +Guests buttons in People will be grayed out if a course site is concluded. You must unconclude a course site to add people by changing the term dates so the Ends date is in the future. See Term dates under Configuring course settings

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Deleting Course Sites

You need department head permission to delete a course site, because Virginia Tech Intellectual Property Policy 13000 grants the university perpetual rights to use materials for teaching and research. You cannot unpublish official course sites after students have submitted graded assignments.

Instead, you can:

  • Conclude the site to move it under Past Enrollments on the All Courses page.
  • Change the term dates to restrict access and visibility to the site. If the present date is not between the start and end dates, students will not be able to access the site. See: Term dates under Configuring course settings

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Adding Outcomes

One of Canvas' most helpful features is its Learning Mastery component, which lets you decide exactly what you want your students to master in your course (called "Outcomes" in Canvas), and add these to the Outcomes tool.

Once you add your outcomes, or course objectives, they can be linked to grading rubrics, assignments, quiz questions, or any of the graded items in your course. The Learning Mastery Gradebook displays student progress with respect to the outcomes.

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I Don't See My Canvas Site

Official course sites are created using enrollment information from the registrar. Enrollments are updated three times a day. If you expect a Canvas site, but don't see it: 

  1. Check the All Courses menu by clicking Courses -> All Courses to see if your course is there. 
  2. Make sure your course gets a Canvas site. If your course doesn't get an official Canvas site, you can create a draft/manual course site and add your students. Per department request, the following courses don't get Canvas sites:
    • 5904 and 6904 (graduate project and report) courses
    • 5964, 6864, 7864, 7944, X974 (independent study) courses
    • X994 (undergraduate research) courses
    • VTC, VCOM, and REG courses
  3. Check HokieSPA or the Virginia Tech Timetable of Classes and make sure you're listed as the instructor of record (IOR).
    • If you're not the IOR, contact your department administrator and ask them to check teaching assignments. If they add you as IOR of the course, wait a half day for it to appear in Canvas. 
    • If you're the IOR, wait a half day for Canvas to update with registrar information.
  4. If you still don't see the site, contact 4Help by clicking Get Help on the 4Help portal.

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I Can't Add People to an Old Site

  1. Go to the People tab on Canvas.
  2. Check to see if the +People and +Guests buttons are grayed out.
    • If it is, the course site is concluded.
  3. Unconclude the course site to add people.

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I Accidentally Deleted Course Content

If you accidentally deleted or overwrote content from a course recently, then you may be able to restore the material.

  1. Go to your course's Home page. Then at the end of the course URL, add /undelete.

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  2. Press Enter or Return.
  3. A list of restorable content will appear. If your content is in the list, click Restore.
    • If the content is not listed, then it cannot be recovered.

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  4. The deleted content will be added back to your site.

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Course/Personal Files Ran out of Storage Space

Store text-based resources and images in Canvas Files. Do not use Canvas Files to store videos and audio files, instead store these multi-media resources in My Media and Media Gallery. See Video Content Management - How to Use My Media and Media Gallery (for Instructors).

There are two areas in Canvas where Teachers can store data:

  • Personal Files, accessed by clicking Account in the global navigation menu, and then clicking Files.
    • 262.1 MB max storage
  • Course site's Files, accessed by going to the course site and clicking Files in the course navigation menu.
    • 5.2 GB max storage

To request more storage space for non-video/audio content, contact 4Help by clicking Get Help on the 4Help portal. Include your site URL, course CRN, and a reason for the storage increase.

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Script Blocker Problems

Canvas uses JavaScript. However, browser security settings or security suite software increasingly block JavaScript by default. If JavaScript is blocked, Canvas will not appear and function correctly, for example:

  • The Canvas Dashboard shows flashing courses.
  • Clicking Help and Courses do not show the menus.
  • Clicking Assignments, Announcements, Discussions, Grades go to a blank page.
  • The +Guests button doesn't appear in People.
  • Videos in Files don't automatically play.
  • SPOT doesn't appear on menus.
  • Kaltura videos won't play.
  • Instructors can't add files to Canvas.
  • Students can't upload files to Assignments.

To fix browser and script blocker problems:

  1. Check/update your browser. We recommend using an updated version of Google Chrome.
    1. Click [...] in the upper-right corner of your browser.
    2. Click Help -> About Google Chrome.
    3. An automatic update may start. When it finishes, click Relaunch.
    4. To update, see Update Google Chrome.
  2. Check the Canvas URL.
    1. Click your Canvas bookmark in Chrome. Make sure it links to, not the Instructure URL. If it links to the Instructure URL, update it to link to
    2. If tools are malfunctioning in Canvas, check and make sure the URL is If not, go to
  3. Bypass/clear your browser's cache.
    1. To bypass the cache, go to the Canvas page where you should see the link to the LTI tool. Hold the Shift key while clicking the browser's refresh button.
    2. To clear the cache, see Clearing Browser Cache.
  4. Whitelist Canvas URLs in your script blocker; set your script blocker to allow JavaScript from Canvas and related URLs. 
    1. Go to your script blocker's settings for trusting/allowing/unblocking/whitelisting websites. Instructions for common script blockers:
    2. Set your script blocker to trust/allow/unblock/whitelist the following Canvas-related URLs:

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Getting Help

Instructure, the creators of Canvas, provide 24-7 Canvas support, including live chat and a support hotline. 

To get Canvas help, click Help on any Canvas screen and choose from help options: 

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