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Community Member


Does anyone know much about observers?  I find information about this in the guides, but I don't see the availability in my iteration of canvas that our college is using.  My challenge has been to allow students who are having difficulties registering for my course to be able to see pages in canvas that are relevant to keeping up with the content.  They don't really even need to participate.  I can catch them up with those elements after they are registered.  The challenge is helping them keep up with their work while waiting to register.  I was hoping that there was a guest function in Canvas.  It seems like the observer function is similar.

 It was suggested that I could make my course public so that any student outside the course but inside the college could see everything in my course.  I am open to that, but wonder if there are any potential difficulties in making the course public.  So I have two questions.  Any difficulties with public courses?  AND  Is the observer role possible in any version of canvas?  Does it need to be implemented by the administrators?  How would it potentially be implemented?  

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4 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach, greetings! Making a course public takes a couple of clicks and it's done. So it's super easy and then you can share the URL of the course home page with students and they can access pages, files, assignment directions, etc. To make your class public click on Settings for your course, scroll down to Visibility and update this to public. As for Observers, I'm not sure what you mean by versions of Canvas, but it's normally a role in your course. Other roles include teacher (you), students, TA, etc. So when someone is added to the course they would be assigned that "role." As to who could add an observer to a course, that depends on your specific school and if they allow teachers to add people to their courses. If not, then a Canvas Admin would have to do this. In general it would be way easier to just make your course public than messing with the Observer role.

Hope this helps!


Community Member

Thanks Kona.  When I was looking for an answer to this dilemma, I was searching canvas commons for a "guest" access.  I couldn't find it, but I did find observer.  The problem at my campus is that they haven't enabled observers.  So the public process is the answer.  I can easily do that at the beginning of a semester to allow my late registration students access to my class.  Thanks for helping out.

Learner II

The main use of the Observer role is to keep an eye on the progress of a specific student in a course. In a k-12 context, we create Observer accounts for parents, which are linked to their specific student's account and let them do things like check their student's grades without letting them do things like take quizzes for their student. Some k-12 schools will also use them for when a teacher, counselor, advisor, or case manager needs to keep an eye on a specific student. I'm not sure how they would be used in a higher ed context.

I'm not sure that there is a way to create an Observer account that is not linked to a specific student, and you obviously wouldn't want to link Observers to other students in your situation since they'd be able to see the grades and turned in assignments of the other student. Either a public Canvas course, or developing an alternate way to get the first few weeks of content outside of Canvas, both sound like better ideas for what you need. You might be able to create a blog or webpage somewhere with the same content as the Pages for the first few weeks of your course, or make pdfs of those pages and email them to those students.


Thanks Linnea.  That makes perfect sense.  I was looking for a guest access and came across "Observer".  I didn't know what it was but was thinking that it would work, but our campus does not enable it.  The public process will work great for what I want.