[Inbox] Canvas Inbox Messages – Fully Obey Course Participation Settings and Dates


This feature idea is twofold: 

  • Fully obey the course participation setting “Restrict students from accessing courses after end date” and do not allow replies to existing inbox messages (even for students to reply to their teacher) after the end date.
  • For replies to conversation notifications in outside email addresses, reply back with a message stating that the course has ended and that they need to contact the teacher through other methods (similar a reply to locked discussions).



We have our courses set up to not be visible to students and to not allow course participation past the end date for the course, and when courses end they are not visible to students in the dashboard, or to compose a new inbox message. 


However, there is a loophole that is causing quite a bit of problems for our institution.  Students can reply to an inbox message from their instructor after the course is unavailable in every other way. They can reply either from the inbox or from their outside email if they have a notification from a prior email. 


We give our students access to Canvas courses for 48 hours past the time when grades are due, when our faculty are still on contract.  After that time, they should be unable to contact their instructor. 


Students being able to reply to these messages outside of the course dates is a problem because: 

  • There is no vacation/out of the office rule feature in the inbox
  • Faculty are not on contract, and therefore not expected to be replying to messages while out of the office. They may be gone for the entire summer, or they may be adjuncts who teach sporadically, or who never return to the college at all.


These messages therefore create a dilemma: 

  • they are either delivered to a black hole without a response, leading to potential student complaints
  • faculty feel they are obligated to login to check messages




If the course participation settings and dates were obeyed by not allowing inbox replies when the course is unavailable, this would signal to students that they need to find another method of contacting their instructor outside of Canvas (email, phone).  Regular email can be set up to have a vacation rule and autoreply with alternate contact information for their department.  Phones can be set up to have a voicemail message with alternate contact information as well.  This would allow students to get a response in a timely manner and increase student and instructor satisfaction. 


If a student replies to a message from their outside email to a discussion topic notification that has been locked, this is the auto-reply: 


screenshot of notification 

 A reply after the end date of the course to a previous message should be similar to this. 


Subject:  Undelivered message


Body:  The message titled "Re: Assignment Questions" could not be delivered because the course end dates have passed and the course is concluded. If you are trying to contact someone through Canvas you should contact them through alternative methods.


Thank you,

Canvas Support


If you have any other use cases please post them below.  We really want to help our students get help in a timely manner after the course has ended.  

Community Contributor

I just filed a ticket with Instructure because this is actually a very serious bug, IMHO. It doesn't matter if the "Restrict students" option is set or not. 

As long as the student has a message from the instructor in their Inbox, the student can reply after the course/term end date.

The instructor receives the message and replies - no errors display and no indicators that the student will never receive the reply.

If the student then sends another reply to that same initial message, what the instructor sees is their own "reply" nested between the student's replies making it seem as if the instructor's reply was received by the student.

Since the instructor has no clue that their reply was never received by the student, it can cause quite some confusion if the student complains they have messaged their instructor and the instructor just doesn't reply.


Community Contributor

I'm quite disappointed. The reply I received was that this is the intended behavior. The support person was able to reproduce the behavior with the steps I gave and it is obvious that the instructor's reply shows in the instructor's view of the thread even though the student never received it, and the student can keep sending messages as long as they hit reply.

Community Contributor

Due to Instructure stating students being able to reply to a message after course/term end, and instructors' replies not being sent to the student, being the "intended behavior", I have created another idea to get that portion of this issue addressed: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Idea-Conversations/Instructors-should-be-notified-if-their-reply-...

Community Participant

This idea asks that users be notified if they are trying to reply to a thread related to a concluded course.

Our Problem--A student in our organization reached out to a teacher by replying to a thread in a concluded course. The teacher saw the message and responded, but the student could not see the teacher's responses since the course was concluded for them. This resulted in failed communication and both stakeholders frustrated thinking the other wasn't replying.

