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Can someone explain the difference between groups and sections?

I have been investigating how groups work and came across the idea of sections in courses and am a bit unsure about the difference and how and when to use them.  Help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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10 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hello  @isobel_williams ...

Have you explored all the Guides that are available for both Groups and Sections?  Here are some links for you:

All written Guides on "Groups"


All written Guides on "Sections"

 -- see 3:13 in this video

Please let us know if you have any other questions.


Thanks  I can understand how to create groups and sections but not really what the difference is in using them.

Hi  @isobel_williams  ...

Have you seen these Guides (specifically the information in the blue boxes)?

What are Groups? 

Does this help?


Yes I have read these several times and still cannot really see what the difference is - would i not just use groups to vary the work and assignment times? 

There is lots of information about setting up sections - what I am interested in is why and when you actually use them and not just use groups.

maybe i am being a bit slow on the uptake here!!


Hello  @isobel_williams ,

At my institution, groups for students within the course and sections relate to a registration status. For instance we have the same course listed in both the business school and history department but they have different prefixes-- they are different sections within the same online course and students can be put into groups with only other students in their section or cross-section groups.

We also have some courses where students are in different sections because they are taking the course for a different number of credits and have a different workload but they are all in the same course receiving the same lecture content. I'm in higher ed though, so this situation may not happen for you.

I think this article How do I cross-list a section in a course as an instructor? will be helpful to understanding the use of sections. Remember section is usually a registration thing from outside the LMS and the groups are within the course.

Cheers - Shar


Thank you - that makes it much clearer and I think you are right - in a school situation use of sections would not be used much.

Thanks Isobel

Navigator II

I'm also in a K12 district and we use sections for different course periods. Our Canvas courses are built from PowerSchool, which assigns a unique ID to each course. So, we might have 180 students taking Biology I for a given teacher. To manage it (and to post grades back to the gradebook) we break each period into a section.

This way, the teacher has one Canvas class on their dashboard with all students. Anything created in that course goes to every section (period) by default and they can customize assignments for different sections still in the same course. Groups, like Sharmaine said, are at the teacher level for specific assignments or tasks rather than at the setup level.

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @isobel_williams ,

Were you able to find an answer to your question? I am going to go ahead and mark this question as answered because there hasn't been any more activity in a while so I assume that you have the information that you need. If you still have a question about this or if you have information that you would like to share with the community, by all means, please do come back and leave a comment.  Also, if this question has been answered by one of the previous replies, please feel free to mark that answer as correct.



Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hi  @isobel_williams ‌:

In my trainings I have the group chant with me:  "Groups are for Collaboration, and Sections are for Differentiation".

It's silly, but it sticks!

When you create Groups, students are given a mini-Canvas course area to collaborate in where they can post their own Announcements, upload files, have Discussions and Collaborations.  You are able to see their work there.  And Groups can be used for to assign Group Assignments (they submit as a group, and you provide grade and feedback that goes to the group).

Sections can be used to differentiate due date, to assign differentiated assignments to sections of students, to make differentiated Announcements and also Discussions.

Hope that helps!