What is Canvas?

Canvas is a web-based learning management system, or LMS. It is used by learning institutions, educators, and students to access and manage online course learning materials and communicate about skill development and learning achievement. 

Canvas includes a variety of customizable course creation and management tools, course and user analytics and statistics, and internal communication tools. 

Institutions may provide users with a Canvas account, or individual users can try the free version by signing up for their own account.

Learn more about how institutions around the world use Canvas to increase student engagement and success.

Canvas Defined

Condensing something as robust as Canvas into a simple definition is quite a challenge but we'll try.

Canvas LMS is an open and reliable web-based software that allows institutions to manage digital learning, educators to create and present online learning materials and assess student learning, and students to engage in courses and receive feedback about skill development and learning achievement.

Additionally, while Canvas is primarily a web-based software, any user can access Canvas on a mobile device from the Canvas Teacher, Canvas Student, and Canvas Parent apps. Learn more about the Canvas mobile apps.

Basic Canvas Features

Canvas includes a variety of built-in course construction and management tools that can be customized to create unique and accessible teaching and learning experiences. 

Instructional designers and instructors may create and share course content using Assignments, Discussions, Modules, Quizzes, and Pages. They may also choose to foster a collaborative learning experience using Collaborations, Conferences, and Groups. Depending on course settings, students can access these areas in Canvas to find learning materials and interact with other course users.

Canvas also allows institutions and instructors to add state and institutional learning outcomes to rubrics in order to measure and track student skill development and learning achievement. Additionally course creators can use the Course Import Tool to bulk-upload pre existing LMS course packages and/or course materials. 

Instructors can provide students with comprehensive feedback on assignment and quiz submissions using SpeedGrader and manage grade reporting in the Canvas Gradebook. They can also facilitate real-time course interactions using Chat and communicate course news and updates with students using Announcements as well as the Calendar and Syllabus

Instructors and admins can gain greater insight into student success and make informed instructional decisions using data provided in Canvas Analytics. Admins can also access SQL data about their Canvas user and usage details form Canvas Data Services

Canvas also includes the Canvas App Center, where admins, designers, and instructors can enable a variety of External Apps (LTI Tools) and services. The ever-growing app library offers a wide array of interactive resources, content repositories, assessment tools, social media integrations, and other digital learning and teaching resources. 

Learn more about all Canvas features, review the Canvas Guides, and compare Canvas Free for Teacher features with features included in a paid account

Additional Canvas Features

Institutions may choose to include additional Canvas features specifically designed to meet a variety of institutional, educational, and learning needs. 

Canvas Catalog is a digital marketplace where students can register, enroll, and pay for courses. 

Canvas Studio is an interactive video management platform that enhances student engagement and collaboration.  

Canvas Commons is a learning object repository where teachers can store course content for their own use and for collaboration with colleagues both within and outside of their institution. 

MasteryConnect allows designers and teachers to build, deploy, and manage formative and summative assessments across an institution. It provides schools with actionable data to improve teaching and learning.

Portfolium is an ePortfolio platform that integrates directly inside of Canvas. However, students also always have access to their Portfolium portfolios outside of Canvas even after they lose access to the LMS.

Canvas Users

Canvas includes the following six standard user roles: Admins, Designers, Instructors, Teacher Assistants, Students, and Observers. However, institutions may create any number of custom user roles with varied Canvas access. 

A user’s assigned role determines their Canvas access and interactions. For example, Canvas administrators may have access to create user accounts, add course enrollments, and manage institutional grading periods. Instructional designers may use Canvas to create and manage course content and review course analytics to identify areas for improvement in teaching and learning. School counselors may use Canvas to review student course progress and assess student achievement. Parents and guardians may use Canvas to review and communicate with instructors about student course progress, including assignment submissions and grades.

Using Canvas

Anyone can use Canvas. New admins can check out the Admin Getting Started tutorial for information about setting up an account for their institution. Instructors can use the interactive Getting Started with Canvas flowchart to learn how to quickly and easily get a course ready for student participation. Students and observers may be automatically enrolled in a course by their institution, or they may receive course invitations via email. Once enrolled in a course, students can participate with their instructors, course materials, and peers. 

To try a free version of Canvas, sign up for a free Canvas account.

More information about utilizing Canvas can be found in the Canvas Community, including how-to Canvas guides, question and answer forums, and special interest groups.