Do You Know What an Error Message Means When Trying to Add Users to Canvas?

Important: The following information only applies to manual-enrollment situations (meaning, when you need to add someone who isn’t officially enrolled in or affiliated with your course to your Canvas site). Usually, staff and some TAs fall in this category. If a course has a Canvas site (if you’re an instructor who doesn’t have one, please click here to request a site), students are enrolled in that course’s Canvas site within an hour of their registration. If you’re an instructor or TA who has a site but can’t access it, please contact Courseware Support at for help.

Why Can’t I Add a Person to My Canvas Site?

Ever try adding someone to a Canvas site and receive this message?

Adding-user error messageThe first thing to do when receiving this error message is to double-check the user’s PennKey, making sure that you have entered it correctly into Canvas. If you have, then this error message means that the user you are trying to add doesn’t have a Canvas account.

Wait, Wait, Wait–Doesn’t Everyone at Penn Have a Canvas Account?

No. Only users who have taught, taken, or performed some support, design, or grading  function in a Canvas site (e.g., TAs) before your attempt to add them to a site have accounts in the system.

For instructors who are first-time Canvas user, the system automatically generates a user account for them when their site is made. Likewise, the first time a student registers for a course with a Canvas site, the system automatically creates their account and adds them to the site within an hour of their registration.

User for whom this error message occurs tend to be new departmental staff who need to perform editing or support functions in a Canvas site, TAs who were assigned to a course late, and visiting scholars or students. If such users have PennKeys, and we have the instructor’s permission to add them to a Canvas site, Courseware Support can create their Canvas accounts and add them to sites.

So the Person I Want to Add Needs a PennKey to Have a Canvas Account?

Yes. A user must obtain a PennKey before we can create their Canvas account. If you know a user doesn’t have a PennKey, please contact Courseware Support at so we can send instructions for the user to request one.

And What Should I Do if I Run into Problems?

We encourage you to contact Courseware Support at if you need assistance adding users to a Canvas site.

Last Updated: 14 Aug 2015

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