Provisioning Parent Accounts

Document created by Employee on Oct 30, 2017Last modified by on Jul 16, 2019
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The purpose of this guide is to outline provisioning Canvas accounts for parents.  



  • Parents must access Canvas via a browser (i.e. Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.).
  • Canvas accounts created through this provisioning process are separate from the accounts created by other parent workflows (Parent Registration or Parent App).
  • Instructure's SIS to Canvas integrations cannot create parent accounts at this time.  Your institution must create the accounts separate from the integration.  
  • Parent accounts can be created by formatting CSV files for the Canvas import tool.  Two CSV files must be generated; one file will create the Canvas accounts and the other will link the parent accounts to their child.  
  • Parent information must be collected by your institution (parent name and email, parent/child relationship).



  1. As mentioned before, you will need to build two CSV files.  You can use any program of your preference, but this guide will reference screenshots from Microsoft Excel.  Build your users CSV file first.  This file will create the Canvas accounts for parents.  Formatting requirements can be found here.  The required headers are listed below with descriptions.
    Users CSV Example
    • user_id: this is the primary key or identifier for each user.  This ID must be unique across all users (student, staff, parents, etc.) and must be unchanging.  The user_id acts similarly to your social security number.  No one in the country has your social security number and your social security number will never change.  This ID can be created to follow any format your institution chooses as long as it follows the unique and unchanging requirements.
    • login_id: this ID will be used as the account's username.  In the example we've used, we've designated the first part of the user's email as their login_id.  You may use any property as the login_id as long as it is unique (no two users can share the same username).  
    • password: as the name suggests, this is the account's password.  Your institution can set these passwords as desired, but we do recommend you avoid using static passwords (e.g. setting "password123" as every parent's password); rather, you should opt for unique passwords as shown in the example.  Parents must know the credentials you set (login_id and password) for their account.
    • authentication_provider_id: this field must be set to "canvas" for all parent accounts.  If you do not set this field, parents will not be able to reset their passwords.
    • first_name
    • last_name
    • email: the email address submitted will be the email that receives any notifications from Canvas.  If parents attempt to reset their password, this is the email address they must use.
    • status: while creating new accounts for parents, the status must be set to "active".  If you need to remove parent accounts from your Canvas instance, simply change this status to "deleted".
  2. Next, we'll build the user_observers CSV file to link the parent accounts to their student(s).  The required headers are listed below with descriptions.
    user_observers CSV File
    • observer_id: the observer_id should be set to the user_id you created for the parent.  Note that parent1 (who is John DoeParent in my previous file) is linked to two students (student_abc and student_123).  
    • student_id: the student_id should be set to the parent's corresponding student's SIS ID.  These student user accounts should already exist in Canvas.
    • status: when creating new account links, the status must be set to "active".  If you need to break parent to student links, simply change this status to "deleted".
  3. Now that your CSV files are created, it's time to import them!  Upon logging into Canvas, click the Admin link [1], then click the name of the account [2].
    Open Account
  4. In Account Navigation, click the SIS Import link.
    Open SIS Import
  5. Click the Choose File button and locate the SIS import file from your computer.  You can either zip your files together and import them all at once or you can import them one by one.  If you import your files one at a time, they must be done in order (users then user_observers).
    Select File
  6. Click the Process Data button.
    Process Data
    And that's it!  Your parent accounts are now created and linked to their students.

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User Workflow

  1. If you do not have any authentication providers enabled besides Canvas authentication, parents can navigate directly to your Canvas URL (e.g.  If you do have external authentication providers enabled, parents must go directly to the Canvas login page, which follows the /login/canvas format (e.g.  Your parents will see this a page similar to this (dependent on your branding):
    Canvas Login Screen
  2. Parents should log in with the credentials you set for them.  Once authenticated, parents must agree to the Canvas terms and conditions before accessing your Canvas instance.
  3. That's it!  Parents should be able to track their student's grades and coursework going forward.  

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Please contact your Customer Success Manager (CSM) if you have any questions.