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Community Member

Official ID Photos in Canvas



I was recently asked by our Provost to look into sync’ing up student/user ID photos from our ID database into our LMS (Canvas). This is primarily requested from faculty which teach in large sections and have a hard time putting the face to the name, which can impact attendance and engagement.


From a technical standpoint, it seems straight forward. My questions to the community would be:


  • In Canvas, how do you prevent students from re-uploading an avatar after the ID photos come over as their avatar?
  • From a policy perspective, how is this handled? Are there privacy issues around the students ID photos being in Canvas where students can see one another? Who supports the policy to move this forward and how is this communicated to students?


Any advice is greatly appreciated.



Tags (2)
5 Replies

Looks like you can LOCK pictures: so that users cannot change them. Not dug into it, but if you can do this via the UI, you can typically do it via the API, and there is probably a setting for it too.


You can also set the avatar to be a url: Users - Canvas LMS REST API Documentation 

Community Member

We tend to make profile pics optional because of the privacy issues. All it takes is one creepy stalker for anyone to see why we would do this.

Adventurer III

Hi Michael,

We push our official ID photos into Canvas, but we do let students upload a new avatar image if they want.  The process that we have only uploads an ID photo if the user hasn't already customized their avatar.  We haven't really had any issues with students uploading inappropriate photos -- in most cases people just want a higher-quality photo than the one on their ID card. 

User information including names and photos is only visible to students and teachers who share a class together; this is consistent with our privacy policy.




Just a few thoughts- you will probably need to be sure that students have a way to opt out of their picture being automatically uploaded to Canvas or can be taken down. You are getting into FERPA territory..

We bulk upload photos (unless the student cites FERPA and doesn't want it posted - they have to sign a waiver in their admissions packet). We also allow students to upload their own and have not had any issues with anything inappropriate.

One thing that we did run into with the ID's is the students get them taken first week of first year. By the time they are seniors they are four years older and that often doesn't really represent who they are anymore.