Policies are recommended and approved by the Courseware governance committee members.

Acceptable Use

Canvas is a learning management system intended to support the instructional mission of the institution including but not limited to official university courses provided by The University of Pennsylvania via the Registrar to actively enrolled students. Instructors of record as listed in the course registration system may request Canvas course sites for the courses they teach.

In addition, all Canvas users are governed by existing university policies for:

  1. The University of Pennsylvania Computing Policy on Acceptable Use
  2. The Code of Student Conduct and Code of Academic Integrity
  3. The University of Pennsylvania’s Policy on Unauthorized Copying of Copyrighted Material
  4. Privacy in the Electronic Environment
  5. Copyright Resources to Support Publishing and Teaching

System Maintenance and Upgrades

Canvas is a cloud-based learning management system that is continuously updated on a three-week release cycle. This means that rather than one, significant annual upgrade, there are regular updates monthly. For Penn faculty, students, and staff, it means that the application is in a constant state of evolution — and features and screens may change almost before our eyes. It may require a shift in our collective mindset as we will be challenged to continually learn and grow. That said, the Penn Libraries Courseware Support team will make every effort to highlight upcoming changes so you can be prepared. In addition, you can learn more here:

Course Site Enrollments

At present, courses comprised of Students, Teaching Assistants, and Instructors are enrolled in the following ways. Please note that your Local Support Providers may recommend and support alternative enrollment methods.

  • Students:  An hourly feed of information from the Registrar is uploaded to Canvas to manage student enrollments in courses, as well as drops from courses. Please allow a full two hours from the time of the change to pass before contacting your local support for assistance.
  • Faculty:   Instructors of Record in Banner can request a current course site using the Course Request Form.  There is an hourly feed of information from the Course Request Form to Canvas. Please allow a full two hours from the time of your request to pass before contacting your local support for assistance.
  • Teaching Assistants:  Teaching Assistants are typically added to course sites by the Instructor of Record, unless TAs were selected prior to the course’s registration in the Banner. Please contact them for access to the site. Canvas administrators are not authorized to add TAs without the written permission of the Instructor of Record or a senior administrator for the School or Department.

End of Semester Activities

At the end of each term, courses will be set to automatically conclude on the schedule listed below. Concluding courses is good practice as it:

  • Closes the course to any further activity by students (for example, it prevents students from submitting assignments by mistake after the course has ended), but keeps course content viewable and accessible to them.
  • Closes the course to any further activity by instructors — although instructors may copy content into future courses for editing and re-use.
  • Reduces the number of items on Canvas users’ Active Courses menu
  • Maintains access to all previous courses and content for users

Please note that Local Support Providers have the ability to override system-wide term dates in the event it is needed.

More information on terms in Canvas.

Using Canvas for Non-Course/Special Use Sites

To request a Non-Course/Special Use site, please email canvas@pobox.upenn.edu

Canvas is an application specifically designed to meet the needs of instructors and students enrolled in courses. That said, Penn Libraries is working with interested staff, researchers, and administrators who wish to use Canvas for non-course purposes that include:

  • Collaboration
  • Research
    (Note that because of the technical limitations inherent with the platform, storing HIPAA-protected information is not permitted in Canvas.)
  • Committees
  • Organizations
  • Workshops

The Penn Libraries Courseware Services team can create Non-Course/Special Use sites under the following conditions:

  • All site participants have PennKeys
  • The site owner provides a designated support person as his/her priority contact. (This could be a Courseware Working Group member, or a person we tutor)
  • Sites must have an end date of one year or less
  • The site purpose fits within an accepted use category: Collaboration, Research, Committee, Organization, Workshop
  • Enrollments are managed by a designated Tier 1 support person. S/he must submit a completed spreadsheet with all required information for account creation and participant enrollments.
    • Required information includes: Full name, PennKey username, Penn ID number, and a valid email address (does not have to be a Penn address)
    • Complete information must be provided. Courseware Support staff are not able to look up PennKey usernames or Penn ID numbers for participants in non-course sites. If the site requester does not have access to or cannot obtain all the required information for participants an alternative to Canvas will be recommended.

