What improvements would you like to see in our Groups feature?

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Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hello Community! We have received many feature requests for Groups over the years. Thank you for your posts in the Ideas space and requests through your CSMs. We are currently reviewing those. I would also love to hear from you on this thread to get a sense of any new and/or updated use cases. 

Look forward to hearing from you all!

Best, Katrina


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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.

Community Champion

Not to sound too needy, but could you summarize which ideas you are looking at in particular? which things are off the table already? It is rather hard to respond productively to such a broad question!

Community Champion
  • make it possible to open to a homepage
  • enable the ability to change the navigation links like you can in a course
  • enable permissions to make groups more teacher-driven and turn off the student editing piece so that Groups can be used to differentiate instruction. (For K-12 we run into issues where students post an event of announcement with inappropriate language /content; it seems like high ed students collaborating on group projects would use alternate collaboration tools like Slack or Google Docs rather than creating a Canvas page in Groups)
  • Enable self-sign up without having to enable the link to the People page and the full roster.
Community Contributor

@Katrina-Hess Thank you for asking us, i appreciate it. A use case we have is faculty want to be able to have a Group Set but with different names. They want students to choose the discussion or group they want to be in based on the name of the group (not the name of the group set followed by 1, 2, etc.).

For example, an English professor wants one group set but the name of each group is the name of an author. Students can select which author they want to talk about in the group discussion. Of course there's the work around of telling students Author Group A is Hemingway, Author B is Kipling, etc. or creating individual groups with those names. But let's say you have a class of 60 students. Since it's so easy to create a group, it would then be nice to edit the name of the group so the professor can have different authors or other topics.

The purpose is to allow students to select a specific topic in a discussion, but the discussion is created only one time by the Teacher, one column in the gradebook, and one assignment in SpeedGrader. I hope this makes sense.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi @Katrina-Hess ,

Here are a few of the things I'd like to see addressed with groups in Canvas:

1 - Separating group sign up form the people tool would be a great change, as many faculty would like to use self-enroll groups but not expose the entire course roster to students.

2 - Perhaps have two different types of groups with different functionality.  The current group setup works well when students are expected to work together outside of class time to come up with a final submission, like a paper or presentation.  As is frequently mentioned in the community, some things require groups to work very differently, with more control by the teacher.  I wouldn't want to replace one type of group setup with the other, as they will only add frustration.  Perhaps some kind of choice upon group set creation would be good.  That being said, this may cause more confusion on the student side unless the group types are clearly labeled and presented up front.

3 - Figuring out a better way to manage group membership changes.  This is a frequent pain point...  If, for some reason, student A needs to be moved from group 1 to group 2 after work has started, it causes all kinds of issues.  Canvas does try to warn teachers about this, but the message isn't the best and users often click straight through warnings without even reading them.  I don't have an "ultimate" solution to the issue, but I'm hoping something better could be done.

4 - If a student isn't part of any groups, don't let them complete the assignment/discussion.  I understanding the desire to not lock students out, but when group membership isn't setup correctly and students do work, it ends up in "orphan" discussions or assignment submissions which don't always display well in speedgrader and cause a lot of student and teacher confusion.  Displaying a message telling the student they don't belong to a group and to either self-enroll or contact their teacher to be placed in a group would seem to be a much better method.


Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hi @rake_9, totally fair question. We are keeping this question open-ended so we can surface needs for:

  1. improvements to the current groups feature (project-based groups for student assignments and collaboration)
  2. other types of of group management teachers and admins need that we don't currently offer


Thanks for your feedback @audra_agnelly@Sylvia_Ami, and @chriscas! We'll review during our discovery process.  


Community Explorer

It would be nice if group sets were created during course import, with the assignments properly assigned to the groups.  Or have a follow up warning if the "project groups" account was created.

Community Contributor

Hi Katrina!

  • We've chatted about this before, but we would like to see groups and sections continue to approach feature parity. For example, it would be great if instructors were able to create a differentiated assignment linked only to a specific group. This would allow for valuable use cases, such as students in different time zones: Right now, there is no way for students to self-select a group, and then receive differentiated due dates based on their group selection. Our instructors are using sections to achieve this, but it takes a lot of extra effort, and causes confusion with our SIS.


