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Explorer III

Parent Observers: Limit Access?

Hello All,

First, thank you to  @klundstrum  for her post Clarity for Canvas Observers. It was a big help.


We are rolling out Canvas over the course of next year (in NZ – we are in our final term before the Summer Break). One thing that we really like about Canvas is the parent observer role. Yet, one thing we really dislike about Canvas is the parent observer role.


This role meets the needs of our Junior School, but as our students move up to Middle and Senior School we want to limit the access parents have to the actual course material in Canvas. We’d still like them to see marks/grades and the calendar and/or syllabus for upcoming homework and events, but not the other parts of the course.


From reading the Clarity for Canvas Observers and the Canvas Observer Guide - Table of Contents and having a play – we’ve found this is not possible. It’s basically they have the same view level as the student (or more given observers can see beyond the prereq requirements in a module). So, my questions are – is this correct? Has anyone found a way around this other than not using the role? Any thoughts or suggestions?

I’ve done a quick look to see if having more control over the parent observer role has been made a feature request – but couldn’t find one. If you know there is one – please let me know.


Thanks everyone!


5 Replies
Explorer III

I've not heard from anyone on this - so I added it as a development idea. If interested you can vote for it here: 

Adventurer III

We share the same opinion. I would also add that our middle school teachers had been encouraging parents to become observers, but we found the process for parent enrollment to be somewhat clunky. Also - as those students moved into high school, teachers did NOT appreciate parental observers. Instead, we are now encouraging middle school teachers who want to share course specific content with parent to do so by making the course public and sharing the link. It should be noted that we encourage our parents to view grades in our SIS, where they do have accounts.

I was told by high school teachers that the new term for Helicopter Parent is SnowPlow Parent. Not sure which is worse.  


Explorer III

Unfortunately, the idea request that was submitted was immediately archived with the message:

More granular permissions has been a topic of much conversation for quite some time. How best to handle permission granularity feature ideas has also been discussed. Check out this document Canvas Permissions and Granularity Feature Ideas and the Canvas Studio for existing ideas related to more permission granularity and I think that some of what you are looking for may already exist. If you find specific permission changes that are still required, please create those as individual feature ideas so they can be tracked, discussed, and voted on separately. I am going to mark this idea for archival but if you modify it to encompass a single specific idea let me know and we could open it back up for voting. 

I've looked at the new UI prototype for permissions and it's better - but from what I saw (very difficult to determine with screenshots) it is not granular enough for what we are after. I also did not see this idea in the Canvas Studio. awilliams‌ do you know of idea requests that get at this that you can lead us to vote on?

Hello sarafriz. Please don't take the archival of the idea as any sort of judgement call on the functionality it was describing. The idea was archived more for procedural reasons. The idea, which can still be viewed in Cold Storage‌ at" modifiedtitle="true" title="Observer Role: More Granula..., was written too broadly to be implemented. I believe what was at the heart of that idea was this line:

What we would like is the ability to create much more customized parent/observer roles than is currently available.

I do not want you to think the archival of the idea has anything to do with whether or not we, as a Community Team or as a company, think one way or another about this sentiment. However, ideas do need to be written in a specific way for multiple reasons such as (but not limited to), other users understanding and supporting an idea,  distinguishing one idea from another, aligning an idea with product priorities and internal work lists, reporting back on work done to accomplish an idea, etc. The similarity of your idea with the evolution of the ideas around described in Canvas Permissions and Granularity Feature Ideas was why I referenced it. The "Background" section of that document describes a bit about how those multiple ideas started out as a single idea, and eventually became many.

To successfully move ideas related to the sentiment expressed above through the Canvas Studio‌, the ideas will have to be "more granular" to steal a phrase Smiley Happy I hope you don't find this necessity of the ideation process overly burdensome. We do care about our users feedback and ideas!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

We are also K12.  This is our second year using Canvas.  Our first year we did not allow parent access while teachers started to learn to use Canvas.

This year we are piloting the Parent App with a small group of teachers/parents/students.

Parents are able to create their accounts and pair with (currently) one student via the App.  The app is great for us because it limits parents' view of the course content and they are limited to student progress (grades, feedback).
However, a few parents cannot use the App for various reasons:  vision, they can't download apps (limited to a work phone), or other.
For parents who cannot use the app, when we give them web access to the course, they can see the entire course content.   Even though I've turned off every single permission (the only one that is checked/ON is:  Announcements - view).   There is currently no way to limit their view of course content.   For us this is a problem because some parents can be a little too opinionated about teachers' content.   We would like the Web access version for parents to parallel the Parent App experience.    PLUS, it would be nice if teachers could selectively make certain content (Pages) visible to parents.
We still want the Observer role for staff like special ed teachers or assistants whose role it is to assist certain students.   But we are really needing for Canvas to create another role that we can use for Parents.