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Is anyone using Canvas for non-academics (clubs, athletics, residence life) who is willing to share some tips and tricks?

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We just implemented Canvas this summer and from an academic standpoint it's going great.  We're looking to continue student and faculty/staff engagement with Canvas by creating a non-academics aspect of Canvas.  I'm looking for folks who have done (or attempted Smiley Happy) to do this and are willing to share their wisdom! Would also love/greatly appreciate any screenshots, examples, access to others' sites who have done this at their schools so I can use them as examples. 

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Community Coach
Community Coach

 @cwinfield ​, you might want to check out this discussion - Adding courses for instructor and student resources in Canvas - it covers a lot of different examples and information about non-academic courses in Canvas.

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Community Coach
Community Coach

 @cwinfield ​,

We have an entire set Non-Academic sub-accounts that we use for all classes, groups, athletics, clubs, organizations, you name it.  Anything that users at NMSU want to use Canvas for we typically will create a course for them.  We have a request form that they fill out that comes to our office.  We then create the course, but the requester is responsible for the adding of other users to the course.


Community Participant

We did roughly the same thing. We put all the student groups under the sub-account for the Dean of Students. Each School has a sub account for Committees/clubs. That way, the Dean has access to the non-academic groups under their jurisdiction. Like Robbie, we make the requestor responsible for maintaining the roster. This format has worked well for us with the exception of groups who want to add a non-campus user because we have Canvas connected to our SSO. We have a work-around but it's klunky. Just something to consider.



Hi Cynthia - I'd be curious to hear more about your workaround. We are running into that issue with groups wanting to add external users to their Canvas courses - do you actually create school accounts for them?

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @cwinfield ​, you might want to check out this discussion - Adding courses for instructor and student resources in Canvas - it covers a lot of different examples and information about non-academic courses in Canvas.

Awesome, thank you!

Community Champion

We create Canvas Communities, which are basically courses in Canvas.  However, we label them CC, and it is a different sub-account.  We have these for different activities, organizations, committees, etc., on campus.  It seems to work well for sharing ideas and documents. 

New Member

Hi Carley,

We use Canvas as a homeroom style hub for my department and connect it up with social media and have students run it like a start-up so it does triple duty as an information source, community builder for a commuter campus, and value add experience for students. We started in Fall 2013. Check it out: COMM Central.  This was all done without messing with the code.  I presented on it in 2014 and have attached my slides and here is the video of my session:

It really has worked great. I also have set up a Canvas site for two campus clubs. It is much easier to use that mots campus web services (we have OU Campus and it is a nightmare!). Let me know if you want to discuss our process.


Community Coach
Community Coach

We use the Groups (not Groups inside of courses) feature of Canvas for clubs and organizations on our campuses.  You can access this via the Admin pages of Canvas.  Go to your Managed Account, then click on Users >> View User Groups.  We have groups such as "Chiropractic Specialist Club", "Student Veterans", "Diversity Relations", and "Multicultural Club".  One thing we've found with this, however, is that if you have multiple groups/clubs within the same "Group Set", a person can only be assigned to one of the groups within the same "Group Set".  It will not let you add the same person to another group within that "Group Set".  So, to get around this, you have to create a brand new "Group Set" and then put your other group inside there...then add the person to that group.

Community Participant


We are using groups in the same way you are.  Have you found a way that the leader you set for each group can add students are you doing that at the admin level?  Also, the only way I have found to experiment with a group as an admin is to add myself to the group as a leader so I can access the group.  Otherwise, as admin, I have not found a way to access the groups otherwise.  Thanks for any help you can provide.

 @ajuelmen ​...

This currently has to be done at the Admin level.  "Leaders" of a group cannot add other group members on their own.  You don't have to add yourself to a group in order to view it.  In your Administrative Pages of Canavs, go to "Users" >> "View User Groups", and then click on the cog wheel next to the group name.  Choose "Visit Group Homepage".  You can visit any group this way...even if you're not a member or "Leader" of the group.

Community Participant

Thanks, Chris! That will be much easier to access!

Amy Uelmen* | *Instructional Technology Coordinator* | Pulaski

Community School District*

Phone: 920-822-6078 | Fax: 920-822-6076 | Email:

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 @Chris_Hofer ​ I am trying to convince out administrators to use Canvas for organizations/clubs/and committees instead of purchasing another product such as sharepoint.  We just adopted Canvas this semester and faculty have embraced the new LMS pretty well.

