Canvas Updates for Fall 2017

by Jackie Wickham Smith

It can be difficult to stay up to date on both new and existing Canvas features! Here’s a quick rundown of some things SPS Online faculty might want to know about prior to Fall quarter.

Contact Cards

Canvas has recently introduced Contact Cards, which make it much easier to stay in touch with your students! From the People tab in Canvas, clicking on any student’s name now reveals a pop-up window on the right hand side of the screen with information about the student’s participation level, recently graded assignments, and a link to their course analytics. Most convenient, there is a link to message students directly from that menu! For more information, here’s NUIT’s Jonathan Diehl’s blog from Northwestern’s Canvas Post.

Conversation Bugs

Canvas Conversations are a great way to communicate one-on-one with students, but unfortunately, they are currently dealing with a few bugs!


If someone replies to a message that originated in Canvas from their outside e-mail address and attaches a file, that file will not appear in the recipient’s Canvas inbox or in any e-mail inbox it’s forwarded to. If that sentence was confusing, you can see a visual diagram of the issue in Jordan Clark’s blog post from Northwestern’s Canvas Post.

Invalid E-mail Addresses

E-mailing students through the Canvas Inbox, with attachments, may cause an invalid contact e-mail address to be stored for you in their e-mail box. This can cause frustration if a student tries to e-mail you, but receives an automatic error message afterwards.

In order to avoid these bugs, it’s recommended to use the Announcements feature in Canvas to communicate with your entire course or regular e-mail to communicate individually with students. Also, any student work should always be submitted through a Canvas assignment rather than e-mailed to the instructor. In addition to avoiding the issues with attachments, above, this allows us to comply with student record retention regulations!

Notification Settings

Canvas allows students to communicate with each other and their faculty in a variety of ways – but how are instructors supposed to keep up with all of the different places they might be getting information from students? Two of the most commonly missed communications are comments on announcements and comments on graded assignments. In order to ensure that faculty see these comments, you can set your notification settings so that they are included in e-mail updates to you.

To adjust your notification settings, click on your profile photo on the far left Canvas menu. Then, select Notifications. This is a good time to review all of your notification settings to ensure that the communication you want is being sent to the correct place in a timely manner! However, to ensure you’re receiving the most commonly missed communication, check the settings under Course Activities: Announcement Created by You and Submission Comment.

Canvas Post and Digital Learning Website

Many of you likely used Northwestern Faculty Support Services’ Canvas Post as a source for updates on Canvas. New content for the Canvas Post will now exclusively be posted on Northwestern’s Digital Learning Website. In addition to updates on Canvas, the Digital Learning website is a great resource to stay up to date on teaching and learning innovations throughout the University!

Canvas Support

Finally, don’t forget that Northwestern sponsors 24/7 Canvas support! And, there’s no requirement that you have a problem to contact them – if you have a question or are just wondering if Canvas has a certain feature available, click the Help button on the far left menu of any Canvas page to contact support via phone or live chat.