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Observer accounts? Bulk creation?

Can I (as the admin) create observer accounts for all my parents from the data in my SIS? If so, how is this done?

8 Replies
Adventurer II


I have not done this myself, but it appears the SIS Import allows it.

SIS Import Format Documentation - Canvas LMS REST API Documentation 

If your SIS or technical staff can generate the files, they can be uploaded in Canvas or via the API.

It looks like you would need users.csv, user_observees.csv, but enrollments.csv might be optional?

I can't seem to tell if enrollments.csv is even necessary.


associated_user_idFor observers, the user identifier from users.csv of a student in the same course that this observer should be able to see grades for. Ignored for any role other than observer

user_observees.csv, after the observer is already created with users.csv

user_observers.csv is optional. The goal of user_observers.csv is to provide a way to create user_observers. These observers will automatically be enrolled as an observer for each of the students enrollments. When a user_observer is deleted the observer enrollments of the student are also deleted.

Although I'm a bit confused about the process, maybe posting to follow.

I also don't know how you would handle authentication, unless you go a different route with

Add an observer with credentials - User Observees - Canvas LMS REST API Documentation 

I'm having a hard time finding similar questions in the Community.

Community Member

We are about to do this as well. I was planning to use SIS imports with the csv files as described above. I have used this for student account creation so assume it will be fairly similar with the extra fields. 


Can you provide some knowledge and experience after you implement? I'd be curious to know the answer to my questions above, as well as if you find this improves Observer adoption/usage over self-enrolling.

Absolutely! It may be a few weeks before I get it done!

Hi‌ - I hope the school year is going smoothly for you! In August, you and Robert contributed some insight on the topic of bulk creating Observer accounts. How did the use of SIS go? Could you share a little about your experience?

Community Member

We create the observer accounts and the following the csv format requirements here SIS Import Format Documentation - Canvas LMS REST API Documentation 

We made their usernames their email addresses and their passwords the phone numbers we had on file for them.   They can change that once they login.   

We upload two files- 

Users.csv- which creates an account for them


user_observers.csv   which we use to connect their children to them

We are a PowerSchool district and the the student_id field Canvas uses is actually our students PowerSchool internal id number whiich makes the process a bit more painful.

It does work- but not simple to manage.   If a parent comes to me for an account or to add a child, it takes us quite a few steps to create their account.  I've expressed my disappoint in Canvas several time for not making the obsever accounts easier to manage.   They seem to think the pair code is the solution.   It's several individual steps that we have to 'act like user' the parent to make that work.

Community Coach
Community Coach

In the Canvas Release Notes (2019-07-13)‌, Pairing Codes CSV Export was included! This should be much easier than other methods. Smiley Happy

Hi all.

Using the SIS imports has worked well for us. I generally only get a couple of requests a week after the initial uptake so isn't too time consuming at this point.

Parents are given an info flyer when they are enrolling their child, encouraging them to request an account. Sometimes this is only followed through on when the teachers suggest it after lots of questions are coming up etc. Either the parents or teacher emails me the details and I set it up. That relationship and explanation by the teacher is definitely the key factor for us.

Self-enrolling is not really a viable option for us at this point for a number of reasons. Maybe in the future.

I have been using an ID system of OBS(student ID) to keep it simple and consistent. They are sent a welcome email with their log in details and a video showing them how to access and use the account both on computer and mobile apps.

Some of the parents love it and access frequently. Some have never access the account despite requesting.

We don't have anything else to compare it to so can't answer the questions around improved uptake.