  • We've heard from students that group spaces are confusing--students report getting lost/confused when they click on a group discussion, since there is no breadcrumb back to the course. "I was in the course, and clicked on a group discussion. Now I don't know where I am because the course name is not in the breadcrumb":Screen Shot 2021-09-21 at 3.39.48 PM.png


  • Similarly, when students click the "groups" menu in the site navigation menu, the course name should be added automatically-otherwise students see a meaningless list of "group a" "group 2" etc.:

Screen Shot 2021-09-21 at 3.31.23 PM.png

^I have no idea which courses these groups are linked to!^


  • Ability to manage course navigation in groups (e.g. ability to add LTIs in groups)


Community Coach
Community Coach

Totally agree with @milesl  about the group naming/organization... Groups need to have the course name included in them on the dashboard, and while in the group site, there should definitely be an obvious breadcrumb link on the top of the page for the course.

On the idea of sections/groups parity, I think I'm somewhat against that though.  This is where I'd envision either 2 different kinds of "groups" with different functionality, or keeping groups as they are and adding something like a sub-section concept (which teachers would be able to create without having the ability to edit regular sections from the SIS).  I say this for a few reasons:

  • If a group and a section approach parity, why bother having both?
  • "Groups" in canvas-land have always really meant what I would call "collaborative groups".  Students are working together to come up with a final single work.  This doesn't really make sense for the assign-to area.
  • I do see the need to have an easy way to assign things to a common group of students though, but I'd just rather not have that be confused with a collaborative group.  Hence perhaps we need sub-sections for this functionality (or "differentiated groups" or something if most really like the group term).
  • What would happen if an assignment was assigned to one group from group set A and another group from group set B, where some students were in both groups?  This could really get complicated very quickly and lead to all kinds of weird issues with due dates and submissions.  This isn't an insurmountable issue, but definitely something to think about if one "group" structure is going to act for collaborative groups and differentiated ones.

I am definitely excited to see what Instructure comes up with here.  I will also say that I hope that any changes made don't result in a loss of functionality.  I definitely understand things change, especially in the technology space, but when those changes take away features/functionality it puts everyone in a bad spot.



Community Participant

Hi Kristina 🙂

I second @audra_agnelly (with additional thoughts):

  • make it possible to open to a homepage (with meaningful content relevant to the Group)  
  • enable the ability to change the navigation links like you can in a course  (yes please!!)
  • enable permissions to make groups more teacher-driven and turn off the student editing piece so that Groups can be used to differentiate instruction. (For K-12 we run into issues where students post an event of announcement with inappropriate language /content; it seems like high ed students collaborating on group projects would use alternate collaboration tools like Slack or Google Docs rather than creating a Canvas page in Groups)  (similar with my HE base, but refer below after Katrina's later comment)
  • Enable self-sign up without having to enable the link to the People page and the full roster.  (yes please!!)


We currently use Groups to divide student cohorts (less than ideal due to non-intuitive navigation).  We're looking to transition to using Sections, but seriously need a 'filter by <selection of specific> Section(s)' feature in Discussions; Search does not currently suffice our use case (say I want to compare Discussion activity in Section Nos 1, 3 & 9)

If separating out the use of Groups to solely Student spaces, perhaps consider renaming to something that reflects 'Group Assignment Collaboration Space'.  Also ensuring notifications identify the source of the Group would be beneficial (e.g. Linked Course details)

Also having features that allow for different Assignments, Modules, and Pages to be available to different Sections would also be ideal. 

Thanks for the opportunity to comment! 

Community Participant

Could we make it possible to have content published to one group but not for another. Like a page (or quiz or discussion or assignment) can be published but only viewable by one group but the other group would not be able to see it. I have ran into multiple times where this would have been a great solution. 

Community Champion

Using the idea of different functional expectations for groups from @chriscas, my support team almost never gets questions (from instructional, instructional design, or course coordination staff) about how to work with Groups for student collaboration.  I expect Groups get used that way from time to time, but given that we rarely get questions, I think this isn't how student collaborations happen around here.

On the other hand, we get a lot of questions from folks who want to use groups to control access to instructor content (discussion questions, assignments, pages, files, whole modules, announcements).  We use sections only in alignment with our SIS registration.  Our instructors would like to be able to control access to their content based on section and appreciate the changes that have been made in this area. 

They also want to be able to create their own student groupings and direct each group to the appropriate resources and activities, with their desired due dates and etc. Not all courses HAVE multiple sections, and often the enrollment sections do not reflect how course activities need to be differentiated. (Examples: student athletes who take exams at different times or locations from their classmates; cohorts that need specific content to meet their needs; participation in a discussion or shared assignment submission [existing functionality] ).  Having the instructor be able to associate a TA to a group would also be nice, both for moderating discussions, etc., and also for grading. 

