Canvas,  Educational Technology,  Remote Teaching

Create Groups for Collaborative Learning Spaces in Canvas

By Roberta Campbell-Chudoba

Perhaps you’d like to set up groups in your Canvas course for discussions, assignments, projects or presentations. The process creates smaller groups, as well as a space within the course for group members to collaborate, called a Group Homepage.

Group creation can help our courses to be more active and social, and enable connection with the people, ideas and concepts students need to support their learning; using groups is aligned with USask’s Learning Technology Ecosystem Principles, characteristics of effective digital learning spaces, and can support skill development and learner achievement for our students.

By bringing students together in smaller groups and inviting them to communicate and work together, we can encourage community building and help to stave off the isolation many are feeling during remote delivery.

Canvas has a 5 minute video for instructors about groups. It provides a good overview on setting up groups in three different ways.

After you’ve watched the video, you might also be interested to know:

  • Once a Group Set and its groups are created, you can add the Group Set to one or more Assignments, Discussions and Collaborations. Groups can also be created to facilitate study groups and/or peer review groups. You may choose to keep the same groups all term to build community among the members or make new groups for exposure to other peers in the class.
  • Research about online discussions points to groups of around 10 people as optimum.
  • Naming the group set with your course name and purpose of the group (i.e. EADM 896 Discussion Group) helps students to distinguish between their groups across courses, especially when viewing their Groups list (as shown here).
  • Although the creation of a Group Homepage is done by default, students may not be familiar with how to find their group (and thus, their Group Homepage). You can direct them to click on the Groups icon in their Global Navigation Menu. (As an instructor, you won’t see a Groups icon in your menu, unless you’re in a group as a student in a Canvas course, such as the Professional Learning course.)



  • A Group Homepage can be a great space for student collaboration. Depending on the purpose of the group, students might like to create announcements, pages, discussions, files – and even a collaborative space to work together on a Word.doc, a PowerPoint presentation or Excel sheets.
  • This is a student view of a Group Homepage. The instructor view has a Switch Group drop-down menu above the main menu, allowing for quick navigation among a set of groups.


  • Groups also have their own calendar in the Canvas Global Calendar where they can add ‘Events.’ Like any course calendar on the right-side bar of the Calendar page, the group calendar needs to have its coloured box showing, for its events to be visible on the Calendar.





  • Those with Teacher and TA roles in the course can visit Group Homepages at any time from the People page. Open a Group Set by clicking on its name (right of Everyone). Navigate to the three option dots beside a group’s name and click on Visit Group Homepage. Once on the Group Homepage, you’re able to switch between groups in that group set (instructor view only).


  • If the option is enabled, students can create their own groups. If you’d like to change this option, go to your course Settings, click on the Course Details Scroll to the bottom of the page and open more options (which becomes ‘fewer options, below):

If students have questions about groups, such as:

1) How do I know what group I’m in and who is in my group?

      • Direct students to their Group Homepage via the Groups icon in their Global Navigation Menu, by clicking on the group’s name. Once on the Group Homepage, they click on People to see group members’ names.

2) How can I communicate with other people in my group? Two options in Canvas are:

          • Students can use Announcements from their Group Home Page.
          • They can also message group members through the Canvas Inbox, as the Inbox provides a group choice for each of their groups, as shown here.





3) How do I join a group (for self sign-up groups)?                                                                                                Students must be able to access the course’s People page. You’ll need to provide instructions for joining a self-sign up group; direct them to follow the steps in this guide

4) “I have a question about the work my group is doing.”                                                                                          Have the student message you the group name and number to save searching through all of your groups for the student’s name.

How can students learn more about Groups?

Direct your students to the USask Canvas Tips for Students blog post on Groups in Canvas and for other tips navigating Canvas.

For additional information, please see:

7 Tips for Setting up Group Projects in Canvas by Julie Maier of DEU

Groups from the Canvas Basics Guide and Guides to Groups from the Canvas Community

Student – Groups Overview video