Canvas Course Settings

Canvas Logo with red circle and red Canvas lettering

Every Canvas course has a "Course Details" page that controls the settings and options for the course. Most faculty use it only to adjust the course start and end dates or to upload a course card image, but there are many other important options in the Course Details.  We know it's a little confusing (and easy to overlook), so we created this guide to walk you through the most important settings and best practices for using them.     

To get to the Course Details:  

  1.              Open the course            
  2.              Click on Settings in the course navigation            
  3.              Make sure the "Course Details" tab is displayed            
Open the course, click on the settings, and ensure that the course details tab is displayed

Date Settings:

In the example below:

Assuming the course is published, students will be able to PARTICIPATE in this course starting at Aug 28, 2017 at 9 am through Dec 20, 2017 at 5 pm.

Students will be able to access the course in read-only mode before Aug 28, 2017 at 9 pm if the course is published. If the course isn't published then the students will receive a message stating "This course hasn't started yet. You will not be able to participate in this course until [course start date]".


Do adjust the dates to accommodate your course. DO NOT remove the dates completely or extend past a reasonable time since students will have complete access to your course and will continue to receive notifications from your course. If you need content to be available to your students after the course ends, please discuss options with your IIC/DL departments.

There are additional options for restricting students from viewing course before and after start and end dates, further down the Course Details page.

DO NOT remove the dates completely or extend past a reasonable time since students will have complete access to your course and will continue to receive notifications from your course.


Instructors can change the language settings for your course. This feature could be useful for advanced foreign language courses, since all Canvas course navigation and options will appear within the chosen language for the instructor and course students. Otherwise it should not be adjusted.

NOTE: Do not confuse this with the personal setting to view Canvas in a different language.

Language setting of a course

Turnitin comments:

If you are using Turnitin, you can add a custom Turnitin policy or note here for students to see.

Grading Scheme:

Add your grading scheme for this course.

NOTE: most people will not have a custom grading scheme.

If using Turnitin you can add a custom Turnitin policy.  If you have a custom grading scheme then you can enable it with a checkmark.


In most cases, the default setting "Private (Copyrighted)" should be used. Talk with your campus OER committee or campus librarians about the licensing of your course if you want to change the default.

The  default settings of Private (Copyrighted) and visibility set to course is recommended


As with license visibility, content can be kept private or made publicly available.

  • Course: Content is available to all users associated (enrolled) in the course. RECOMMENDED OPTION
  • Institution: Content is available to users associated with the institution. This option allows users in your institution to view the selected content before they enroll in the course.
  • Public: Content is available to anyone with the URL and web crawlers such as Google. This option also can break integrations with ACES and publishers, and is not recommended.

Recommendation: Leave the visibility of your academic course to the default settings. Your syllabus is public within Concourse (a legal requirement) and instructors who wish to provide information to students before the start of date can do so by publishing the course at any time.

Dropdown showing Course, Institution, and Public.  Recommended is course.

Visibility Customization:

In the Customize Syllabus menu, select the visibility option you want to set:

  • If course visibility is set to Course, content visibility can be set to Course, Institution, or Public.
  • If course visibility is set to Institution, content visibility can be set to Institution or Public.
  • If course visibility is set to Public, the entire course is already public so content visibility can only be set to Public.
Customize Syllabus menu dropdown is shown as course, institution, and public

Include this course in the public course index:

Leave this unchecked. We do not use the public course index.

Do not check "Include this course in the public course index."

Restrict students from viewing course after end date:

Once a course has concluded, students can still view the course but all content is displayed in a read-only state. However, when the student restriction for the course end date is enabled, students can no longer view the course in the Courses list after the course has concluded. Because the course doesn't appear in the student's course list, the student cannot check their Canvas course grades either.

Restrict students from viewing before start date

When a student enrolls in a future course, the course displays in the Future Enrollments section in the student Courses list. Once a course is published, the students can view course content at any time before the course begins. However, when the student restriction for the course start date is enabled, students cannot view a link to the course until the start date, even if the course is published.

By default, student access checkboxes are not selected, meaning students can view courses before and after course dates.

You can restrict student from viewing your course before or after the start or end date

Format and Description:

Format options include On-campus, Online, and Blended. Neither Format or Description are used by us in any meaningful way. Therefore, there is no reason to adjust these settings unless it is for your personal information.

format and description fields are not used in meaningful ways to us

More Options

Below the Description box, there is a link to "more options". This is where Canvas hides the cool stuff! Most of these options are the instructor's preference, but we've included recommendations for changing the default settings when the impact is great.

Hi.  I'm the more options link. Why am I so tiny?

Show recent announcements on Course home page:

This works on all the different home page options and will show up to 15 "active" announcements.

Recommendations: no more than 3 -5 announcements and to use the announcements as timely, need to know items for your course.


Let students attach files to discussions:

Recommendation: check this option.


Let students create discussion topics:

Recommendation: uncheck this option.


Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts:

Recommendation: uncheck this option.


Hide totals in student grades summary:

This option doesn't disable the students' ability to use the what-if gradebook feature, but hides totals in students' grade summaries. For courses using weighted assignment groups, assignment group totals are also hidden from students when this option is checked.


Hide grade distribution graphs from students:

Similar to the above option but hides hides the summary statistics of the class and assignments grades including the whisker plot (grade distribution) graphs.


Disable comments on announcements:

You can disable comments for announcements and have that setting applied to every announcement throughout the entire course. However, you can also choose to close announcements on a per-announcement basis.

If you disable comments in your course and choose to remove the checkbox at a later date, the option only applies to new announcements. Any existing announcements will remain locked and must be opened to comments individually.

Recommendation: check this option.


Create, rename, and edit course pages:

The "Only Teachers... can create rename, and edit course pages by default" setting will allow you to give Students or "Anyone" permission to alter course pages.

Recommendation: Do not change this default.

some more options that are available

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. When I copy my courses from semester to semester, will all these settings copy as well? 

A. Yes! Course settings are retained upon course copy.


Q. I want my students to see the syllabus and maybe the homepage before the course begins. Should I make it public? Adjust other settings?

A. If you want your students to just see the syllabus and your home page with your contact information, for example, then hide all the navigation items except the syllabus or change the home page to syllabus. Once the course starts, move the needed navigational items back into the course. Use the student view to verify that students will see what you want them to see.


Q. I want to allow an outside person to view my course, for reasons of course evaluation, accreditation, etc. Wouldn't it be easiest to make the course public?

A. It is never recommended to make a live, academic course "public". If you need to give someone access to your course, talk to your IIC about getting an external user account created for the person, so they can be added to the course as an official Observer.


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