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Canvas Spotlight

Communicate with Students

Last updated on November 2, 2021

Send Messages to Students in Canvas

Student success in your online course depends on prompt, reliable, and efficient communication with you, their instructor. Fortunately, Canvas gives you an array of messaging tools you can use to keep your students informed and engaged. Understanding these different systems, and the best use-case for each, will help you keep communication with your students clear and easy to manage. In this Canvas Spotlight, we’ll cover using the Inbox, Gradebook, and Announcements for sending different types of messages to your students.

Proactive communication is a great way to keep students on track in a course, and it can improve your own teaching experience by addressing problems before they grow in size or complexity. Using these tools, you can make sure that students who may need extra attention or help know how to improve and what resources are available. For instance, if you notice a student has missed the past couple assignments, you can reach out and offer support or offer accommodations if some exigent circumstances warrant it.

Please note that while students do receive email notifications for Announcements and messages sent in Canvas by default, they can disable these notifications. Sending a message on Canvas is not the same as sending an email.

Best Practices

  • Use the Canvas Inbox to message specific students, all students in a course, and read messages from students.
  • Use Canvas Gradebook’s “Message Students Who…” feature to send messages based on assignment completion or performance. You can use this function to message a student who’s falling behind on coursework or to offer advice on how to improve their grades.
  • Use Announcements on Canvas for general course news or for information that you would like students to be able to publicly respond to and discuss. Announcements are great tools for posting office hours or a link to a Teams meeting.

Let’s walk through it together

Messaging select students or all students in a course

  1. Click the Inbox icon in the left-hand Canvas menu (blue bar).
  2. Click Compose a new message (pencil icon) in  the toolbar along the top of the screen,
  3. Click the drop-down menu next to Course to select the course with students that you’d like to message.
    • Hover over Favorite Courses to see a menu of any courses you have favorited in the all courses menu. If you haven’t favorited any courses, this will be populated by courses you frequently access.
    • Hover over More Courses to see a menu of courses you haven’t favorited in the all courses menu. If you haven’t favorited any courses, this will be populated by courses you access less regularly.
    • Hover over Groups to see a menu of Groups you’ve created in your courses.
    • All of these menus have search bars at the top. If you have many Canvas courses, we recommend you use the search bar to enter the CRN or some identifying word from the course’s name.
  4. Enter the Names of the students or other people in the course that you would like to message.
    • Click on the Contact Book icon to the right of the To line to select groups of people.
    • Click the Course Name from the contact book to select everyone in the course, including instructors, TA’s, and students.
    • Click Students in the contact book to see a list of all of the course’s students. You can add all the students in the course to the message by clicking All in Students.
    • Click Teachers in the contact book to see a list of all of the course’s instructors. You can add all the students in the course to the message by clicking All in Teachers.
  5. Click the checkbox next to ​​Send an individual message to each recipient if you would like the recipients to not be aware which other students received the same message. This can be useful to ensure privacy when discussing grades or other sensitive topics.
  6. Enter the Text of your message.
  7. Click the Attachment (paperclip) icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the window to select files from your computer to attach to the message.
  8. Click the Media (play) button in the bottom left-hand corner of the window to either record video/audio for the message or to select video/audio files from your computer to use.
  9. Click Send in the bottom right-hand corner of the window to send the message to the selected recipients.

Messaging Students Based in Assignment Completion or Performance

  1. Click on Grades in the left-hand navigation menu of your Canvas course.
  2. Find the Assignment that you would like to message students in regards to.
    • This can be any graded work that shows up in the Gradebook, including Quizzes and Discussions.
  3. Hover your cursor over the Name of the Assignment.
  4. Click the More Options (3-dots) icon to the right of the assignment name.
  5. Click Message Students Who.
  6. Click the Drop-down Menu to select a criteria to message specific groups of students. Here are some examples on when you might consider using each option:
    • Haven’t submitted yet could be used to remind students that they still need to submit a specific assignment.
    • Haven’t been graded could be used to let students know that their submissions have been received but you’re still working on grading.
    • Scored less than could be used to provide reassurance or extra resources to students who may have struggled with a particular assignment.
    • Scored more than could be used to congratulate students who did particularly well on an assignment.
    • A list of the students who match the criteria you choose will be automatically generated.
  7. Click the X next to the name of any student who you would like to exclude from this message.
  8. Enter a Score Value if you selected the “Scored less than” or “Scored more than” options.
  9. Enter the Message for the students.
    • The Subject line will automatically be filled out with an explanation for why the student is receiving this message. You can delete this text and replace it if you like.
  10. Click Send Message in the bottom right-hand corner of the window.

Create an Announcement

  1. Click Announcements in the left-hand navigation menu.
  2. Click + Announcement in the top right-hand corner of the page.
  3. Enter a Title for the Announcement.
  4. Enter the Announcement Text in the rich content editor.
  5. Select which Sections you would like to display this Announcement to.
    • Ignore this step if you’re teaching a single section course.
  6. Click Choose File next to Attachments if you would like to attach any files to the Announcement.
  7. Click the checkbox next to any Options you would like to enable.
  8. Click Save in the bottom right-hand corner of the page.