Anonymous Discussion Forums

This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas


Instructors can create discussions that allow for posts to be made anonymously


Use Cases:

As an instructor, I want to create discussions in which participation is anonymous. This would free my students to share their thoughts without worrying about judgement / criticism by their peers or me. They'd take risks they might not otherwise.

transferred from the old Community

Originally posted by: Lynn McCarty
Thank you especially for contributions by: Rob Ditto, Allison Pyle, Renee Carney, Robert Jones

Community Novice

Hi, Tricia, 

I looked for this app you suggested in ELMS, but did not find it.  So I wonder how I can incorporate it. Is it COMPLETELY an external tool to ELMS?

Community Novice

I teach public speaking and utilize discussions to do audience analysis for speeches.  When students want to give a speech on a personal topic, this becomes difficult.  For example good speech topics may include safe sex, but to do this you would want to know the sexual habits of the students in the class and I wouldn't want them to feel they have to reveal personal information publicly.  

Community Participant

We currently use Piazza due to the lack of anonymous posting on Canvas discussions.

With the recent changes in Piazza requiring students to register it would be great to see anonymous posting as an option in Discussions. Where possible I would prefer to use out of the box functionality.

Community Novice

So this has a huge implication for Special Education Students so instructors can do online discussions while still keeping confidentiality as defined by FERPA. Please change this so I can have discussions with my students. 

Community Explorer

It's great that this feature has been on the "radar" for the last two years.  However, I find myself frustrated.  There are three or four reasons for feeling frustrated.   The first reason is Canvas is an educational tool, so I feel that the team should be thinking about pedagogy before the users even complain.  An anonymous discussion option just seems obviously useful.  The second is a point I've expressed elsewhere before:  Whether a feature is eventually added should not depend on a scientifically invalid survey method (voting in this forum) which requires too much effort from busy users.  I know that the forum is not the only method that you use for gauging the validity of a  modification, but it's the only method of communication that we are given.  (For example, help desk personnel refuse to take suggestions and pass them on.)  The third reason is that I think that apart from the obvious usefulness of anonymous forums, to the extent that the proposal's value is gauged by what happens in this forum, the rationale for allowing anonymous forums has been and continues to be clear, not only because of the number of votes and comments, but because some of the uses described in some of the comments.  The fourth reason for frustration is a bit different. I understand that you have a lot of requests for changes, and that you have other changes you might want to make, and that Canvas is a complicated software product.  I don't know your code, obviously--but as someone with professional programming experience, if the code was designed well in the first place, I don't see why adding anonymity to forums would require an inordinate amount of work.  It might not be trivial, but I wouldn't think it would be that hard.  I also don't think your code is likely to be poorly designed, in fact, because given the complexity of what the product does, it's likely that would have had serious problems over and over again in the past if it were.  This is all speculative on my part, but if I'm right, the point is this: If a feature is clearly a good thing to add, and it's not that hard to add, it seems like it should be an easy decision to prioritize it.

Community Explorer

I just have to add one more comment on this suggestion that I made five years ago, that gets a positive comment every few months, and that has not, I believe every gotten a negative comment, and that I think is obviously a good feature.  I am in the middle of running an in-person course that suddenly had to become an online course because of COVID-19.  In the last few weeks of the semester, we normally discuss readings giving arguments for different views on the morality of abortion.  In a normal semester, I help students understand the arguments in class, and there is discussion involving some of the students.  Not everyone is willing to discuss the ideas, but as long as a student is in class, they get the benefit of hearing other students challenge and discuss the reading.  In this case, I have substituted Canvas discussion for the discussion part of my class meetings.  I require students to participate in discussion in order to get credit for "attendance", because otherwise there would be no way to verify that they were engaged with the discussion at all.  I have been using Canvas discussions for a couple of weeks now, on other topics, and it's not ideal, but it works acceptably, and for some students it has been a very good experience.  Now we are covering moral issues concerning abortion, and some of the students are very uncomfortable.  I have less participation, and two students said in one of the discussion forums that they are uncomfortable saying anything definite because it is a "touchy" subject (their word).  I need anonymous discussion to properly teach this topic online.  That is a real loss, in my opinion.  It doesn't need to be this way, and I am saddened that some of my students will be losing out on a deeper engagement with an interesting topic because Canvas does not support the option of anonymous discussions.  It's not a sufficiently good tool for this purpose.

Community Novice

With COVID-19 moving my in-person courses to online adult students were unwilling to ask questions if their name was associated with the post. If online instruction needs to continue for much longer, I desperately need an anonymous way for them to ask questions while in the system. Fine to make it optional, but I would really love a button to click to remove user associated information from posts.

Community Novice

Canvas does not care to address. this. They easily could.

I'd work not to use their platform again.

Ed Belsan, M.A., M.Ed.

Pursuing the Transcendent

English Language Arts

Derby High School, USD 260

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On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 8:11 AM <


Harmonize and Instructure are covering how to handle this feature in our upcoming webinar - Taking Online Discussions Beyond the Basics | Webinar  We hope you can join us!

Community Contributor

This is a hugely popular feature request... meaning "something that we would like to see developed in Canvas, the platform that brings us all here together".

That should not need explaining, but frankly, teaming up with a 3rd party (and the inherent financial costs, GDPR/FERPA, and/or procurement implications) to "cover how to handle this feature" is nothing short of a kick in the teeth from Instructure.

For shame.