Observer/Parent Getting Started Resources

Below are some general questions and answers about Canvas, the Observer role, and links to resources to help you be comfortable with Canvas. Visit the Observer Guides to learn more.


What is Canvas?

Canvas is a Learning Management System. To learn more about Canvas terminology and definitions, visit How does Canvas define the terms used to describe its features and functions? 

Because Canvas is a web-based system, it doesn’t need to be installed on your computer. However, you’ll want to make sure that your computer and web browser meet the basic requirements to run Canvas.

What is the Observer/Parent role?

In Canvas, the Observer role can be used to enroll parents, mentors, and guests who would like to participate in a Canvas course but do not need to earn course credit. Observers have limited permissions that allow them to see what is going on in a course without interrupting the flow of daily course communication. Like students, observers cannot view a course until it is published and the course has started.

Canvas for Elementary

Canvas for Elementary is a Canvas setting that displays a simplified interface and experience designed for younger learners. 


For a visual representation of how to get started with Canvas as an observer, view the Getting Started with Canvas as an Observer Flowchart.

Canvas Guides

The Canvas Observer Guide has many articles that each answer a question that relates to using the Canvas interface as an observer. Each article also includes Next and Previous links so you can easily navigate to related content.

Observer Pairing Overview

Once you have pairing code(s) for your student(s), you can link your account to theirs. Guides below include steps for linking accounts. Whether you are linking your Observer account to multiple students at once or you’re adding a new student to your existing account, you follow the same process.

Use QR Code to Log In

There’s a very simple way to log in to the Canvas Parent app. In the web version of Canvas, if you click the Account link in the Global Navigation menu, you’ll see a QR for Mobile Login link. After opening the Canvas Parent app on your mobile device, scan that code. You will be instantly logged-in, without having to worry about connecting to your school and retyping your information.

Canvas Overview

Once your account is set up, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the Canvas user interface. The articles below show you how to navigate Canvas and use a few of the tools that link across all your courses.

Course Basics

The main use of the Observer role is to link a user to a student. You can be linked to a student or multiple students and view the student's data in the course. Parents or guardians are often enrolled as observers and linked to students, especially in K12 environments. You cannot submit work on behalf of the students you observe, but you can see student grades, assignments and events, and course interactions. What is available in your course depends on what has been implemented by your student’s instructor.

View the articles below for some of the basics of Canvas courses.

Learn more about Canvas features in the Canvas Basics Guide.