We do get a lot of people struggling with the 3rd and 4th items that @chriscas lists (group membership changes and what happens when someone isn't in a group but still has the ability to submit an assignment / discussion post.  We also have people struggling with group structures not copying over during course copy.  Having the ability to find and self-enroll in groups outside of the People page would also be good.


Community Participant

Hi @Katrina-Hess,

These are my suggestions for improvement:

1. Add the option of setting an availability start and end date for the self sign up. Teachers often want to prepare the self sign up groups some time before the students are allowed to sign up. Currently this isn't possible.

2. Show the date and time at which the student signed up for the group / was enrolled in a group. In a self sign up group this can be useful if the teacher is it not for creating groups, but as a general sign up option for an event or whatever. If the date/time is visible, they can apply the first come first serve principle.

3. Improve the overview of groups for students, both in the Global navigation menu (see comment of @milesl ), and in a course. Why are the group sets not presented in tabs, the way a teacher sees it? (a feature idea already exists for this: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Idea-Conversations/As-student-view-group-sets-in-tabs/idi-p/38172...

4. I second @audra_agnelly to enable the self-sign up without having to enable the link to the People page.

Community Champion

Thank you for looking into improving Groups and for asking for our input. 

  1. Navigating between Group discussions as an instructor is clunky--you lose the breadcrumb for the base course and have to go back to the Home page of the group to exit the group. As others mentioned above, losing the breadcrumb path back to the home course is also confusing for students. 
  2. It would be helpful if, for auto-generated random groups, students could automatically be added to a group if they are added to the course after groups were formed.
  3. +1 with the suggestion for group discussions to be closed or open so people from other groups can observe small discussions. We used to do that a lot in D2L days. 
  4. Having a Group course created (what we call Group World) just to have a small group discussion is overkill for us. It's confusing for students and faculty to navigate. We'd prefer small group discussions to just take place in the base course's discussion area, and save the creation of Group World for when it's needed (I can't think of a single course that I've supported in which we've used Group World for anything other than small group discussions).
  5. +1 that it would be great if groups, names, associations, and settings were carried over in the course copy process, rather than having to recreate them.
  6. If that's not possible, it would be more helpful if the default group, "Project Group," wasn't created and instead something like the link validator could tell us when we have discussions, assignments, etc, that are set up to be attached to groups but that group is missing. In other words, it would be helpful to have a tool that could remind us that among the 20 or so places that I need to relink to a group in the course, I missed one during my course prep and need to connect it. It's such a problem when an assignment or discussion is set up to be a group discussion and the group is not attached to it before students post. 
    1. If the course only uses one group set, why don't I just rename the group set and use that? Because it's sometimes easier to create a new Group Set from scratch and relink the assignments because when you do that, you can auto name all the groups in that group set. If I used the Project Group set and added groups to that, I'd have to create and name each group individually. Sometimes it's just a matter of what tedious task do I want to do. 
  7. Sometimes we have courses that use Group Leaders, and sometimes that changes every week. But groups only allow you to pick one leader, and students don't seem to know when they're the leader, so having that setting seems to be meaningless. We end up having to use a spreadsheet, anyway. 
  8. One big issue is if you forget to set an assignment or discussion as a group assignment and a student submits you're out of luck. It would be ideal to be able to recover from that mistake without having to recreate the discussion or assignment.
Community Coach
Community Coach
  1. Be able to create the Group setup in a Blueprint and have it generate the same setup in the synced courses.
  2. When a course is copied, keep the Group setup/names.
  3. Be able to assign announcements and quizzes to Groups.
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Thanks for your feedback @mahola@milesl@chriscas@lnorth1@amyslack@rake_9@ellen_peters@venitk@cms_hickss! Recorded and will review. 

