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Canvas Admins

3 Posts authored by: Stephen Simpson


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.




Anyone supporting Canvas users for awhile has discovered the need to frequently troubleshoot issues in response to vague statements like, "Things don't look right" or "I can't see it." Therefore, less experienced Canvas admins might find this a useful tip!

Suggested Troubleshooting

Please use these alt. lyrics to sing along to Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now (1972):

I can see clearly now, I've cleared my cache,

I can see all the stuff that had gone away.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind,

It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright tech-integrated day!


The latest example of the need to clear the browser cache was just yesterday when I heard from multiple users that their Mastery Path settings had vanished. Upon checking, mine too! Rather than despair, however, a song entered my head . . .


I can see clearly now, I've cleared my cache . . .

Information about clearing the cache in a variety of browsers can be found here.

The Payoff

When things aren't looking quite right in Canvas, I've found that clearing the browser cache very often pays immediate dividends for the end user. Why wait up to 24 hours to have Canvas Support suggest the same thing as their first line of troubleshooting?


Like the song says, It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright tech-integrated day!


In our school district, I strive to limit global announcements to one-per-month and use them exclusively for Canvas-related tips, resources, and learning opportunities. Here's a recent example:


An image of the April Announcement provided to users in Arlington ISD. The image shows green spring leaves, a faded out Super Canvas Panda, and text reading 'Attention: April FYI and Tips'.


These announcements auto-open and close using the availability dates provided to account admins when creating or editing global announcements in Canvas.


There's just one problem, however. Many teacher users click the 'X' by accident or before reading the announcement's contents when it appears on their Canvas Dashboard. How can they retrieve or regain access to that announcement if it has disappeared?


Suggested Workaround

In Arlington ISD, I've added a publicly-visible course titled 'Global Announcements Archive' as a custom link in our Canvas Help Menu. It looks like this:


An image showing Arlington ISD's help menu in Canvas. One link states, "Global Announcements Archive. Refer back to previous Canvas announcements"


When teacher users click on the link, they navigate to a publicly visible Canvas course where we replicate each announcement as a Content Page within a Module. As you'll see, the course's home page is set to Modules.


An image showing the appearance of the publicly-visible course that contains a module for all announcements made during the '16-'17 school year. The announcements are listed chronologically and there is one per month.


The Payoff

The primary benefit of creating and maintaining a Global Announcements Archive is that I can direct any user to it in those instances in which they have overlooked, ignored, or accidentally removed an announcement on their Dashboard.


Additionally, it's a useful way for me to revisit past efforts to communicate important information to our Canvas users. I look forward to being able to revisit the archive next school year so as to avoid the need to completely reinvent the wheel in regard to the resources we provide at the beginning of a new term!


If you haven't thought about the potential payoff of creating an Announcements Archive in Canvas, give it some thought. I've definitely found it to be a worthwhile resource to provide to our users! 

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