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Canvas Inbox Messages – Fully Obey Course Participation Settings and Dates

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 Champion

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!  

Community Team
Community Team
Comments from Instructure

Please refer to the Conversations section of the 

Community Champion

Hi Stefanie,

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

Thank you!


Community Team
Community Team

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 the 

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

Community Team
Community Team

 @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 Member

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.

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:

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.