Best, Katrina

Community Explorer

@Katrina-Hess I agree with so many of the ideas already listed here. Building off what @venitk has shared (and others):

  • The need for an easy access button back to the base course is critical. So many people get confused and have created workarounds like going back to their dashboard and starting from the beginning that takes them so much extra time to navigate back to where they were previously in their course.
  • For the Group workspace – It would be great when setting up the groups to have a checkbox or a setting that asks “Do you want a group workspace for student collaboration?” …or something along those lines. In many classes, the only reason they create groups is to have small group discussions which can stay within the base course as Katie mentioned, and having this extra area can be confusing for students at times when they get lost in that space from doing a group discussion.
    • Another vote for adding course identifying information to the "Groups" area for students in the Global navigation to avoid what @milesl shared above.
  • Copying a course and retaining the groups would be helpful. So many faculty will ask “What is this Project Group? I didn’t name any group sets that last semester”. Then we have to try to explain how Canvas renamed just one of their group sets from the previous course (if they had multiple), and that the other ones didn’t transfer and they still have to create the individual groups again. They don’t really understand how or why it happens. If all group sets could be copied and maintain their assignment connections, that would benefit instructors that use more than one group set in a given semester.
  • Group Leaders currently isn’t a useful tool and I end up telling people to ignore that setting since all they can do is manage membership and change the name which most instructors don’t want a student to do. Even in the Canvas guides, it says “Students do not receive any notification that they have been added as a group leader, but they can access groups directly from the Groups link in Global Navigation or through the People page in the course.” So, you’d still have to go out of your way to let them know.
  • Throughout multiple posts, there is also the conversation of being able to expand the usage of groups share published content (like pages and modules) with specific groups, and similarly assigning assignments with differentiated due dates. I know some of that functionality currently resides by using sections, but as others have mentioned too, at our institution we cannot use sections at our institution the same way because instructors cannot create and enroll students in additional sections of their course besides what is created with the SIS, so most of that functionality is lost. Being able to use Groups for some of those same things would be beneficial.

Appreciate the opportunity to share some of these areas and looking forward to seeing what changes are to come!

Community Explorer

@Katrina-Hess thank you for opening this thread. We are currently hitting an issue with the automated creation of groups, using the limited by section checkbox. Our university uses Sections to denote the various tutorials, lectures or labs in a course (or subject). Typically a course will have several (or dozens in the case of larger cohorts) tutorial sections, one or two lecture sections and may have other sections such as Labs. The sections are all formed using enrollment information from the universities systems. 

Our intention is for Groups to be used for assignments, discussions, small tutorial based activities etc as a way to organise students together. Ideally a tutor could create a group set with say 4 students in each group and have that group set limited to just their tutorial (section), currently the group sets create groups across the whole cohort. In addition the over lapping nature of out use of sections; students may be in more than one tutorial, a lecture, a lab etc causes the 'limit group members to the same section' to become confused, instead forming many very small groups. Example in the screen shot below.


Screenshot 2021-09-27 162539.png


Ideally we would be able to create a group set and choose what sections the members are limited by - this would enable groups to be automatically created for a single tutorial (section), or multiple tutorials with a set number of students in each.




Community Participant

I am never sure if it is more useful to repeat comments that I find particularly important, or to just Kudos them. I am going to try to organize my own thoughts mixed in with what others have said. On the up side, I think I will be able to cluster things in a way that makes logical sense to me. On the downside, this will likely be an unreadably long wall of text. Apologies in advance.

