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Canvas Communication Tips for Instructors

Options for communicating with students in Canvas

There are several integrated ways to communicate with students in Canvas. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the possibilities and to think about how you want to use them in your course.

Some instructors set expectations that they will not answer messages asking questions that are either clearly answered in the syllabus or of general interest. Creating a discussion forum, either in Discussions or in an extension like Piazza, is a great way to provide students with a place to answer questions that are applicable to the whole class.  For more information on discussions, see this page.

Here is a 6-minute video about communicating with students using Announcements, Discussions (jump to 1:05), Conversations (2:10), Gradebook (2:43), and SpeedGrader (4:22).

Here’s a 5-minute video about the Conversations tool (also called Inbox).

You can use Announcements to send messages to the entire class. Examples include reminders about location changes, deadlines, or class-related events of general interest. Depending on your settings, students may be able to comment on announcements. Learn how to disable comments for a single announcement or for all announcements.

You can use your email and/or Conversations to communicate with your students individually or in small groups.

You are likely accustomed to using email to communicate with students. The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach: email  Canvas Conversations
  • Students and faculty are familiar with this approach.
  • A wisc list can be used to contact the entire class to send a welcome letter before the course begins or for announcement purposes during the course term.
  • Messages are sent immediately to all recipients.
  • Instructors and students can filter emails by course.
  • If using groups, instructors and students can send messages to group members without setting up a separate email list.
  • Instructors can set notifications so that messages from Conversations are also sent to your email.  Replies can then be sent from email through Conversations.
  • Interactions between students and instructors are visible in Course Analytics.
  • Emails from students are mixed with other emails in your inbox.  Students may need to include course name and number in subject lines to assist you in filtering.
  • Emailing groups requires creating a list of students in that group.
  • Students and instructors must either check their Canvas Conversations inbox or set their notifications so that messages reach them immediately through email or text.  
  • Students can opt out of receiving notifications from Canvas, including for Conversations.

Note that students are able to set their notification preferences so that they receive Announcements and/or Conversations messages via email and/or text from Canvas immediately, daily, weekly, or not at all. You (as an instructor) can also set notifications so that Canvas Conversations messages go to your email, and you can respond to the messages from there if you prefer.

No matter which option you choose, be sure to communicate expectations clearly to students.

We recommend setting expectations for Announcements and Conversations use at the outset in your syllabus, and possibly also within a welcome letter sent via email before the course begins.

You may want to point students toward Canvas guides or videos for the following topics:

Here is some sample text* to include if you choose to use Announcements and/or Conversations. . .

In your syllabus and/or welcome letter:

Students are required to customize their Canvas notifications preferences to receive immediate (ASAP) notifications of messages and announcements through the third-party provider of choice (e.g. email, SMS/text). Students are required to log into the course regularly (more than twice a week) and check Announcements and the Canvas Inbox immediately upon logging in to stay on top of developments in the course as they occur.


Please send emails and messages to the instructor through Canvas. Messages sent through the Canvas Inbox (Send a Message) feature will be answered within 24 hours during the week and within 48 hours on weekends.

If you find that students continue to send course-related emails to your account, address this in class and consider setting an auto-reply:

Your email has been received. If you are a student who is currently enrolled in {Course Name} for {Course Term}, please know that I do not accept student emails at this address.

I reply to Canvas messages within 24 hours on weekdays and within 48 hours on weekends.

*boilerplate text from message by Stefanie Sanders

Keywords:Piazza, discussion, SpeedGrader, Conversations, Announcements ceete   Doc ID:71599
Owner:Erica H.Group:CEETE Resources
Created:2017-03-09 16:41 CDTUpdated:2019-04-10 14:39 CDT
Sites:CEETE Resources
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