Stephen Simpson

Issue w/ Publicly-Visible Courses? Blame Mastery Paths (for now)

Blog Post created by Stephen Simpson on Apr 19, 2017


We use publicly visible courses for three primary reasons: 

  1. To allow us to use Canvas for training and/or professional learning purposes with a variety of audiences while not requiring a user account or login in our Canvas instance.
  2. To host publicly-visible resources for stakeholders like parents.
  3. To assure pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers that they can use Canvas with students who may not be able to quickly and/or successfully log into the system.


For the past few months, I've been dogged with emails and help tickets from external users who have frequently struggled to access information that I place in publicly-visible courses like this one (CanvasCon @ SMU). These messages typically describe how the user, provided with the URL to the course home page) was unable to access Modules (containing content pages) despite Modules being revealed in the course navigation menu AND being set as the course home page. Instead of seeing Modules, users received a 'Page Error' warning.


Befuddled by the issue, I turned to Canvas Support multiple times and received the initial advice to 're-save the course settings to clear out the settings cache'. This step performed for all of our publicly-visible courses, I still heard from users unable to access the course modules. With some persistence, I was eventually informed of the following:


Users who access the module's page of a public course (home page in this case) that also has the "Mastery Paths" feature option enabled will see intermittent page errors when trying to access it.


If Mastery Paths is enabled, unauthenticated users receive a page error when they try to access Modules page (in this case, Modules is set as the Home Page) of a public course.


This actually makes perfect sense when considering that we turned on Mastery Paths at the end of Semester One and these problems first occurred early in Semester Two.


So, it's a bug that the engineering team is aware of. The suggested troubleshooting:


To work around this issue I recommend to go to the root-account feature options and change the "Mastery Path" option from "On" to "Allow," as this would allow instructors who do not use it in "Public Courses" to disable the mastery path feature option on their individual courses to prevent the page errors.

Next Steps

While it's slightly annoying that I need to go and adjust the courses' feature options, I'm happy to know that the issue is finally known and hopefully being worked on sooner than later. In fact, because most of these courses exist in the same sub-account in our instance, I was able to very quickly adjust some feature options at the account and sub-account level to make the desired change that will hopefully do the trick until a permanent solution is in place.