Canvas,  Educational Technology,  Educational Theory,  Remote Teaching

The Canvas Inbox (is better than you think)

Did you know that messages in Canvas are also called Conversations? And that when you send a message you are actually starting a conversation thread which is stored within Canvas? Since all messages (or conversations) are stored within Canvas you never have to worry about missing or losing any messages.  

The Canvas Inbox is an internal messaging system that allows you to send messages to: 

  • specific courses 
  • specific groups
  • sections in a course 
  • all students in a course,
  • groups of students in a course, and if you click the Send an individual message to each recipient checkbox, then each person in this group will not be able to see who has been included in the message 
  • individual students in a course  
  • people in your courses with specific roles (such as TA’s or instructors) 

When you have a message in your Canvas inbox, a notification will be sent to your regular USask NSID email ( to alert you. Notifications can push out to email, or text message depending upon your selection. 

You can reply to Canvas notifications fromyour USask Outlook email as long as your outgoing email address is your but if you have an email alias (e.g., you must add it to Canvas so that it recognizes both emails and allows you to respond to notifications from your USask Outlook email.   

The video, Replying to Canvas notifications from your email inbox  shows you how to set up your email alias in Canvas.  

There are many advantages to replying to Canvas messages through the Canvas inbox such as: 

  • it is one way to maintain privacy as everything is contained within Canvas and you do not need to use personal or other emails 
  • important conversations are kept within Canvas and are easy to find
  • you can easily select who you want to send messages to 
  • you can easily track communications with students
  • any comments that students make on their assignment submissions are copied to your inbox and any comments you make on student assignment submissions are copied into their inbox, so there is no need to go looking for comments/ feedback. You can filter your messages by type and find these comments under Submission Comments. 


If you would like to receive a copy of the messages (or conversations) you send in Canvas you simply have to configure your general notifications so that you are notified right away whenever you start a conversation. You can also choose to receive a copy of any announcements you create in your course. 

The illustration below shows you the changes you need to make to your general notification preferences. To access the general notification preferences, click on the account link in the global navigation menu and then notifications. 

Notifications Menu

Everyone also has the ability to customize their Notification preferences for individual Canvas courses. These are known as course level notifications. Changes at the course level give you the opportunity to choose: 

  • which courses you want to receive notifications from,
  • which notifications you want to receive,  
  • how often you want to receive them and  
  • where you want to receive these notifications.

To change course level notification preferences simply go to the course home page and select View Course Notifications from the sidebar. 

The illustration below shows you what the course level notifications page looks like.  

Course notification preferencesNote – Whether or not students are alerted of Canvas messages in their USask Outlook email will depend on how they have set up their own notification preferences, they may only see their Canvas messages once they are logged in to Canvas. However by default, Canvas notification preferences are set so that they are notified right away whenever an announcement has been made in your course or when they have been sent a Canvas message. Whilst you cannot control how students set up their notifications, rest assured that any messages you send through Canvas will be there when they log in.