Is there any advantage to creating groups instead of simply creating new courses?

Well, if you create a course shell instead of a group, you're going to get everything associated with a course...including Assignments, Quizzes, and the Gradebook.  So, I guess the question is...would you be using those things?  If not, Groups is probably the way to go.  But, if you want to set up a survey in your group, then you'd need to use a Canvas course shell...unless you created the survey outside of Canvas in something like Google Docs and them embedded the survey in a page within your Group...which is entirely possible, too.  It all depends on how you intend on using the toolsets available for Groups or Courses.

New Member

Southern Utah University uses Canvas for many department and committee meetings to keep agendas and store minutes.

Works great for a shared resource platform for specialized groups.

Community Contributor

 @jal18  I am attempting to convince my admin to do just this. Is there any additional functionality you can share in regards to using Canvas in this way? Some want to purchase another product to use but I strongly feel from a faculty point of view utilizing the same tool holds some distinct advantages.


The more platforms you use the more complex and costly it gets. You can use groups within an existing shell, but may be less complex/confusing juts to create more shells. Seriously, it takes tech people a few minutes, SJSU is SUPER slow in general but usually I get a new shell the same day.


  1. You already pay for Canvas so that is one major plus (also, no RFP or similar procurement hassles).
  2. Platform stability and consistency
  3. Another is that faculty are familiar with it, so you do not have to train them.
  4. FERPA compliant, secure for personnel/RTP.
  5. Assignment function allows for limited access submissions of materials and viewing without downloading not to mention integrated video
  6. Survey function is useful internal tool for voting.
  7. Integration of chat and other types of synchronous/asynchronous communication channels.


  1. Instructure's inexplicable intransigence in moving notifications to the course level has completely thwarted our off-class use of the platform. This has been a deal killer for our department as the types of notifications you need for classes and committee/work sites are totally different. They could own this space if they wanted. I have been bugging them for YEARS. I just do not understand it.
  2. Someone has to run/"own" it.


New Member

We've used Canvas for lots of non-academic things, one of which is a "classroom portfolio" Classroom Information for Saint Michaels College  which is a public course.  With access to the portfolio, adjunct faculty, who may not be on campus before their classes, are able to look at their assigned rooms and plan ahead (or make changes if necessary).  We also use an in-house Canvas class for our IT student staff training, as a repository for information about all the IT areas that is updated every semester and used as a reference.   Our campus MakerSpace has two Canvas courses - one for its student staff with documentation and quizzes for certification on equipment, and another outward-facing course for students who just use the space and want a place to post pictures of their creations.  Finally, using a Canvas course for Canvas training is the best way we've found to show people how the different features work.

Community Participant

Not to be a dissenting voice, but our institution has actually moved in the opposite direction. We've signed an agreement with Box and encouraging faculty to use Box or similar cloud storage to facilitate non-academic collaboration. At our institution many of the requests for non-academic shells tend to be for the file storage and not really the full use of Canvas. The big draw for a non-academic shell is that everyone knows how to get into Canvas. By using the Box integration people still have the convenience of logging into Canvas and interacting with the files, but the actual system underlying it actually fits the use case a little better. Power users can then leverage features found in Box but not Canvas.

None of this is to say that any of the above approaches are wrong or bad. I just wanted to give a different perspective.

New Member

Sorry if this is a bad place for this question- We are setting up (and currently testing) a training course using Canvas for our student employees to take and refer to while they are in their position with our Division. Some issues we are trying to work around and haven't found any success in are:

  1. splitting students up per department within division (i.e. Walk-Up support, Phone support, Computer lab support, Account support...etc)
    1. making the information for each department both separated when information is specific to one dept
    2. sharing information with select people depending on their department.(i.e. sharing one page/quiz with Walk-Up and Phone but not Account support)
  2. Having one page of information that we upkeep instead of pages within Canvas Groups that we have to update individually (creating opportunity for mistakes)
  3. Being able to keep some form of "you get 100% you move on, you get 50% you go back and read it again" for which we are currently using Mastery Paths

Currently we have the structure as:

  1. Main course (designated as Organization)
    1. Section Walk-Up Support-----we use the section feature to keep the 300+ students manageable by the department leads in the grade book
      1. Group Walk-Up Support----- used to split information that is not common to majority of groups

Thank you in advance to any advice given!

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