Canvas - Requesting Access for External Users [UW-Madison]

This document describes the process for requesting a Canvas account for users who do not have an official affiliation with UW-Madison.

To access Canvas, users must log in with their UW-Madison NetID. The majority of campus Canvas users are UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff. NetIDs for these users will be activated and made eligible for Canvas through automated university processes.

However, sometimes users without current UW-Madison affiliations need access to Canvas. Examples of these users might include guest instructors, students of other UW institutions participating in joint UW-Madison programs, or members of UW partner-programs that need access to instructional resources.

Unaffiliated users may not have a NetID or, if they had a past affiliation with UW-Madison, they may have a NetID that is no longer active or is not eligible for Canvas access. In order to enroll these users in UW-Madison Canvas courses, instructors will need to work with the Learn@UW-Madison team to provision Canvas access.

For current, for-credit courses, students must be added by SIS.

Requesting Canvas Access for Small Numbers of External Users

Instructors, instructional technologists, or other UW-Madison professionals with enrollment authority can request Canvas access for users who are unaffiliated with UW-Madison. If the number of accounts needed is relatively small, Learn@UW-Madison can create these accounts for you. 

  1. Contact Provide the email addresses of all users who need Canvas access. 
  2. The Learn@UW-Madison team will invite your list of users to join the Canvas Guest Access-LearnUW Manifest group.
  3. Users will have 7 days to accept the Manifest invitation. Detailed instructions, including screenshots of what users will see, can be found at Manifest - Respond to Email Invitations for New NetIDs (Manifest, SpecPop).
    • If users have an existing UW-Madison NetID, they can indicate this in the invitation process. Their NetID will then become eligible to access Canvas.
    • If users do not have a UW-Madison NetID, the invitation process will generate a Canvas-eligible NetID for them.
    • If users do not know if they have a UW-Madison NetID or do not remember their NetID credentials, they are encouraged to contact the DoIT Help Desk for assistance recovering their NetID. They can then proceed with the invitation process as a appropriate.
  1. After the user receives their new NetID, they will need to wait up to 24 hours for Canvas access. (Canvas pulls in updated NetID data in an overnight process.)
  2. After users receive Canvas access, you can enroll them into your course. See Canvas - Adding People to a Canvas Course [UW-Madison].

Requesting Canvas Access for Many External Users

Departments that regularly need to enroll unaffiliated users in courses are encouraged to create and administer their own Manifest groups for provisioning Canvas access. That way, you can add users when you need to. The process just requires a bit of initial set up--steps are below.

  1. To set up a Manifest group, follow the instructions at Manifest - Using a Manifest Group to Invite People to Create Identities (NetIDs).
  2. IMPORTANT! After your group has been created it must be connected to Canvas. Otherwise, the user accounts will not show up in Canvas. To do this, find the path of your Manifest group by logging in at and clicking the Details button next to the name of your group. The path will be printed under the name of your group.
    The path will take the format uw:domain:...:...
  3. Send a request to with the path and brief description about why you are requesting Canvas access for your users. You will receive email confirmation when your group has been added to Canvas and you will be able to send Manifest invitations to users following the instructions at Manifest - Send Email Invitations.
After your users accept the invitations, it will take about 24 hours for them to show up in Canvas. You can then add them to your course(s).

Benefits of Creating a Group

By creating a Canvas-eligible Manifest group, departments exert more control over how and when their users receive Canvas access. Department admins can:

  • Send invitations to unaffiliated users who need Canvas access (see Manifest - Send Email Invitations).
  • See when invitations have been accepted.
  • Audit user lists and remove users who no longer need access to departmental Canvas resources.

Keywordsguests visitors non-uw external personal personnel manifest canvas netid account login id instructor lecturer add enroll create get account   Doc ID66202
OwnerLearn@UW MadisonGroupLearn@UW-Madison
Created2016-08-17 09:37:00Updated2023-12-19 12:36:09
SitesDoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW-Madison
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