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Community Member

Sections vs. Groups

Hello All, 

I hope that I am posting this question in the correct place. My university is the beginning stages of migrating from BB to Canvas. Our plan is that we will begin with a number of courses migrating in Spring 19. That being said, the ability to crate sections will be unavailable at this point. I am working with an instructor who will run course that will have about 150 students. They will share a common curriculum, but will also be assigned to topical groups, with different assignments per group. Everything I am reading says that groups are for collaboration and not differentiation. Has anyone encountered this before? If so, looking for advice. 

7 Replies

If the need is to give different assignments to collections of students, then Sections are your best bet here. Groups are for doing group work. Sections are for assigning things to collections of students. Hope that helps!

Community Member

Helps yes, but is the answer that I was afraid of. 

I would definitely talk to your Implementation Consultant on this one. I don't see why sections would be unavailable to start with. They are just as easy to create as the course itself using automated processes. The enrollments file could then be written to just enroll them in the section ID instead of the course ID.


Maybe think of it as:

Groups are for collaboration / cooperation between students

Sections are for grouping / managing enrollments (i.e. different sections of a course might be taught at different days/times)

Courses are for holding content

We also migrated from Blackboard to Canvas in the last year or so.  In Blackboard, we created a separate course shell for each course section in the course schedule, even if there were multiple sections of the same "course".  We allowed instructors to use the Blackboard course merge functionality if they wanted to use one course shell for multiple course sections.

In Canvas, we do the same thing.  We create one course--and an associated section--for each course section in the course schedule.  If instructors want to combine them all into one course shell, we use the Canvas "xlist" (crosslist) functionality to move the sections into one course shell.

There are lots of advantages to making use of sections in Canvas, since you can set different assignments/due dates/announcements/etc. for each section.

If you're use SIS integration, you can manage sections and crosslistings via SIS feed.


But they're both sets of students (mathematically speaking). And adding students to sets is much easier than adding them to groups, for some reason.

It would be a lot easier if both were the same datatype, and there was a boolean flag indicating whether the students collaborate or not. It should be easier to program, too, and cut down on the code needed.

Community Member

We will not be able to use sections in this first roll-out. Any workarounds? 

The only workaround for the instructor would be to manually create the sections in the Course Settings and move the students into those sections from the People area in the course navigation.