[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 Coach
Community Coach

Thank you  @millerjm ‌ for this idea, including sharing the loophole. We too close out courses at the end of a term and have faculty off contract for various reasons. While Conversations is missing an out-of-office function this is an even better option.

Community Champion

Yes, I felt out-of-office reply wouldn't necessarily fix the problem and would probably take more development.  Thanks for voting and for sharing your use case!  

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
Comments from Instructure

Please refer to the Conversations section of the https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-18354-canvas-deploy-notes-2020-01-29 

Community Champion

Hi Stefanie,

I replied after testing on the deploy notes you linked to above.  It doesn't fix the problem.

Thank you!


Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Thanks for commenting on the deploy notes,  @millerjm ‌; it's a step toward addressing this.

Community Champion

stefaniesanders‌ - is this considered a bug or a feature idea?  In thehttps://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-18354-canvas-deploy-notes-2020-01-29 

Erin had mentioned this would probably brought into the next sprint for engineering.  Can you confirm whether that happened?  Thank you!  Joni

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

 @millerjm , Erin said that her response to you in the Deploy Notes was predicated on the assumption that you've submitted a support ticket, so you'll receive notifications directly on the status of the case.

Community Champion

When users compose a new Inbox message they need to select a current Canvas course before they can select the message recipients, but once the message has been started users are able to reply to threads after the course is concluded and otherwise not accessible to students. Generally, this just creates some confusion, but I've had to pull conversations for schools for bullying and harassment cases and for inappropriate use of technology. I think some institutions, particularly higher ed, may want threads to stay active, but I'd like to see the option to freeze inbox threads in our account as a feature or as a student permission.

Community Explorer

Related issues that might be considered under the course visibility bucket, though on the other end of the timeline:

A course that a student cannot yet access (scheduled/enrolled in the future) is still listed in the canvas messaging course list. This confuses our (K6) students and their observers, because they receive an unhelpful error when attempting to send a message to the teacher for their future course.

A course that is not yet published is also listed in the canvas messaging course list. This has the same user consequences.

These two, together, make it difficult to pre-stage upcoming courses and enrollments.

Unpublished courses should not be available to students anywhere, period.

Courses with which a student cannot interact, and cannot see on their course list should not be listed in messaging.

These "unimplemented features" are indistinguishable from bugs to a novice Canvas admin with decades of dev experience. 🙂

Community Member

We would like to see Canvas Messages no longer work once the course dates pass.  It would be wise to block ALL Canvas Messages outside the course date entirely with an automatic reply to use school emails instead - WITHOUT requiring instructors to choose to Restrict students from accessing the Canvas course.  If an Instructor Reply will NOT reach a student after the course dates, Canvas Messages should automatically be disabled outside the course active dates for all.  Even if the loop hole fix is implemented to disable Canvas Messages IF the course is set as Restricted, MANY instructors won't know they have to Restrict student access to a past Canvas section to prevent a future communication problem in Canvas Messages.