  1. Groups is a fantastic tool, that does way more than what instructors want it to do the vast majority of the time. I strongly believe that Groups needs to be broken into two separate tools. One that is a slightly improved version of what is already there, which I will be referring to as “Project Groups”, and a second tool that allows for the more common uses without the additional Groups work space, which I will be referring to as “Quick Groups”.
  2. Quick Groups are needed in situations where instructors are having students do an activity that requires only a single Canvas tool, and/or no out of class time to do. It should not create the Group home area in the left-hand navigation.
  3. Quick Groups (both the Quick Group Set AND the individual Quick Groups) should be an option when determining delineation of the following things: Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Page access, File access, Quizzes, Module access, and Collaborations. This will remove the need to type each student’s name in the “Assign to” area when only trying to do group discussions (or similar delineation). Any Quick Group Set or individual Quick Group that was not selected should be unable to even see the item.
  4. Project Groups (both the Project Group Set AND the individual Project Groups) should be an option when determining delineation of the following things: Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Page access, File access, Quizzes, Module access, and Collaborations. Assigning an item this way should provide a popup notification that the item will be created in each Project Group area as its own unique item. This will prevent the need to go into each groups area to recreate an announcement/page/etc that applies to a few of your many groups. Any Project Group Set or individual Project Group that was not selected should be unable to see the item.
  5. Project Groups need to have a course name written below the Project Group name when being shown in the left-hand navigation. The inability to tell which course each of the “Group 1” groups a student is in is awful. Quick Groups should not appear there at all.
  6. The Projects Groups area needs the first Breadcrumb at the top of the screen to ALWAYS be the original course, not just when on the Home area.
  7. Project Groups needs a Settings area similar to the main course, so that Navigation, homepage, and permissions can be set. Preferably, these options would be available at creation, so that each group can inherit the settings.
  8. Enabling the use of Project Groups or Quick Groups should reveal a checkbox for optional different due dates per group.
  9. Copy Course Components needs another item selection for Project Groups and Quick Groups. Obviously, it would not move user enrollment, but the ability to copy the setup for both Project Groups and Quick Groups would be a boon. Maintaining group delineation for other tools would be vital.
  10. Project Groups and Quick Groups need improved membership management. Selecting multiple users at once for click/drag, forced notifications when new enrollments occur to help instructors keep up on group enrollment, ability to move users between groups without breaking old submissions (potentially the most complicated ask on this list due to the number of unique interactions it could branch into).
  11. Project Groups and Quick Groups set up to auto-enroll should update when new users are added to the course.
  12. Project Groups and Quick Groups both need a self-signup without needing People to be enabled. Include a setting that functions as an end date where users will be assigned randomly if they fail to choose by the end date.
  13. Project Groups or Quick Groups used for discussions should have a read-only option to allow other groups to read, but not participate, discussions held by other groups.
  14. Make sure that Project Groups and Quick Groups are both able to function with integrations (when the integration allows) to keep things in synch.
  15. https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Idea-Conversations/Speedgrader-support-for-ungrouped-discussion-p... This is broken. This is not an idea for improvement, this is an observation of something that is broken and needs to be fixed. Anyone who says this is intended functionality needs a stern talking-to by a motherly figure who is “not mad, just disappointed”.
Community Explorer

+++ to everything mentioned so far!!

One extra: It would be so helpful to be able to download a CSV file of group names and members. Faculty ask for this all the time and I would love an easy download button (without needing an outside tool).

(If this already exists and I've missed it, please let me know 🙂 )

Community Champion

I would love to be able to use a quiz or survey to put students into groups based on the book the select to read for an assignment, and then assign peer reviews of that assignment to assign reviews of any group other than the matching group.  That would give students experience with more than one of the book options, and it would also make cheating less tempting.

Community Participant

@woodc you can download the list of groups / students using the + Import button > Download Course Roster CSV. You'll need to clean it up a but and remove unnecessary columns,

Community Explorer

You rock, @John_Gaspar, thanks for that info!!

Community Participant

I wanted to add it would be super awesome if we could also sort/filter the grades page by groups as well as by sections. And again want to echo being able to limit publishing of content to specific groups and/or sections. This would have so many different applications especially at the higher education level where we have a lot of cohorting and different programs so being able to use groups and sections in a way that can better organize students would be so helpful. 

Community Participant

@amyslack - Student Groups is a filter option for me in Gradebook. Is it an option that has to be turned on by your IT department?

Sort would be nice to have


Community Explorer

I have thought a lot about the shortcomings of the groups function in Canvas. I have many years of experience as an instructor for teachers on how to use both Moodle and Sakai (other LMS’s) . When I started using Canvas, I discovered that groups in Canvas work in a completely different way than I and the teachers at my university are used to in Sakai and Moodle.

 The first thing we discovered was the use of both sections and groups. Although the concept sections also is found in Sakai, it is not as central a function as in Canvas. In Moodle there is only groups.

 As I understand it,sections are a type of administrative grouping of students, and at our university in Umeå, Sweden, sections are created and populated from our SIS. For that reason, teachers are not allowed to create or edit sections.


Groups in Canvas work in a very different way than in Moodle and Sakai (and also different from groups in Blackboard), as the use of groups in a course is based on the idea that the students is going to collaborate with each other. They even get a workspace to facilitate collaboration. If a task is linked to a group, the assumption is that the group are going to collaborate and will submit a common assignment.

The problem is that teachers need to group students for other reasons other than for collaboration. Let me take an example:

 Students submit an assignment. The students who fail the assignment have (in Sweden) the right to take a new examination at a later date. In a large class, the teacher now wants to create a group in the course so that the new assigment can be linked to this particular group of students (those who did not pass the examination). In a course with several hundred students, this can be a lot of students. So, adding students one-by-one Is not an option.