This message behavior may be related to a fix deployed in the idea linked below. While I understand the need for that fix, it is still important that both students and teachers are made aware that they are communicating on a thread tied to a concluded course and their message may not be sent.

Being in the K-12 world, we do have year long courses. We keep the year long content broken in to two semester shells for a variety of important reasons. This messaging behavior without any notification to the user concerns us especially for students who are with the same teacher for the year, but switch course shells in the Spring.

We recommend adding an auto-response any time a user replies to a concluded course that their message was not sent.

Another alternative would be to disable the reply button on threads related to concluded courses.

Community Champion

 @candice_mcphers, looks like Canvas followed your idea; teachers are no longer able to reply to students when they've messaged from a concluded course.  However, since the student can still reply to an older message that was sent while the course was active, possible to teachers, TAs and designers, there's no way for the teacher to respond in Canvas. They will receive the message with no reply button.

The only solution is to reply using external email after looking up the student's email address.  That's available to our instructors, but perhaps not in all schools, and maybe K-12 students don't have external emails. 

This really doesn't seem like the best solution, denying teachers the ability to reply to a student's message.  Maybe replying to a student's message should be available, but writing a new message unavailable? Either that or don't let students reply to messages from concluded courses as is suggested here.


Community Participant

@Nancy_Webb_CCSF I agree that if the reply button is disabled, that it should be disabled for both teacher and student users on a concluded course. I have not seen or heard of this behavior in our instance yet. Our main issue prior was that even when the teacher could reply, the student could not view the message for the concluded course.  The teacher thought the student didn't respond, and the student thought the teacher didn't respond. Whatever the ultimate resolution is, I agree it will help all to be consistent for both users.

Community Member


This happened to me twice already about two weeks after my course ended. I like all the suggestions, but I am not sure if the solution about communicating with students using student email will work. My students do not use their school emails. So, even if I send an email to them using their school email address, my message wouldn't reach them. For me, what would work best is one of the following:

  1. Disable Inbox for both students and teachers
  2. Allow communication to take place after a course end
Community Champion

Fixing the issue of teacher replies not being sent to students when the course is closed (by disabling teacher replies) has revealed a bigger issue. We can't serve our students without being able to answer their requests for support.  This gets in the way of our California Community College's mission, to put students first, and student success.  I don't believe Instructure is aware of the importance of this issue.

I think most teachers did not realize their reply didn't get to the student if the course was closed. I am rather horrified at the number of students who think their teachers didn't care enough to answer.  Now that teachers can't reply, they learned there's no easy way to reach these students. Even students who dropped, who are no longer in the closed course, can reply to a teacher's message!  No way for the instructor to find that email address without asking an administrator.  It is burdensome to find the email address even if the student is still enrolled in the closed course, requires downloading the gradebook at our school, and may not be possible at others.

Students should NOT be able to use inbox when the teacher can't reply. Either allow teachers to reply, or remove the ability for students to do so. Is that possible, to allow teachers to reply? That would be fantastic. Supposedly teachers not being able to reply is intended behavior and I'd like to know the reasoning behind it.

Thank you, Instructure folks, for thinking about this further!

Community Member


well said. Thank you. 
I am in complete agreement with what you said. I care about my students. And the thought that my inability to respond to students’ messages in Canvas Inbox can convey to students that I don’t care makes me feel horrible. This is not me as a teacher and a professional. Furthermore, students can view this experience to means that all teachers don’t care. We cannot and should not enable such feelings from students. 

I ask that Instructure rethink and correct this. 

Community Champion

Our teachers are still getting conversation/inbox replies from students in closed courses, or who have dropped courses.  They cannot reply.  In the case of a student who dropped the course, they can't even look up the CCSF email address.  Too many students have the same name making it difficult for an Admin to find the sender's information.

Please Instructure, if you are going to let these students reply to existing conversations, you need teachers to be able to reply back!  That or stop the ability of students to be able to reply.