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Select specific sections when creating groups

Select specific sections when creating groups


The new(ish) option to require students to be in the same section when assigning group members is great! However, there is one more feature that would make this incredibly useful (especially in large courses): selecting which sections to  use during this process.

At our institution, we often have large courses which contain both the lecture and lab or recitation sections. It is ideal for an instructor to maintain one course, but often groups and other activities need to be restricted to specific lab sections. As all students share a lecture section, the current feature will not allow for the generation of lab specific groups.

Allowing instructors to say "out of these groups, make sure they share sections" or (possibly a little more clean), "ignore these section enrollments" would be extremely helpful. Group setup is not always a one time thing, and an instructor may even want to create a group set exclusively out of one lab section, for instance to randomly assign lab partners.

The size of these courses really makes manually assigning these groups a burden for instructors, and that also removes the ability to assign them randomly.

Ideally, instructors would be able to choose as many or as few of the sections as they want to build the group set with, and then also specify whether students must share a section to be in the same group within that set.

Community Champion

Voted! I interpreted your feature idea to apply to courses where students are enrolled in more than one section (within the same Canvas site). We could use this feature at our institution.

You may be interested in taking a look at a related idea about improving how groups and sections work together:

Community Participant

Thanks for the vote! 

Essentially, yes. We have a good number of courses set up to share one Canvas site between lecture and all the labs, so students are frequently not just in multiple sections, but they share one large section. Hence wanting the ability to choose which sections to care about when randomizing group enrollments.

New Member

Hi, good idea but I'm a bit confused about your talk about the new(ish) option. Do you mean it is already a new functionality released? Of do you mean an option still in voting or under construction? I checked our environment and I can't find this 😉

Community Participant

I'm not sure if this is optional or not, but in our instance of Canvas, if you select the split students into X groups option, a sub-option appears to require group members to be in the same section. It looks like this option was added in late January, so new is relative.

Community Champion

I'm hoping to find a way to associate this idea with the newly announced Priority: Teaching & Learning at Scale. That priority seemingly doesn't yet have a tag.  Those interested in this idea, please also consider voting on improving the SpeedGrader Showing filter for group assignments:

New Member

I finally have time to dig into our issue with groups and sections. What we do miss is the possibility to create a groupset to a specific section. For example: student A till K are enrolled in section 1, students L till Z in section 2. I want to create a groupset "groupset "  (where within I create groups) only related to section 1. If I want to assign the students to these groups only the students from section 1 can be assigned, either by themselves, either randomly, either by teacher. I can give the groups a limit on it. There will be no unassigned students from section 2 visible in groupset 1.

At the moment the option you can randomly assign students to a group with the same section gives you only the opportunity to create groups in a groupset as many as sections there have been created.

We have a course given by 3 teachers. The enrolments contain 100 students. But we have only lecture rooms who can contain 20 students, so the lecture will given 5 times. So we create 5 sections and enroll these students on one section each. Then the teacher decide that there will be small groups within these section who needs to collaborate. Therefor the teacher wants to create a groupset with 2 groups where only the students of his section can assign to. For example the group is created based on a theme. 

So instead of creating groups assigned to same section, I would like a functionality that you can create a groupset based on a specific section. Is this what you mean as well Kimberly?

Community Participant

In our institution, a course is used by several teachers. Students are added via sections. A teacher is responsible for one or more sections.

When a teacher creates groups manually, he/she needs to see his/her students only. So we would like to filter the long list of students (500+) by section (10+). This way, the teacher can easily see which students haven't been added to a group yet.

New Member

I also really need this feature. We have a main section of all students coming from the SIS, which means we are not able to use the automatically created groups 😞 when needed in the main section.

If this feature is chosen, the speedgrader should also be able to show only groups from each section. Very important when several instructors grade group assignments from different examination classes.

Community Participant

VOTED! When an instructor is asking Canvas to automatically create groups and restrict the members by section, it is desirable to be able to specify which sections to include. 


In our instance of Canvas, instructors of large courses have a large number of discussion sections, and 1 large lecture section in their courses. Students are enrolled in both the lecture section and in one of the discussion sections. Currently Canvas does not have a way to eliminate consideration of membership in the Lecture section, or a way to divide the members of a specific section into groups. Instructors of large classes have no option for how to create groups that restrict members to a specific section, and there is no easy way within Canvas to see the information needed in order to manually assign the groups.

New Member

This is a great idea!

I would also like

- groups membership to be dependent on section membership post creation as students sometimes move between sections. Keeping group membership correct post creation can be a challenge in large courses when group membership has to match section membership.

