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Canvas - Early Access / Extending Course Access [UW-Madison]

This document outlines how to control course access for enrolled students

Modify Course Access for all students

As an instructor, you are able to change restrictions for student access in your course. These restrictions include student access to courses before or after the start and end date. 

Note: While courses with graded submissions cannot be unpublished, restricting student access can prevent students from accessing the course after a certain date.

To modify these settings, select Settings on the left-hand navigation panel.

Setting Custom Course Start and End Dates

By default, your course will use the term start and end dates for your course.
Participation is set to term, so course honors term end dates

To set custom dates:

  1. Go to your course settings page
  2. Scroll to Participation
  3. Use the dropdown menu to switch from term to course participation dates.
    Participation dropdown is set to course, and the course start and end dates are highlighted
  4. Set your preferred participation dates.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the Settings page and save your course.

Restrict students from viewing course before start date

  • Default settings: When a student enrolls in a future course, it displays in the Future Enrollments section in the student Courses list. After a course is published, it displays an invitation to join the course, where the students can view course content at any time before the course begins. 
  • With student restriction: Students cannot view a link to the course until the start date, even if the course is published.

Restrict students from viewing course after end date

  • Under default settings: Once a course has concluded, students can still view the course but all content is displayed in a read-only state. 
  • With student restriction enabled: Students can no longer view the course in the Courses list after the course has concluded. 
  • These restriction settings also apply to the override start and end dates for the course.

    If no override dates are specified, the start and end dates apply to the term dates. (tutorial: change course start and end dates)

Restriction Options


In the Courses tab, view the Visibility section. By default, student access check boxes are not selected, meaning students can view courses before and after course dates. To retain this default for the course, do not select any check boxes.

To set a default so that students cannot view a link to the course before the course start date, select the Restrict students from viewing courses before start date checkbox [1].

To set a default so that students cannot access the course after the course end date, Restrict students from viewing courses after end date checkbox [2].
Note: You will also have to make sure your course is published if you want students to have access to your course. Setting the course dates will not provide students access if your course is unpublished. 

Extend Access to Your Course for a Subset of Students

Instructors may need to provide a student with access to a Canvas course beyond its term and/or course end date. For instance, they may need to do this for students who have not fulfilled all course requirements and are marked as incomplete until they finish their work. Students should not be added to an ad hoc section during the semester; students can only be enrolled in ad hoc sections after the course end date.

This document explains how a student can be granted extended access to a Canvas Course.

Note: Instructors in a for-credit course cannot perform all of the following steps by themselves; the steps require permissions that instructors do not have. To complete all steps, instructors need the help of their local Canvas sub-account administrator when indicated in the following instructions. To identify that person, contact the DoIT Help Desk.

Creating an Ad Hoc Section in the Canvas Course

The instructor can perform the steps in this section.

  1. Select Settings at the bottom of the course navigation bar.
  2. Select the Sections tab at the top of the page.
  3. Create an ad hoc section in your course by entering the name of the new section [your course name] ad hoc (example: ENG101 ad hoc). Select the red +Section button to add this new section to your course. For step-by-step instructions review the document How do I add a section to a course? This will result in the new section being listed in the space above, with the other section(s).
  4. Once created, select the ad hoc section you just created.
  5. Select Edit Section at the top-right of the page.
  6. Enter the start and end dates for the new section.
  7. Place a check in the checkbox "Students can only participate in the course between these dates."
    • Selecting the "Students can only participate in the course between these dates" checkbox is a critical step in this process that allows section dates to override the course dates.
  8. Select Update Section.

Add Student(s) to Ad Hoc Section

The Canvas sub-account administrator can perform the steps in this section, not the instructor.

Since the student(s) is already enrolled in the course, you can edit their course section enrollment from the People page. The student(s) does not need to be unenrolled or removed from previously enrolled sections in the course to be added to the ad hoc section. The document How do I edit section for an enrollment in a course? provides step-by-step instructions on adding enrolled students to a course section.

Ensure Assignments Can Be Accessed by the Student(s)

Preparation for extended access to a Canvas course does not end with creation of an ad hoc section and student enrollment in that section. Instructors can set Availability Dates, or lock dates for assignments, including quizzes, in their course. Availability Dates specify a date range when students can submit an assignment. If Availability Dates were used on assignments in the course, they need to be changed to reflect the agreed upon schedule for the ad hoc course section. If Availability Dates are not changed or removed within the Canvas course, the student(s) in the ad hoc section will receive an error message when attempting to access assignments.

The document What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates? may be a useful resources that explains the differences between due dates and availability dates as well as how to change both of theses features for multiple assignments at the same time.

    Keywordscanvas, change, date, section, extend, course, access, people, override, precedence, incomplete, not finished dates options to restrict student access unpublish end begin start conclude   Doc ID76452
    OwnerLearn@UW MadisonGroupLearn@UW-Madison
    Created2017-09-11 10:23:26Updated2023-05-08 13:56:57
    SitesDoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW-Madison
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