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Using Canvas for non-course purposes


For reasons I won't go in to, different departments and project teams (e.g. eLearning, Advising, faculty orientation) are  creating "websites" of documents and information using Canvas, and then adding faculty to their sites as "students." 

Any one else have faculty/staff/admin doing this? Lessons learned? When does it work well, and when does it not?


4 Replies
Community Team
Community Team

Hello,  @bnulty  Welcome to the Canvas Community! Various non-academic uses for Canvas Courses have been discussed in several places, and I found a few related links to get you started: 

Is anyone using Canvas for non-academics (clubs, athletics, residence life) who is willing to share ... 

Reflections of a Professional Development Facilitator 

Campus Clubs and Groups 

Career Services and Canvas? 

I'm going to share your question (which I've flipped to an open-ended discussion format, because the prompt isn't likely to elicit a singularly correct response) with the Higher Education‌ group to attract the eyes of your peers. You won't need to join that group to see responses appear under here, but if you'd like to join, you can easily do so by clicking on the link to the group and selecting Join Group from the Actions dropdown at the upper right of the page.

Community Champion

Hi Brigid,

We have a great many, very successful uses of Canvas 'workgroups' and 'workspaces' for the very purposes you have identified.  I'm off to my lunch hour workout session, but when I return, I will add as much specific detail as possible, as well as how these various scenarios are handled by the Canvas Admin, and/or relegated to an appropriate sub-account and sub-account Admin.

more to come shortly...     ;>)

Community Champion

Hi Brigid,

As promised, here are some of the various scenarios that we are currently running;

   *NOTE: we don't allow any non-admins to add users to courses or workspaces period - we have turned of that option!

  1. Degree Program wrap-around support sites, where program Navigator's provide resources and start to finish institutional and program guidance and support to all students in their 2-year program(s).
    • The designated 'Navigator' is the 'teacher' in the Canvas workspace (non-academic course shell).
      • Not set to quarter or 'term' dates, but rather 'open and non-defined'.
    • The Navagator provides a quarterly list of adds/drops (suitable for use as, or copy/paste into a csv upload file).
      • *This works extremely well for student retention and degree completion, and is very low management!
  2. Faculty 'Advising' sites, where the faculty member is the 'teacher' in a Canvas workspace (non-academic course shell).
    • Set up as 'Self-enroll' with a 'join this course' button, and the faculty provides the link to those students who they are advising.
    • Not set to quarter or 'term' dates, but rather 'open and non-defined'.
      • *This works extremely well for faculty advisors who use this method, and is very low management!
  3. Student 2-year degree program cohort workspaces, for non-academic materials, colaboration, program specific materials, vendor and technology training and and self help.
    • The Program Director provides a quarterly 'gateway section numbers' that capture ALL entering students for each 2-year cohort, as well as one for all completing/exiting a 2-year cohort, with exceptions for incompletes and such noted.
      • *This works extremely well for 'program support' of student 'cohorts', and is very low management!
  4. We have many 'Student Services and 'Clubs/Orgs' workspaces.
    • Set up as 'Self-enroll' with a 'join this course' button, and the facilitator provides the link to those students who they want involved.
    • Not set to quarter or 'term' dates, but rather 'open and non-defined'.
      • *This works extremely well for Student Services and Organizations who use this method, and is very low management!
  5. We also have many Administrative, Faculty and District 'workgroups', these are self-managed, except for the initial setup and enrollments.
    • *These work extremely well for conducting College, District, and 'Special Projects'  business,  especially where it is difficult for all constituents to meet at the same time, and is also very low management!
  6. We also have some 'projects', departments and organizations that have been set up in 'sub-accounts' with their own sub-account Canvas Admin, this allows a 'hands-off' approach and is vertually NO management, at least until they get in trouble!   ;>)

I could go on and on, but this should get you started... just let me know if you want more or have questions about specifics.

Community Champion

I create Canvas course spaces for non-course purposes all the time, and I am so glad my school lets us do this. I am using them as websites, so I always just open them up as public courses, no enrollments.

For faculty who are shy to create their own websites, for whatever reasons, I think this is a great alternative. It's also so useful when you have content you want to share across classes, which is the case with my Growth Mindset materials here:

Exploring Growth Mindset

And, of course, another reason I like doing that is to help people see different ways of using Canvas. I created a course for #InstCon for example, partly because I wanted a place to organize my own stuff, but also so that I could connect with others and maybe turn them on to some cool things you can do with Canvas add-ons like Padlet. 🙂

InstCon Remote Control

The power of examples can be strong!