Collaborations – Changed my world!

Community Coach
Community Coach
11 15 2,297

I’ve been getting my head around how to use Canvas lately and thoroughly enjoying how intuitive it is and how crisp it looks. So, there I was feeling jolly pleased with mastering Pages and Modules, experimenting with Assignments, using Discussions and Announcements.

Somehow through all of this new learning I had managed to overlook the magic of Collaborations. Silly me! The joy I felt with creating my first shared Word doc through Canvas was huge. Thank you for showing me! The potential of Collaborations is massive for all learners involved. I can’t wait to use it more, and I can’t wait to show more of my colleagues.

@How do I create a Microsoft Office 365 collaboration as an instructor?  

As a Canvas newbie I could be missing a lot of the potential uses of Collaborations. How are others using Collaborations within their Canvas courses? I’m interested to hear how Collaborations are used in different areas of school organisations eg. Administration, Staff Professional Development, K-6 classes etc.

Great group to belong to here 


Community Member There's another long-time online teacher at my school, Susan Smith Nash, who is a big fan of Collaborations; she has a video series about it that she has published as a Udemy course. Some of the videos are at YouTube:

Canvas Tutorials for Instructors - YouTube 

And here is her Udemy course, which is apparently on sale at the moment for just $10 (not a typo!)

Canvas for Collaboration | Udemy 

I haven't done the course but I've known Susan for forever, and she is GREAT. I am assuming the Udemy course is full of Susan greatness! 🙂

screenshot of udemy course

I hope others will chime in here; I don't recall seeing Collaborations mentioned so much here in the Community. This is what the search brings up (unfortunately, it's not the best term for searching because it's also a word people can just just as a word, as opposed to specifically a Canvas feature): 

Here's the official Canvas Guide: 

Community Coach
Community Coach

Thanks laurakgibbsfor introducing me to Susan Smith Nash. I will check her out.

Learner II

HI, we have been using them a bit more now that we are a year into our Canvas journey. So far the best ones (these are very specific) I have used in class are for PBL contracts - students collaborating and setting up the roles and responsibilities for their tasks, and then enjoying the discussion around the actual document discussing their skills. The other one I like so far (as a Japanese teacher) is putting a large chunk of text into collaborations for my class to translate, but then putting a student name next to each sentence. They all translate the document together, get to keep a copy and don't feel overwhelmed by a full paragraph of text. I can also secretly differentiate by choosing the sentences to match or challenge that person's ability. Simple - but effective!


Community Coach
Community Coach

Brilliance Stacy. I shall be stealing those ideas! Thank you.

Community Coach
Community Coach

And there are the tried and tested collaboration tools. I could rave about padlet for ages But here is a cool list of other tools. 6 Online Collaborative Tools to Engage Students in Teamwork. Enjoy 

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Just came across this post. We too discovered the benefits of Collaborations with Office365.

Lots of teachers in different subject areas using them including:

  • History (PowerPoint)
  • Modern Foreign Languages (PowerPoint)
  • Physics (Word and PowerPoint)
  • Biology (PowerPoint)
  • English (Word)
  • Art (Excel)

Most popular ones are PowerPoint where the teacher has set up the groups themselves although a number are now more confidence with handing them over to students.

Teachers love the idea that the document stays in the teacher account so there is no excuse for 'losing it/forgetting it' from the student. We are also exploring the annotation features which allow teachers to comment on the slides (very powerful)

Some of the comments back from staff include:

Reduced my workload

It’s good for students to share the responsibility

Very easy to set up

No fuss - no hassle

No more "xxx has got the PowerPoint and I cannot carry on..."

Great for examination classes

Encourages me to use more

Now got ideas for further collaborative ideas including commenting

Control over presentations – I always have a copy

Students take more pride in their work knowing it is shared amongst everyone

Great for those challenging topics that can be brightened up by students crowdsourcing ideas 

Most teachers will set up the collaboration for a blank template and then either develop it or copy over it with one of their own that gives out instructions.

Saw some awesome work in Physics the other day where there was crowd-sourcing of content for a topic. IN Biology I have also seen it used for students to share ideas on answering exam style questions.

One particular use in Art which I liked was when the teacher set up a spreadsheet as a task tracker that students completed at the end of lessons - nice touch!

Sadly our Collaborations feature is not working. It stopped at the beginning of last week and is still not fixed - another little frustration with the Office365 integration...

Community Coach
Community Coach

Splendid ideas Gideon .

May your Collaborations be on the mend very soon!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

I recently rolled out the Kung Fu Canvas course to help our staff get more insight into all that Canvas offers and after reading this post I immediately went in and created a Collaboration among the more active online colleagues to create a shared doc of ideas for future Canvas PD sessions. 

I do have 2 questions.

1. I had to scroll the entire document to find the teachers to invite and it was a long list...any chance there is a quick search option I didn't see? Or if I teach a course with sections would I have been able to easily select which section I wanted to invite?

2. Did those teachers ("students") receive a notification that I created and shared with them a collaboration? Will it show up in their Google Drives as well?

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hey Jon

1.   No Quick search option. What is worse - as we have parents as Observers, our list trebles in size! Still waiting for some action on this...

2.   Can't speak for Google Drives but students get a notification when sent the file eg for my student test user:



Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks!  It showed up in my Google drive, but when I went to search under who else had access to the file it only showed me as having access on Google...I have a few colleagues who I contacted to have them describe for me what it looks like on their side since they are enrolled as students in the course. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

Jonathan only those assigned to a collaboration can see them. 

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Can't speak for Google, but with Microsoft, students only see the groups they are collaborating with when they click on Collaborations. As a teacher in the course, you see everyone.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Brilliant. Good to know. Thanks for the clarification

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Its a good feature and one I was not expecting to see (if you get the drift...!)


One of our users experienced this just now, and what solved it was opening an existing collaboration. After the teacher had opened another collaboration, he was able to create new collaborations as well. 

Not great if you are new, the first and only teacher in a course ;), but still it's a workaround. 

About the Author
Always a learner. Love incorporating creativity and having fun with learning. Enjoy learning alongside the kids, and with my colleagues.