Things You Really Need to Know about Canvas

  • Faculty & Staff

Canvas is a great way to post course materials online, to collect assignments, and to communicate with your students.


 It's easy to get started with Canvas, and here are a few key things you should know.

What you need to know

Why it matters

Additional information & resources

You need to request a course site on Canvas

Canvas sites are not generated automatically for every course; they are created upon request by the instructor.


You need a PennKey to log in to Canvas

All users — faculty, students and outside guests — need a PennKey username and password to log in.  Faculty who don't yet have a PennKey should visit the PennKey site or consult with the support staff in their department.  Library support staff can help create PennKeys for outside guests.


You need to "publish" your Canvas site & content items in order for students to have access

Course sites are created in an "unpublished" state.  As the instructor, you can access your unpublished site to post materials and get everything ready to go.

When you publish your site, all students who are registered for the course will gain access to the Canvas site.

You also need to publish individual content items within the site.


Posting your course materials is easy

The most basic use of Canvas is to distribute your syllabus, Powerpoint slides, readings, or other materials to your students.  It's also easy to add links to other web sites.

The Library will scan reserve materials and make them available in the Files area of a Canvas course.


Help is available.

There are lots of ways to get help with Canvas. The Penn Library has a very helpful Canvas starter page with links to tutorials and other resources.

Penn offers lots of workshops for beginners and advanced users.

Communicate with your students through Canvas

You can communicate with your students — collectively or individually — through Canvas.  By default, the email address for all Canvas users is set to the address as listed in the Penn directory.

Because each students can disable email notifications from Canvas, we recommend that you use your class mailing list if you need to make sure that email will go to all members of your class.


Collect and grade assignments online.

When you use the Assignments tool in Canvas, your students can submit their papers or other work online; you can then easily review, comment on, and grade their work through the SpeedGrader.


You can copy content from one Canvas site to another

Course navigation > Settings > (right sidebar) Import Content into this Course.