What is the hierarchical structure for Canvas accounts?
The terms account and sub-account are organizational units within Canvas. Every instance of Canvas has the potential to contain a hierarchy of accounts and sub-accounts but starts out with just one account (referred to as the top-level account). Accounts include subaccounts, courses, and sections, all of which can be added manually in Canvas, via the API, or via SIS imports.
Once a hierarchy has been created, admins can be assigned to specific sub-accounts to limit their scope of what they can change as well as making the courses and people they manage more specific and relevant to them.
Permissions trickle down through the hierarchy but not up. Admins at one level (or account) in the hierarchy have admin permissions at that level as well as in any sub-account of that account. Admins can move courses within their sub-accounts, but not between them unless they are also the admin of the parent account of each sub-account.
With the exception of Terms, SIS Imports, Authentication and a few account settings, most settings and items can be modified or, in the case of permissions, overridden in a sub-account.
Sub-accounts are often used to manage permissions and organizational hierarchy within an institution. For example, sub-accounts can be created for individual colleges within a university, or for schools within a district. Sub-accounts can also be created within sub-accounts, such as when a college subdivides into departments that subdivide into programs, or a school that subdivides into grade levels that subdivide into specific subjects.
Many clients set up sub-account organizational structures that mirror their SIS or registration systems. Sub-accounts can be manually or automatically created within Canvas using integrations from other systems.
Admins, users, and courses can be assigned to sub-accounts. A user can hold different roles in each sub-account. Sub-accounts can be used to create and access question banks, outcomes, rubrics, grading schemes, reports, and analytics. Permissions within sub-accounts flow downward by default. For example, an admin at the top-level account or sub-account will be an admin in every sub-account below the account or sub-accounts.
Although terms cannot be created in sub-accounts, many clients will create terms at the top account level that can be used by specific sub-accounts so each can have different access dates.
Organize accounts based on:
- Departments > Term Dates. For example: Science Department > Fall 2012/Spring 2013/Summer 2013
- Departments > Sub-Departments. For example: Science Department > Physics/Biology/Chemistry
- Departments > Sub-Departments > Course Type. For example; Science Department > Biology > Face to Face/Blended/Fully Online
- School > Grade-level. For example: K12 School > First Grade
View Courses and Sections
Courses are added to an account or subaccount. Courses are the virtual classroom where all the content resides and where can learn and interact with the instructor and each other.
Sections are a group of students that have been organized for administrative purposes. When users are enrolled in a course, they are actually enrolled in one of the sections of that course. It is possible to place more than one section in course, but it is not possible to put sections within sections. All sections of a course share the same content.
If a course is taught by one instructor, sections can remain under one course. However, if each section is taught by a different instructor, those sections will need to be housed under separate courses.
Each section can have its own varied due dates for assignments, quizzes, and discussions. Examples of this feature include a course with sections that meet on different days of the week or in different formats (online vs. face-to-face).
Sections are also beneficial for TA-based grading and sorting in the Gradebook. As part of SIS or manual enrollments, you can limit students to only see students in their section. Instructors can also limit students if you allow them to manually enroll users in their own courses.
Note: Canvas users have access to all elements of the course. In other words, you can't hide content or restrict access to part of a course (i.e, content, assignments, etc.) by section, unless you create groups for each section.