- group naming following/from section name or SIS ID. We sometimes need Group Names to match section name/SIS ID. Naming groups post creation is time consuming in large group sets.

I did not find your idea, so I wrote up my own a few days ago 

Community Champion

Voted! I was contacted by a teacher recently who has sections of different sizes. She had 3 sections and wanted to create 6 groups in each section, so ideally one section may have 6 groups of 3 students while another section would have 6 groups of 4 sections, so she asked Canvas to create 18 groups. The algorithm only looks at the total number of students and distributes them as equally as possible into 18 groups rather than distributing the 18 groups equally among the 3 sections and then further distributing the students from there. So instead of 6 groups per section, one section had 7, another 6 and another 5. If this feature existed she would've been able to isolate a section and specify the number of groups she wanted.

Community Champion

Hi  @ole-ivar_birkel ‌, you wrote your feature idea only a few months ago looking at the date you posted your reply, but it is already in Cold Storage which I don't have access to. Any idea what the reason was for that?

Maybe this could (partially) help do what you need: 

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

 @stelpstra ‌, the idea was archived within days of its submission for two reasons: (1) as written, it encompassed numerous separate requests, many of which were already open for voting; and (2) the author agreed that the idea under which we're now commenting exactly reflected one of the desired enhancements.

Anyone who wishes to read the ideas that have been moved to Cold Storage‌ can request membership in the group.

New Member

Voted! I want to be able to choose which sections are used to make groups.

Our SIS import creates a section to which all the students belong. This means that, when creating groups based on sections, there will always be at least one group with a mix of students (say online and on-campus students).

In another case, I might use sections to divide students by which campus they use and which major they are taking. One group assignment might require the students to live in the same city but another group assignment would be most relevant based on the student's major.

Community Member

I encountered exactly the same problem today: shared sections for all students make a mess out of lab-groups, even though child-sections that are more restrictive exist. Indeed, being able to select the level of section, or requiring to be in ALL sections together (what happens when student are NOT in a section? Would the system be able to handle the requirement to be NOT together in a different group/section as well? - for making two non-overlapping group assignments)

Community Participant

Yes I would like the option as per marja van harli's suggestion to choose the specific section to base the group set on. In Higher Ed settings students are often enrolled in more than one section, as sections may be equivalent to timetabling attendance to lectures/labs/workshops/seminars etc for a course. e.g. all students in the course enrolled in a single 'lecture' section, then subsets of students for differing 'tutorial' and 'lab' sections for smaller class ratios. There is no way to tell which sections may be associated with which group sets. 

For example: Student 1 may be enrolled in lecture, tutorial 1 and lab 3. Student 2 may be enrolled in lecture, tutorial 2 and lab 3. In this instance, if i want my groups based on tutorials, I want student 1 and student 2 to be in different groups, however if i wanted groups based on labs, I would want those two students to be in the same group. I may want to create group sets for tutes and labs, or just for tutes.  I have no way of knowing what section Canvas is basing the group allocation on when it creates the group. 

The benefit of using the require group members to be in the same section checkbox feature instead of other methods is that a) you can create smaller section-related group discussions (e.g. tutorial activities) through a more efficient and cleaner group set process (rather than create a billion individual discussion forums released to each section - time consuming and overwhelming/confusing in your view as an instructor); b) if a student changes their timetabling enrolment in the section, the group set will recognise this and update based on that change. This is where tying group set creation to specific sections would also be beneficial, as ideally the student would be re-enrolled into a new group based on their section enrolment change and not stranded in some kind of unallocated nether world that then requires manual intervention. 

Community Participant

Any news on this much needed feature? In our setup, all students belong to the whole course section, so the tick box achieves nothing for us.

New Member

I am the Lead TA for CIVL 210 were we allowed students to self-select laboratory groups of three group members with the requirement the three group members had to be registered in the same laboratory section.

What we noticed, students were able to self-select lab groups, of up to three group members (this feature worked OK), and even though the requirement all three group members had to be registered in the same laboratory section, Canvas interpreted this requirement as the students being in the same lecture section. This meant I had to manually shuffle a number of students around and assign students to lab groups in the end.

Is it possible to have two additional options under the requirement of being in the same section check-box of: a) in the same lab section check-box or b) in the same tutorial section check-box?

I know CIVL 210 is not the only course in the Faculty of Engineering where students have to self-assign lab / project groups. As well, I am sure this feature would also be useful in the Faculty of Science as well as the Faculty of Arts where students also form self-assigned groups and project teams.

Community Participant

A must have. So useless without. Why have sections when you cannot use them...