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Streamlining Canvas Push Notifications

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We’ve all experienced feeling overwhelmed by communication. Email in-boxes bursting at the seams, text messages from unknown numbers, and unwanted notifications from apps we didn’t know we still had on our phones. This overload ultimately leads us to ignoring all messages that show up on our device. In our efforts to streamline communication paths to those that teachers and students find most useful and meaningful, we researched the various delivery methods and here’s what we found…

Students spend 89% of their time on native mobile apps and just 11% of their time in mobile browsers, and surveys show students prefer using apps on their smartphones instead of being pointed to mobile websites. In fact, nearly one million students downloaded the Canvas Student App in March and April of 2020 alone. 

EMAIL is no longer an effective means of communication:

  • 39% of students don’t always open emails from their academic advisors
  • 50% don’t always read emails from academic departments
  • 72% treat emails from student organizations like spam.

SMS messaging is a less than ideal alternative:

  • Limited to 160 characters
  • Can be expensive to use frequently
  • Are considered an intrusive means of communication by students

PUSH notifications via Mobile Apps:

  • Appear in a student’s notification tray, where today’s youth check dozens of times daily
  • Allow personalization and preference setting by end-users 
  • Allow unlimited text, and an associated image
  • No additional cost

SMS Changes

The way people communicate is constantly evolving, and we are evolving with it. In April 2020, we announced adjustments to the number of SMS messages being sent from Canvas. We determined to keep the most productive message types for SMS methods, which are the following: 

  • New Announcement
  • Submission Graded
  • Assignment Created
  • Submission Grade Changed
  • Confirm SMS Communication Channel 

Push Changes

As we’ve continued to analyze the announcements sent through push notifications for the last few months, we’ve found about one-third of all notification types are used in push notifications. We’re using this information to once again streamline how we structure push notifications. Starting 16 January 2021, only the following notifications will be supported:


  • New Announcement
  • Announcement Reply


  • Assignment Created
  • Submission Graded
  • Assignment Due Date Changed
  • Submission Comment
  • Submission Needs Grading
  • Submission Comment for Teacher
  • Submission Grade Changed
  • Assignment Changed
  • Annotation Notification
  • Assignment Due Date Override Changed
  • Peer Review Invitation
  • Rubric Assessment Submission Reminder
  • Upcoming Assignment Alert
  • Annotation Teacher Notification
  • Assignment Unmuted
  • Quiz Regrade Finished


  • New Event Created
  • Event Date Changed
  • Appointment Group Published
  • Appointment Group Updated
  • Appointment Group Deleted
  • Appointment Canceled by User
  • Appointment Deleted for User


  • Conversation Message (new conversation or reply)


  • Web Conference Invitation


  • Collaboration Invitation

Details about each of these notification types can be found in the Canvas Notifications PDF.

The last year we’ve seen incredible shifts in how our teachers interact with students and how those students interact with their peers. Education and communication are forever changing, and we will continue to evolve with our teachers, students, parents, and administrators to make learning as easy and efficient—and even as fun—as possible.

As it has from the moment we started developing Canvas, your feedback and your ideas continue to shape Canvas as we tackle the challenges of education together. We appreciate your feedback and your insights and we hope these changes help you and your students achieve your goals. 

Adventurer II

Thank you for communicating in advance about these changes, and providing the detail about what will be supported after January 16th.

Though this is a lengthy list, "Starting 16 January 2021, only the following notifications will be supported," makes it sound like there are some other push notification types that will no longer be supported.

Could you also detail, what Push Notifications are supported now, that will no longer be supported after January 16th?  That would actually be more important for us to communicate with our users.


Does this change only affect 'Push Notifications' through the mobile app or will email notifications also change? Our faculty prefer email notifications.

The list provided above does not look like nor match the actual notifications options on the notification's page. Are these new options being added to the existing list?

I agree with Vanzandt, the list of what is being added to push notifications is extensive so can you please provide a list of what is being stopped as that is the focus of the change described "All Push notification options are disabled except the following".


Community Team
Community Team

The list of what is in the notifications page is more extensive, as some of the notifications are triggered by multiple factors. Please reference the included PDF for the entire list.

The list of notifications that are being removed is significantly longer than the notifications that will remain, which is why we have not listed the ones being removed.

Email notifications are not affected by this change.



Adventurer II

If the list of notifications being removed is that significant/long, then that means there is more likelihood of someone being impacted, and is even more reason for us needing to know.  It also likely means that there are wins to celebrated for no longer receiving non-sense notifications.

Can you post a link to a PDF that includes the list, similar to what has been done for the notifications that will remain?

Adventurer II

@Katrina-Hess  -   A few observations about the blog:

One of the references is from 2014 ( .   Given the topic, much has changed in this timeframe so I suggest a more recent source.  Examples:

An idea -  have the referenced percentages been validated using a sampling of today's students?  Perhaps ask the data team to sample a set of K-12 and Higher Ed institutions.   The info may well help justify continued investment in the mobile apps.  Or perhaps provide different insights.


Also, the Nielsen article states:   "...while all smartphone users spent 89 percent of their mobile media time in Q4 2013 using mobile apps...".   This has different meaning than what the above blog states: "Students spend 89% of their time on native mobile apps".     Can I suggest clarifying?  How about, 'Students spend 89% of their time when using a smartphone on native mobile apps...'.    I think there is a distinction to be made that it is 89% of their time when using a mobile device, not 89% of their time when using / accessing Canvas.


Thanks for reading, Jeff


Explorer II

 While I certainly understand that TOO many notifications is a bad thing, I have two thoughts:

  1. I echo @Jeff_F 's sentiments. One of your references (EAB) only surveys ONE school. The Neilsen one is from 2014 and the Educuase/Pudue link is from 2012. Got any more recent research to back up your assertions? I would honestly be curious to see it both in the context of this discussion and in general.
  2. Echoing @vanzandt : We need to know what notifications students are CURRENTLY getting that they no longer will. It's the only way we can help our campus transition succesful to the change. Also, why the move away from letting students (and faculty, for that matter) decided what notifications they do or do not get?

Would be nice to the see the list of what is going away. We are currently being asked by our students for more SMS messages and that this is the preferred method of getting notifications. 

Community Team
Community Team

@llettie we're working on updating the Notifications PDF to include these specifics.



Adventurer II

Hi @erinhallmark has the Notifications PDF been updated yet?  I think most folks would like to communicate with their users in advance of the change if at all possible.

Community Team
Community Team

Hey @vanzandt 

We had to add a couple of other things to it, so it's not quite finished. We'll have it up asap!


Community Team
Community Team

@vanzandt I confirmed the PDF is accurate now.



Adventurer II

Thanks @erinhallmark.  I'm looking over the PDF now  and I don't see a section or table with a list of notification items that are going away in this coming update. Maybe I'm just in a hurry and missing it. Can you direct me to it?

I do see "P" footnotes that identify items that are supported in push notifications.  Is the assumption supposed to be that ALL of the items used to be supported, and now only those with "P" will be supported? 

Community Team
Community Team

@vanzandt the general information at the top of the PDF includes the comprehensive list of what notifications are supported. In the individual sections, only the P items are supported.




@erinhallmark looks like push notification for discussions such as "replies to a discussion post you are subscribed to" are no longer available per the January 16th update...why is this?  As a student, 2 of my classes have weekly discussion assignments where I need to post and reply to my other classmates, but now I have to check the discussion for replies instead of getting a notification when someone replies

Community Team
Community Team


Hello! As Katrina noted in this post, about one-third of all notification types are used in push notifications. I'm not sure how the decisions were made but our team decided to remove it for one reason or another.