In this introduction, you will learn some basic information about Canvas and answer relevant questions about how Canvas should function for your institution. 

Note: This written tutorial is designed to help new Canvas admins establish their Canvas account. The lessons in this tutorial should be followed sequentially except where indicated.

Canvas Basics

Before creating your account, there are a few basic concepts to address. Below are some general questions and answers about Canvas, its administrator role, and the people who will support you throughout the process of creating an account.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a Learning Management Platform. With its highly integrated learning products, you can build a digital learning environment to meet the unique challenges faced by your institution.  

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 meets the basic requirements to run Canvas. You’ll also want to verify that Canvas supports your web browser before you get started.

What is a Canvas Administrator?

In Canvas, administrative users are called Admins. Admins oversee and manage an institution's Canvas account, or they may oversee and manage a sub-account within an institution’s Canvas account. 

Learn more about the Canvas admin role. 

What is a Customer Success Team?

Most Canvas accounts are assigned to a Customer Success Team. Your Customer Success Team will work with you to establish your account. Review with them your institution’s teaching and learning goals as well as your institution’s existing structures.

Once your account is established and users at your institution are using Canvas, your CSM will be your primary point of contact when you have questions, concerns, or comments about Canvas functionality for your institution. 

Account Structure

Each institution has an organizational structure that supports its specific teaching and learning needs and goals. For example, your institution may be divided into specific schools; each school may be assigned specific grade levels or disciplines; each grade level or discipline may then be divided by department or group. 

Before configuring your Canvas account, take the time to answer the following questions about your institution and administrators. Your answers will play an important role in the organization of your Canvas account.

  • What is the current organizational structure at my institution? 
  • How does my institution’s organizational structure support our identified teaching and learning needs and goals? 
  • Do I want to organize my Canvas account using my institution’s current organizational structure?
    • If not, how do I want to organize my Canvas account? 
  • What administrative roles and responsibilities currently exist at my institution? 
    • Which of these roles need administrative access to Canvas?
    • In order to fulfill their roles in Canvas, what access would (and wouldn’t) these individuals need?

Canvas Account Functionality & Integrations

After answering questions about the organization and administration for your Canvas account, consider how Canvas will support teaching and learning at your institution. 

  • What are your institution’s specific teaching needs and goals?
  • What are your institution's specific learning needs and goals?  
  • What role will Canvas play in achieving your institutional vision for teaching and learning?

Canvas includes a variety of standard account integrations. In addition to these integrations, your Customer Success Team can configure a variety of other integrations for your account. Learn about available Canvas account integrations. Contact your Customer Success Team to enable any of these integrations in your account.

Additional Resources

Check out these resources to help you become familiar with Canvas. 

Canvas Community

The Canvas Community is an online community of Canvas users from around the world. It houses a space for Questions and Answers about Canvas and a variety of groups, including the Canvas Admins group

Canvas Guides

The Canvas Guides provide how-to directions for using Canvas. They are organized by role, so you might find the Canvas Admin Guide most helpful. 

You can also watch the Canvas Overview Video for Admins. 

Canvas Terminology

We work hard to make Canvas intuitive and easy to use, but you may encounter some unique terminology. Learn about Canvas terminology.

Up Next in Lesson 1: Account Basics

Now that you know how you want to structure your account and which integrations your Canvas instance should include, it’s time to log in and set up your account. In the next lesson, you will learn about the following: 

Account Settings

  • Establish basic settings for your account that will affect all sub-accounts and users in your account. 

Admin Users

  • Create user roles for specific admin users, customize permissions, and add admins to your account.


  • Create your account’s organizational structure using Sub-Accounts in Canvas.