Hilary Melander

Canvas Network Newsletter: New Open Course Policy

Blog Post created by Hilary Melander Employee on May 27, 2016


Canvas Network started the year with a bang by recommitting to its primary mission—promoting openness, innovation, and experimentation in education. The purpose of this email is to communicate important changes, updates, and successes to you, our Canvas Network institutional partners, as we follow through with this commitment. This month we’re announcing our new Open Course Policy for free courses hosted on Canvas Network.


To see previous Canvas Network Newsletters log into the Canvas Community and go to the Canvas Network page. 

NEW! Canvas Network Open Course Policy

We’ve updated our policies for free courses hosted on Canvas Network to reflect the open standards we’ve set across all Canvas properties. These policy updates will enable us, Canvas Network, to pursue our primary mission: to promote openness, innovation, and experimentation in education. This new policy will apply to course proposals (for free courses, not fee-based courses) submitted after May 1, 2016.


Open Course Policy


Course Publicly Visible

All free courses on Canvas Network will be made publicly visible. Anyone with the course URL will be able to view course content once the course is published. The ability to view and participate in Discussions, earn badges, and earn certificates is limited to learners who enroll in the course and accept Canvas Network terms of use and privacy policies. Standard copyright laws apply. 


Student Access Settings

Course content must remain available to students after the course end date.


Creative Commons Licensing and Commons

All courses with a Creative Commons license will be shared on Canvas Commons under the same license selected for the course.


The Rationale Behind the Open Course Policy

Openness is critical to making learning accessible for everyone and to ensuring that creativity and innovation thrive in education. This policy will enable both Canvas Network and our clients to further champion open education and innovation. Here are just a few examples of how this policy will benefit the open education movement today. It will:

  • Reduce the barrier to entry for learners wanting to preview course content by not requiring the exchange of an email address.
  • Allow learners to refer back to materials and completed learning activities over time as they need to.
  • Make Creative Commons licensed materials accessible to more instructors and designers to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.

Before launching this new policy, we reached out to several institutional partners. We wanted to make sure that this policy would not impact course goals held by our instructors and institutional partners. We also wanted to ensure this policy would allow us to maintain our position as a neutral platform dedicated to empowering you, our partners, to achieve your course goals. The feedback provided was invaluable and informed the formation and wording of this policy.
The Open Course Policy is a critical first step. We expect this policy to open doors to other innovations that will enhance the Canvas Network experience for all users. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please contact Hilary Melander, Manager of Canvas Network, at hmelander@instructure.com.

Next Steps: What This Means for You

Step 1: Check your Course Details under Course Settings


  • Make sure your copyright option in the main Course Settings is appropriate. Learn more.
  • Select the box to make the course publicly visible. Learn more.
  • Do not select the box to “Restrict students from viewing course after end date.” Learn more.


Step 2: Share your course to Canvas Commons once your course concludes. The Canvas Network team reserves the right to share Creative Commons licensed courses to Canvas Commons for those instructors who do not do it themselves.



For step-by-step instructions on sharing your course, see this Canvas Guide.

Questions and Answers


When will the Open Course Policy take effect?

Immediately. All course applications received in May of 2016 will need to follow the new Open Course Policy. This policy only impacts free courses on Canvas Network, not fee-based courses.


Will the Open Course Policy be applied to courses that started before May of 2016?

No. This policy will not be applied retroactively to courses that started or concluded prior to May of 2016.


We do encourage institutional partners who have taught courses on Canvas Network in the past to adopt the policy for past courses. 


How will learners access the publicly visible URL to the Canvas Course?

Currently the only way for learners to access the publicly visible URL is for the institutional partner to share this URL with the student or in the marketing materials. We will not require partners to do this. We are currently investigating other potential solutions to make this URL more easily accessible. Stay tuned for more information on this topic.


I thought the learners in my course already had access to the course materials after the course ended?

This is the case for most Canvas Network courses. We just wanted to get it in writing.


Will those who view the course with the URL be able to see learner contributions to discussion posts?

No. Only those enrolled in the course have access to discussion posts.


Will those who view the course with the URL be able to take quizzes?

No. Only those enrolled in the course may participate in the learning activities.


What is Canvas Commons?

Commons is a learning object repository that enables educators to find, import, and share resources. A digital library full of educational content, Commons allows Canvas users to share learning resources with other users as well as import learning resources into a Canvas course. Learn more.


How do I share my course to Canvas Commons?

To begin the process go to the Course Settings and then click on “Share to Commons.” Learn more.


Can I share individual resources such as Modules, Assignments, and Images to Canvas Commons? 

Yes, you can share your course as a whole meal or in bite-sized pieces.


How do I share a resource to Canvas Commons?

We like to keep things easy. Learn more.


Thank you all for the words of encouragement you’ve shared as we transition to being more active promoters of open education. You’re the secret sauce that makes Canvas Network so successful.