Lesson 1: Account Basics

Once you have determined how you want to structure your Canvas account and how Canvas should function for your institution, it is time to set up your account. 

In this lesson you will learn how to manage account settings for your entire account, create account-level user roles, add admins to your account, and create your Canvas account structure.

Note: This lesson explains how to manually create your Canvas account structure. However, you can also add admins and create your Canvas account structure using the SIS Import Tool. Learn how to use this tool in Lesson 2.

Basic Account Settings

As an admin, the settings you select for your Canvas account will affect how Canvas functions for your users. These settings will also trickle down to the sub-accounts you create in your account.  

Some settings, like language and time zone selection, can be modified by individual users and per course, but you’ll establish the defaults.

Open Account Settings

Open Account Settings

To access your account settings:  

  1. Click the Settings link in the Account Navigation menu. 
  2. View the Settings tab. (This tab opens by default when you click the Settings link.)  

Manage Account Settings

Manage Account Settings

From the Settings tab, set the details for your account. 

  1. Account Settings: Specify settings for the entire account
  2. Restriction Settings: Select course user restrictions for your account  
  3. Canvas Cloud Information: View your institution's Canvas URL
  4. Quiz IP Address Filters: Create a predefined list of IP addresses or address ranges, making it easier for instructors to select a valid setting when creating a quiz 
  5. Features: Enable or disable specific built-in Canvas functionality. (Note: Speak with your Customer Success Team about other features that may not be listed here.) 
  6. SIS Agent Token Authentication: Configure your SIS to communicate with Canvas 
  7. Help Menu Options: Customize the Global Navigation Help link menu 
  8. Similarity Detection Platform: Manage your plagiarism LTI tool integrations
  9. Enabled Web Services: Enable third-party integrations
  10. Who Can Create New Courses: Specify which users can create new courses in your account
  11. Update Settings: Save your settings

To learn more about account details, view How do I set details for an account?

Admin User Roles

Whenever you add a user to Canvas, you must specify their user role. User roles identify what a user can do within Canvas. A role must exist in an account before any user may be added to the role. 

By default, Canvas includes one account-level administrative user role. This role comes with unrestricted access to Canvas. However, not every administrative user needs an all-access pass to Canvas. Before adding administrators to your Canvas account, create additional account-level user roles and preselect their Canvas permissions. 

View more information about account level permissions

Add Account Role

Add Account Role

To add an account-level user role in your account:

  1. Click the Permissions link in Account Navigation.
  2. Click the Account Roles tab. 
  3. Click the Add Role button.
  4. Type a name for the role in the Role Name field. 
  5. Click the Save button.  

Manage Account Role Permissions

Manage Account Role Permissions

To adjust or manage permissions for account user roles: 

  1. Locate the user role on the Permissions page.
  2. Click the icon next to the name of the permission.
  3. Select an option from the permission menu for each account-level permission.

Learn more about setting permissions for account-level user roles

Account Admins

Once you have created differentiated account-level user roles, you can add admins to your account. 

View Admin Users

View Admin Users

To  view your account admins: 

  1. Click the Settings link in Account Navigation. 
  2. Click the Admins tab. 

Add New Admin

Add New Admin

To add an admin to your account:

  1. Click the Add Account Admins button. 
  2. Select a user role for the admin in the Add More drop-down menu. 
  3. Add the user’s email address. 
  4. Click the Continue button. 

Note: New admins can be bulk added to your Canvas account using the SIS Import tool.

Verify New Admin Users

Verify New Admin Users

Verify the admin user’s details [1], then click the OK Looks Good, Add This  User button [2]. 

View the user’s information in the Account Admins list [3]. 

Structure Your Account

Your Canvas account starts with one root account. To establish your account’s structure, or hierarchy, you will create sub-accounts. 

Most institutions organize sub-account structures to mirror their Student Information System (SIS) or registration system. 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.

Learn more about hierarchical structures in Canvas

Note: Sub-accounts can be bulk added using the SIS Import Tool.

Add Sub-Accounts

Add Sub-Accounts

To add sub-accounts to your account: 

  1. Click the Sub-Accounts link in Account Navigation
  2. Click the Add icon
  3. Enter a name for your sub-account in the Name field
  4. Press the Enter key (on a PC) or the Return key (on a Mac). 

You can follow these same steps to add a sub-account to a sub-account. To add a sub-account under another sub-account, click the Add icon next to the name of the sub-account [4].

Note: You can bulk-create sub-accounts using the SIS Import tool.

Additional Resources

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

Canvas Guides

For more in-depth information about the topics covered in this chapter, check out the Canvas Admin Guide chapters on Settings, Roles and Permissions, and Accounts and Sub-Accounts

You can also watch the Canvas Admin overview videos about Account Settings, Permissions, and Sub-Accounts

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 Administration group

Up Next:

Now that your basic account settings are configured, you can learn how to bulk upload data for your account, or you can add the information manually

Chapter 2: Using the SIS Import Tool 

SIS Import Tool

  • Learn how to bulk upload data for your entire account using CSV uploads. 

Chapter 3: Course Access and Grade Reporting


  • Terms define course start and end dates, and term access dates specify when users can access courses.
  • If you created terms using the SIS Import Tool, you can learn about adjusting term access dates.  

Grading Periods: 

  • Grading periods specify date ranges used for student grade reporting. You can also use grading periods to maintain your institution’s post-term-end grade modification policies.