What can observers do in a Canvas course?

The Observer role can be used to enroll parents, mentors, and guests who would like to access a Canvas course but do not need to earn course credit. Observers have limited permissions that allow them to view what is happening in a course without interrupting the flow of daily course communication. Like students, observers cannot view a course until it is published. To learn more about observing, view the Parent Registration and Student Observation video.


  • Observers are bound to the same prerequisites, requirements, lock dates, etc. as the student they are observing.
  • Observers can only view the content the student they are observing has access to.
  • Observers can view assignments even if the student they are observing has not completed them unless the assignments are locked.
  • Each Instructor can customize the links in the Course Navigation and limit the number of features that Students and Observers can see. Observers may or may not see links to certain features.

Observer Role Overview

To learn more about what Observers can and cannot view and participate in, view the Observers Visibility and Participation PDF.

Observers can

  • View and read announcements
  • View assignments index page
  • View the calendar
  • Join conferences, if invited
  • Join collaborations, if invited
  • View personal inbox
  • Send conversation messages to instructor and student they are observing
  • View the dashboard
  • View and read discussions
  • View files unless they are locked
  • View grades of student they are observing and filter, view scores and dates, and print grades
  • View modules and see due dates, point values, etc.
  • View pages and contribute if the instructor enables the Anyone can edit it setting
  • View profile pictures, if available
  • View syllabus
  • View outcomes
  • View quizzes index page


Observers cannot

  • Comment on announcements or discussions
  • Submit assignments or quizzes
  • View course rosters
  • Send conversation messages to students in the course they are not observing
  • View locked files or folders
  • Join groups
  • View unpublished courses