Groups in Canvas

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Tribute to Youth, bronze sculpture, 1998 by A. Epp – Photo by B. D. W. Kristoff, CC by 2.0

Brette D. W. Kristoff, Graduate StudentCommunications Specialist, GMCTL,        Feb.1, 2021

In your Canvas courses, instructors may have you work in groups for different assignments and tasks.

1) How do I find my group?                                                                                          Click on the Groups icon from your Global Navigation Menu to view the groups you are a member of. Select the name of the group to access the Group Homepage.

2) What is a Group Homepage?                                                                                       Each group has its own Homepage with a variety of tools for collaborating on assignments, presentations, and projects. From the Homepage you can review the most Recent Activity within the group, or view/create group Announcements.

  • Only members belonging to the group (and your instructors and TAs) have access to the Groups Homepage and content. 
  •  To see who else is in the group, select the People tab.

3) What are Discussions and Collaborations used for?                                               From your Group Homepage, you can also access Discussions, Collaborations, and Files that your instructor may have set up for your group. 

  • Discussions allow you to participate in group conversations and discussions. Create a new discussion topic for your group by clicking the ‘Add Discussion’ button.
  • Remember that all group members have access to all group Discussions. To send a private message to a classmate or to your instructor, use the Canvas Inbox tool. 
  • Collaborations allow you to create shared documents with group members. 
  • Files will store all uploaded group content. Use the ‘Upload’ button to share documents and files for other group members to access. 

4) How do I view my group’s Calendar?                                                                There are two ways to view your can view your groups’ Calendars: 

Option 1: From your group Home Page, select the View Calendar link on the right side of the Home Page.

Option 2: From your Global Navigation menu, open the Calendar tab, accessible wherever you are in Canvas. The names of your Groups will be listed on the right side of the page under CALENDARS, at the bottom of the list. Each group needs to have a coloured square beside it, to be visible in the Calendar.



5) How do I join a ‘self sign-up’ group?                                                                 There may be a course requirement to join a ‘self sign-up’ group and participate in discussions and activities:

To join an available group, go to the People tab in your course, open the Groups tab. All available groups for this Course will be listed here. 

  • To join a group, click Join to open the group and add your name.
  • You may be able to ‘Leave’ to switch to a different group. Review the requirements for ‘self sign-up’ groups in your Course syllabus. 

6) How do I communicate with my group?                                                                Within Canvas there are several options for communicating with group members:

Option 1: Use the Canvas Inbox tool. The Inbox create a list of your groups so you can easily message all group members; or select individual group members or classmates from the drop-down ‘To” menu when sending a message.                              Option 2: Start a new Discussion topic or contribution to on-going topics in the group Discussion tab. Remember all group members and instructors can access Discussions.                                                              Option 3: Your Course Chat allows you to DM (direct message) your groups members in a quick and casual way.                                                                          Option 4: From your group Homepage, you can add an Announcement to create Calendar events, messages, updates, or reminders for your group. 


We acknowledge that the University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another. 

For more support options with Canvas, see the USask Student Canvas page.

Planning your Term with Canvas: Getting Started

An icy view, somewhere in Saskatoon. Photo by Marina Moreland, CC by 2.0

Brette D. W. Kristoff, Graduate Student – Communications Specialist, GMCTL, January 20th, 2021

Here are some ways to stay on track from the beginning of term.

Using your Canvas Calendar

View your Canvas Calendar from your Global Navigation menu:

  • Each calendar view will list your upcoming due dates and assignments (as soon as your instructor updates or adds content to the course schedule). 
  • View the calendar in Week, Month, or Agenda format by using the selection menu in the navigation bar. Add Calendar items as they come up throughout the term.

  • Ensure all calendars for all your classes are selected – meaning the coloured box is showing next to each class title, so all due dates/events show in your Calendar
  • Take some time to view your calendar and make note of upcoming To-Do’s and assignments. Stay on top and on track by making regular check-ins with your Canvas Calendar.

Ways to Contact Your Instructor in Canvas

There are two main ways to contact your instructor in Canvas:

1. Send a message through your Inbox

  • Your Canvas Inbox is a messaging tool (instead of email) used to communicate within a specific course, to an individual student or instructor, or to a group of students. 
  • Open your Canvas Inbox from your Global Navigation Menu. 
  • Select the drop down menu to choose your course and instructor you wish to message. 
  • Filter your messages by Inbox, Unread, Starred, Sent, Archived, or view Submission Comments. 
  • Your Canvas Inbox allows for simple and private space for conversations with your instructors and peers. Remember to always start any online communication with a formal greeting and goodbye; use proper spelling and grammar; and remember to clearly state your objective/question. 

2. Use the Help option to Ask Your Instructor a Question. 

  • Locate your Help tab at the bottom of your Global Navigation Menu and select the appropriate course and instructor.
  • Check out the other Help resources linked in the Help menu.

Other Student Resources

  • As a USask student you have access to free online Student Learning Services  including academic writing resources, math & stats helps, and other tutoring services.
  • For more support options with Canvas, see the USask Student Canvas page.

We acknowledge that the University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another. 

Using Canvas Discussion Boards 

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

Brette D. W. Kristoff, Graduate Student – Communications Specialist, GMCTL, 

October 19, 2020

Canvas offers various communication channels designed to make your virtual learning experience more interactive and personable. 

Both your Inbox and Discussions in Canvas are useful tools for communicating with your classmates and instructors. 

Your Canvas Inbox function is an internal messaging system separate from your USask email account. Use this to communicate directly and in private with other Canvas users in your courses and with your instructors.

Discussions are specific to each Canvas course and function as online discussion boards for group work and general classroom communication. 

  • Some discussion boards are set up like forums, useful for discussing course related questions or sharing resources.
  • Discussions can be focused for group work or used for general communication with the entire class. 
    • Depending on how your instructor has designed the course . . . it may be set-up so students can initiate new discussions.
    • Inside a group home page, members can start discussions – and all other functions shown to the  right. 
  • Using Discussions may be part of your course requirements.
    • Check the course Syllabus to know which Discussions are optional and which ones are for marks.
    • You might be assigned as a group leader or moderator for a discussion, so check the syllabus or other instructions to see what your tasks are for this role.
  • Within a thread or focused discussion you can reply directly to an individual classmate, however everyone that is in the discussion group sees the post.
    • You can also attach or embed files, links, or YouTube videos. Depending on the kind of discussion and its requirements, you might even be able to do your whole post as a video.
  • Tip! Start your discussion drafts on a Word.doc. After you’ve proofread your draft, copy/paste it directly to the discussion. This way you won’t lose your work if your connection goes down when you’re in the middle of posting. It will also be useful to have a document with all your discussion contributions in one place for later use. 
    • Some Discussions might count towards your grade, and you might be graded on the quality, not just the number of your contributions. Your instructor may give you a rubric about how discussions will be graded and what qualities they are looking for in your posts.
  • Be sure to subscribe to receive notifications about new posts and new Discussions.

Remember … 

  • If you have a question, scroll through your course Discussions first to see if it’s already been asked somewhere else.

    Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

    • It would be rude to repeat a question that has already been answered.
    • Keep your posts brief and relevant. Proofread before you post!
  • Consider your tone and remember that sarcasm and humour are often not appropriate in these types of online forums. 
    • Make sure your posts are thoughtful and organized neatly–don’t forget to include a salutation or greeting! 
    • Has your class set group norms for online communication? No? Check out this handy USask netiquette guide about interacting online.

For more support options with Canvas, see the USask Student Canvas page.