 The shortcoming in Canvas' design of the group function is now clear. There is no possibility to create an ad-hoc group (or Quick Groups as @degensp28 wants to call this type of group).

The ad-hoc group is an administrative grouping, where the students are not supposed to collaborate with each other, and they should not have a collaboration space.

What is needed, however, is a consistent support in all tools (Tasks, Quizzes and Discussions, etc.) to delimit access to these administrative ad-hoc groups. This means, for example, that a task can be assigned to a specific group, without it being a group submission.

Today, there is this opportunity to assign tasks in most functions based on students belonging to a section. But sections are not a solution in this case. Neither interfaces nor functionality are adapted to this type of quick creation of administrative groups, for example, an assignment or a quiz (or any other reason that the teacher wants to divide some students into a group for accessing something or to simply download csv file).

Sections lack an easy way to organize members, while groups already have interfaces and functionality in place. 

  • In other words, support is needed to create groups of students without the need for collaboration between students (ad-hoc groups or Quick Groups)
  • Support needs to be activated for groups in Tasks, Quiz. without it being a group assignment. Here the group works in the same way as sections, i.e. the task is limited to the members of the group.
  • These ad-hoc groups should not have a collaboration area, as the purpose of the group division is to delimit a subset of the students for e.g., a task, a quiz or access to a page.
Community Participant

Thank you @John_Gaspar! So I missed this was possible - I think I was looking in a course I thought had groups but did not but you seriously just helped me a ton so thank you! so apparently you can sort by groups in the gradebook and that is awesome so thank you!

Community Participant

It would be nice to support the LTI Group service.  Having LTI tools be group aware could be helpful for future enhancements(ex: preset breakout rooms in Zoom).  

Community Explorer

@milesl hit the nail on the head for me, everything in that post was right in line with the experiences at my institution too! Also, some LTIs will let you use the Canvas group set in the LTI space too (e.g., Perusall) but it only works if you only have one Group Set. Is there a way to make a primary Group set for LTI use and then additional Group sets for other Canvas uses (this will probably be even more important if assignments could be assigned to a group set).

Community Participant

It's already been mentioned in this list

  • in assignment setup - being able to assign groups in availability settings, is much needed. 
  • also in assignment setup - in group settings (having choice to apply same grade or different grade to whole group) - like it is in assignment settings now , would be great
  • difficulty of getting back to class page, from inside a group workspace is currently a pain point
Community Coach
Community Coach

From an Admin perspective, I would like to be able to use Groups to assign admin roles.  Thus, if I assign an admin role to an account level group, then all members of the group would receive that admin role.  It would then make it easier to be able to communicate with users that have that shared role.  If someone gets added to the group later, they should then also inherit the admin permissions of the group and if someone gets remove from a group, they should lose those admin permissions that were inherited.

Using groups would also help us communicate with certain types of admins based on their role, especially when there are changes that only affect some of the admins based on their role.

This can also help keep the admin page in account settings more organized.

Community Participant

Firstly, thank you @Katrina-Hess,  it is great that you are finally looking into this! Group managment has been the biggest issue we have had with Canvas at our university since we started using it in 2018.

We use the current group functionality mostly for assignments, and use the "Self sign up" function a lot due to big course sizes. My ideas and thoughts will therefore be based around group assignments.

Self sign up causes A LOT of extra work due to Canvas not telling the students how to hand in as a group at all. There is also a lot of plagiarism involved because self sign up has a few flaws.

  • I would like to see assignment groups and collaboration groups separated. Assignment groups should only be available within the assignment they are connected to. Like many others have said, groups should be moved from the "people" page to somewhere else.
  • If an assignment is set up as a group assignment, it should not be possible to hand in without being a part of a group.
  • When using self sign up, students should not be able to sign up to a group that has allready handed in their assignment. We have weekly plagiarism cases due to students signing into other students groups to download assignments. This has unfortunately now become a well known "cheating" tactic at our university.
  • Teachers should not receive notifications when students post content / announcements within a group. When having a group assignment with 50+ groups, this causes chaos in the teachers email inbox.
  • Students and teachers should have the same view of group sets. Having multiple group sets within the same "groups" button for students is very messy when compared to teachers group set tabs.

I realise that theese are mostly "complaints" about the current system, but it is very important to have theese issues in mind when developing a new group system for Canvas.

