Streamlining Canvas Push Notifications

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Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

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. 

The content in this blog is over six months old, and the comments are closed. For the most recent product updates and discussions, you're encouraged to explore newer posts from Instructure's Product Managers.