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  6.  — Sections and groups in Canvas

Sections and groups in Canvas

Sections and Groups are two different ways of managing students within Canvas.

Use Canvas Groups for project work where you want students to work independently from other students/groups and for collaborative tasks using Google Docs.

Use Canvas Sections for communicating with specific categories of students (through Announcements or Discussions), or for assigning Quizzes.


Sections represent enrolled classes and are automatically created in your Canvas courses by the Enrolment Office.

To view the sections for your Canvas course, go to ‘Settings’ in the course menu, then select the ‘Sections’ tab. Students will be enrolled into sections that represent lecture streams, lab streams, tutorial streams etc., for example:

  • L01C (lecture stream 1, City)
  • B02C (Lab stream 2, City)
  • T03C (tutorial stream 3, City)
  • OO (students who are studying remotely)*

* There may be a few exemptions where students have been approved to study remotely. Only approved exceptions will be enrolled into OO classes; students will not be able to self-enrol. Course Directors can notify the Timetable and Enrolment team ( if a student has been granted an exception for remote study. The Timetable and Enrolment team will then create an OO section and swap the student’s enrolments.

Cross-listed courses will also include sections for each of the original courses:

  • STATS 101
  • STATS 101G
  • STATS 108
A Canvas course showing student numbers allocated to sections

Canvas Announcements are convenient for broadcasting communications to all students. If you wish to post an announcement to students in a particular lecture, lab or tutorial stream, you can send an announcement to them separately by posting to a course Section.

Assignments (including quizzes and graded discussions) can also be allocated to various sections.


Canvas Groups are quite different from other Canvas tools, and have three key functions:

Unlike Sections, Groups can be created by the course coordinator or teachers, and are not limited to the ‘class’ enrolment groupings. Students can also create their own Groups, if permitted, in the course settings.

Canvas Groups creates a course area in which group members can communicate and collaborate privately from the larger course. Students in Groups have ‘teacher-like’ permissions in this space. They can add resources, create their own Discussions, Group Announcements, Collaborations (Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive shared documents) and Conferences. Grade functions are not included in Group spaces. Canvas Group areas can be used to restrict course content to Group members, but remember students can also add, delete and edit all files and pages in this space.

Note: Unlike course discussions, lecturers do not receive notifications from Group discussions, so you may want to regularly check each Group to monitor progress and respond to queries.

A short video on setting up Canvas Groups.

Additional resources:

This table illustrates which Canvas components can be assigned specifically to Canvas Groups, Sections, and to individual students.
Assign to all students Assign to Sections Assign to Groups Assign to Individual students
Homepage Yes No Yes (Group area) No
Syllabus page Yes No No No
Announcements Yes Yes Yes (Group area) No
Modules Yes No No No
Pages Yes No Yes (Group area) No
Files Yes No Yes (Group area) No
Recordings Yes Yes No No
Outcomes Yes No No No
Assignments Yes Yes Yes (Group assignment) Yes
Quizzes Yes Yes No Yes
Discussions Yes Yes Yes (Group Discussion, Group area) Yes (Graded Discussion)
Collaboration (Google Doc) Yes No Yes Yes
Conference (BigBlueButton) Yes No Yes (Group area) Yes
Appointment groups in Calendar Yes Yes No No



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

Page updated 30/06/2023 (minor update to section codes)

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