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Learner II

Cross-listing vs sections vs groups--What are the functional differences?

I'm trying to better understand the difference between adding a section to a course in course settings, cross-listing a course, and creating groups in a course. My understanding is that one big difference is whether you want students to be able to see/communicate with all students across all related courses; if you don't...cross-listing with that option disabled is the way to go, right? And groups have dedicated group workspaces. What other differences are there, particularly in terms of what instructors or students are able to do/see. Any of these would give me the ability to message or assign work to a particular group of students; are there any differences? What other options do I have, based on the route I choose, for creating a differentiated Canvas experience for different cohorts of students?

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There are probably a lot of different answers to your question(s), depending (among other things) on how your sections are created, how large your classes are, and what sector of education you're in (K-12, Higher Ed, Continuing Ed / Professional/Personal development).

I'm in higher ed (community college). All of our courses and sections are created via imports from our student information system. So every course starts with a section, and we cross-list (move a section to another course shell) for purposes of combining students. This is typically done for purposes of TEACHER workflow (build content once, have a single gradebook, etc.) but can also be for student experience (combine numerous low-enrollment courses to get more engagement in discussions, group assignments, etc.).

The use of groups is trickier, as you can have groups within a course, or account level groups. Your comment about "across all related courses" makes me think you're thinking at the higher level. At the course level, the groups are useful when students will be doing a lot of group work, not just one or two group assignments during the semester. And teachers have a pretty good window into what's happening in those groups. 

I don't know if any of this is useful info, but maybe it will get the conversation rolling Smiley Happy


Tracey, thanks for kicking things off. I was in higher ed, but now I'm in the non-profit space with relatively small programs that will hopefully scale over time. By "across all related courses" I actually was talking more about the course level but trying to express an umbrella for courses that have all the same content and courses that have some of the same content. In the particular example I'm thinking about, all students do a 4-week experience. Most of them (but not all) go on to the full-length program. We're weighing pros and cons between having these be separate courses, sections within a course, cross-listed courses, or groups. I'm still getting some of the requirements from the program staff, but also felt I'd have trouble advising them as I don't know all of the functional differences (from the teacher/student perspective) between these options--particular sections vs cross-listing.


I see very little difference between sections and groups, just when one type is used. Mathematically (and when programming), both are just sets of students.

The really annoying thing is that you have to add students to a section one by one, but you can add a bunch all at once to a group.

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Highlighted‌ True, they are both just sets of students, but also true that Canvas has different functionality around each--and that was the spirit of my question. Just to clarify on your point, if you are an admin with SIS Import privileges, you can add students in bulk to either groups or sections (How do I format CSV text files for uploading SIS data into a Canvas account?); you're right that teachers have more limitations around sections.

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