Public Canvas Sites

By default, only users enrolled in a Canvas course site have access to the site. For all courses in UPenn Canvas, excluding GSE, PSOM, and Wharton courses, the visibility settings for a course can only be managed by Canvas Admins. By request, Admins can change the visibility settings of a course.

Instructors who wish to make a site public should submit a request to their Local Support Provider or canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

More information on Public Canvas Sites at Penn.

LMS Consultations

The Penn Libraries has a long history of managing and supporting a learning management system (LMS) at the University of Pennsylvania. The Libraries piloted Canvas in 2012 before a migration in the 2013-2014 academic year. Prior to that, we oversaw Blackboard at Penn (2000-2012) and piloted Sakai CLE and OAE. The Libraries is happy to share knowledge from these experiences in a consultative role for new LMS projects for learning at Penn or beyond.

The Libraries can provide advice and guidance on the following:

  • Subject matter expertise in Canvas by Instructure
  • End-user training and support in an online environment
  • LMS selection, implementation, and management
  • Third-party tool integration and vendor relationships
  • Service management and systems integrations at Penn
  • Academic-integrity/student-conduct issues in an online environment
  • Library resources for fully online or external non-Penn users
  • Communication, training, and documentation for users
  • Upgrades, migrations, and maintenance-period management, as well as unplanned outages for third-party tools and LMSes

The Libraries will do the following upon request:

  • Attend meetings or calls as our schedule permits
  • Facilitate introductions to our licensed vendors
  • Share existing reports, documentation, and other materials related to our evaluation, implementation, and management of Canvas

For projects that will use the Penn Canvas or Open Canvas for Penn Learners environments, the Libraries may require involvement in any aspects that will affect authentication, global settings, user support, vendor licenses, and third-party integrations.

The Libraries cannot provide advice and guidance on the following:

  • Using the Canvas API
  • Answering detailed integration questions for third-party tools or systems

Questions? Contact Courseware Support

Please email Courseware Support if you have any questions: canvas@pobox.upenn.edu

Canvas Help Policies

These policies apply to anyone who registers for a Canvas Help appointment.


  • Registration is required to attend.
  • Courseware Support appointments are only offered at pre-scheduled times. Requests for meetings outside of these set times will be at the discretion of Courseware Support staff.
  • Appointments must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.
  • Only one person/affiliated group (ex: co-instructors, TAs in same course) per appointment.
  • If you are a Wharton, GSE, or PSOM user, you may be directed to your local support team for help, and, if this happens, your Courseware Support appointment might be canceled. You will be notified about this cancellation over email as soon as possible after your registration.

Level of Support:

  • Attendees will receive emails from the Canvas specialist assigned to them before and after their appointment. The pre-appointment email may contain help documentation that addresses the issue described in the registration form, and attendees will be given the option to cancel their appointment through a link in this email if the documentation helps them solve the issue themselves. Several days after an appointment, an attendee will receive an email from the Canvas specialist asking if they have any questions or if need help with anything else.
  • Courseware Support staff are not permitted to edit a Canvas gradebook in an active course site. Attendees will be guided through the correct way to edit the Canvas gradebook and will be given examples in sites design for demonstration if the support request calls for these actions, but Courseware Support staff cannot edit, alter, or add grades to the Canvas gradebook, even with the instructor’s permission.
  • Attendees are welcome and encouraged to email Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu at any point before or after their appointment for Canvas help.
  • Canvas Help appointments are unavailable in the months of May, August, and January. These are high-volume months for Courseware Support, so staff are unavailable for appointments during them. Users who need assistance during these months can do any of the following:
    • Email Courseware Support for assistance over email at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.
    •  Sign-up for scheduled Canvas office hours and workshops for May, August, and January.

Tips for a Productive Appointment:

We recommend the following to ensure a productive appointment:

  • Please thoroughly describe the issue in your registration form. We use this information to send you help documentation before the appointment and to prepare for it. The more we know about the issue before the appointment, the more efficiently we can serve you during it.
  • If possible, bring the device (laptop, tablet, etc.) you use for work so we can see how you interface with Canvas and troubleshoot potential device-configuration issues. Also, please make sure that you are using a browser version on the device that Canvas supports.

Last Updated: 18 Jul 2023