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  6.  — Canvas communication tools

Canvas communication tools

Communication tools can increase effective information-sharing and engagement in your course when used well.


Use Canvas Announcements to communicate to your entire cohort, or if you have used Canvas Groups to group your students, use Announcements within the Group to make contact with these specific groups of students. Go to the Group homepage first before posting the announcement.

To communicate with individual students as needed, use the Inbox functionality in Canvas (see People tab and click the mail icon). You can also use a context card to contact a student directly.

When an announcement is made, Canvas sends students a notification, according to the students’ personal notification preferences. The options listed below are also available for publishing announcements:

  • Select whether your announcements go to all people in your course (staff and students) or just to relevant sections, such as a room change for one class only.
  • Create and schedule announcements for specific times during your course, such as upcoming deadline reminders.
  • Change the default course settings to disallow student replies to announcements. Student replies will be visible to all course users.


  • Savvy students within the group will also be able to post announcements, but they will only be posted to the group.
  • Each individual student controls their own notification setting preferences, so some students may miss important information if they have turned notifications off. Make sure students have set their Canvas notifications settings to accept Announcements and Conversations.
  • Ask students to ensure their University email account is forwarding to their personal email address (for those who prefer to use personal email only).

See also: If you want to communicate with a group of students or an individual student, see Canvas Inbox guides.


Delayed posting

Students may experience information overload, especially if they are receiving announcements at all times of the day and night.

While teaching staff often can only deal with these in the evenings/nights, it is good to reinforce that we are not expecting students to be studying 24/7, and that we acknowledge they have other pressures on their time.

Use the Canvas’ functionality of ‘delay posting’:

  • Tick Delay posting found in ‘Options’ immediately above the SAVE button.
  • This allows you to write announcements at any time and send it to students at a later date/time (for example, write it on a Friday night but delay sending it until Monday morning).
Canvas' announcement delay posting setting

Video: Canvas tutorial – Announcements


You can interact with your students in real time using Canvas’ Chat feature.

  • Chat content is visible to all enrolled students.
  • Any user enrolled in the course can participate.
  • Currently there is no upper limit for the number of users in a course chat. However, a large number of users may affect chat performance.
  • A Canvas user must be actively viewing the chat tool to appear in the chat list.
  • Consider posting Chat hours in the course calendar to let students know when you are available.
  • Chat comments cannot be deleted.

See also: To communicate with a group of students or an individual student, see Canvas Inbox.

Video: Canvas tutorial – Chat


Canvas Discussions can be used as an online equivalent to tutorials and collaborative work. This is a good option for holding an asynchronous interaction.

Discussions can be text based or use multimedia. Using Canvas’ Rich Content Editor, you and your students can record and upload video or audio clips to the discussion. This may be especially good for language courses.

You can create interactive forums for a class or group using discussions. The Discussions index page enables you to view all the discussions within a course. These can be pinned in order.

  • Discussions can be graded or ungraded.
  • Discussion topics can be a focused or threaded:
    • Focused discussions are relatively short-lived interactions, such as one class.
    • Threaded discussions allow replies within replies and may last for a longer period of time.
  • Modify discussion settings to allow your students to create new discussion topics of their own and add the discussion to the students’ to do list.
  • If needed, there is an option to require students to post a response before they see any other students’ posts.

If you want to give a student direct feedback on their discussion without posting a comment (which all students in the same discussion can see), make the discussion a graded discussion and use the feedback mechanisms within SpeedGrader to give individual feedback.

Other advantages of Canvas Discussions:

  • Best for course dialogue.*
  • Integrated with Canvas.
  • Allows for group and graded discussions.

Students engage in debate, discussion, critical discourse, and collaboration.

Video: Canvas tutorial – Discussions


The Inbox is a messaging tool used to to communicate with others in your course for the duration of it’s term date.

  • Inbox can be used to communicate with a course, a group, an individual student or a group of students.
  • You can view and reply to conversations and sort them by course or inbox type.
  • Students can use Inbox to view and reply to assignment submission comments.

Note: The conversations (Inbox) feature does not have any file size limits, but attachments added to a conversation are included in the sender’s personal files.

Video: Canvas tutorial – Inbox

Other communication tools



Support options are available through the Staff Service Centre or the 24-hour hotline. Please visit the learning technology support page for details.

See also

Communicating with students

Read about strategies for communicating with students.

Page updated 17/10/2023 (fixed video links)

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