I am looking forward to seeing what you can come up with here!

Community Member

My thoughts (some of which are repeats from above):

  • I would love to see a more obvious way for students to send a message to their whole group v. going into the group's subpage in the course site or into Conversations.  Something like a "message your group" link in the People tool or on the course home page for sites with groups.
  • When importing content from a previous semester's site, it would be great if the Group names in the previous semester imported, too.  At present, Canvas imports a different name for the groups.  So, for example, if you have group Discussions set up, after an import they map to a group set that does not exist, which is an easy thing for faculty to miss updating in their new site.
  • I would also love if the automatic splitting of students into groups could be an ongoing automated process.  I.e., if I automatically split students into groups on day 1 of the semester, and three more students join the class before the registration deadline on day 5, it would be great if those students could be automatically moved into the auto-generated groups without the professor having to revisit.
  • Also, agreed that getting back to the class site from the group page is challenging--probably more challenging than the group page is beneficial, although I imagine other users have made more use of that page than our school has.
Community Member

This might be a small. thing, but I don't understand why addition to a group within a course enables a group link on the Global Navigation bar--this makes the group seem as though it is a separate entity from the course rather than a component of it and can be confusing if students are enrolled in groups in multiple courses. Why not have the groups link enacted on the course navigation page instead? Then, those aspects of the group sign up workflow that are confusing because they are housed within the people panel could possibly be housed there.

Also: Global groups. Our faculty read about them in the guides and think they will be useful but it is too hard to manage enrollments without using the SIS/API and they could be much more useful l if control could be decentralized. 

Community Participant

- Ability to open up sections to students for self-sign up without exposing the People tab. There are departments that don’t want to expose the course member list to students, but want students to be able to join groups. Right now, these things are coupled.

- Ability to set start and end dates for self sign-up to groups.

- Ability to allow students to self sign-up for sections (or enable section functionality to work with groups). At our school, the groups function is used as a workaround for students to sign up for sections. Instructors want to use the section functionality to restrict content (announcements, assignments, etc). Currently, we have a special tool to clone groups to sections to allow for student sign-up and section functionality, but this is a wonky workaround to a functionality that could be better supported in Canvas.

- The group set functionality constantly confuses teaching teams. They often create one group set for each group, instead of a group set with groups in it. Make the workflow more intuitive. Make it more clear that group set names don’t appear to students.

- Enable student view to indicate that the self sign-up is working. The lock icon that appears makes instructors and TAs think they have not set up the groups properly.

- Make it easier for students to find groups and join them. This process is not at all intuitive.

- Make it more clear to teaching teams that student-initiated groups can not be used in group assignments. This causes confusion. (Users don’t read guides, so don’t count on that.)

- Allow group membership changes that don’t result in catastrophic problems for existing group submissions.

- Better navigation when finding and leaving groups, so users don’t get lost.

- Better naming, so students know the course a group is associated with.

Community Member

Better functionality for group assignments with peer review. 

Make it easier to move a student from one group to another. 

Community Participant
  • Allow for assigning teachers as mentors for groups. Every teacher should not have to be part of every student group.
  • Allow for turning off announcement notifications from groups without impacting notifications from course announcements.
  • Change labeling of the "+Import" button to indicate that it also hides an export feature.
  • Fix the the Group CSV import/export feature so that it respects the users BOM and separator character settings.
  • Allow for group peer reviews.
  • The default value for "Assign to" in a group assignment should be "Everyone with a group membership for the selected group set" (or something more catchy!).
  • Allow for displaying all group memberships (with link!) for each student on the People page.
  • Allow for displaying secondary information when assigning students to groups. Students with the same name are indistinguishable.
  • List group calendars hierarchically under each course calendar.
  • Display course code and/or course name that each group is associated with when listing group membership for a student in the global navigation menu.
  • Allow the Test student (from the Student view feature) to join groups.
  • Allow for administrative groups: Disabled group home page/collaboration area. Sections are too time consuming to work with as a teacher.
  • Allow for admins to customize items in the menu inside a student group.
  • Make a log of join and leave events available to teachers.
  • Allow for teachers to use groups for assigning assignments, quizzes and discussions even when those are to be submitted/taken individually (again, usability of sections for teachers is low).
  • Allow switching between same grade for all group members and individual grades directly from the gradebook.
Community Participant

Hello @Katrina-Hess ! Thanks for the opportunity to send some feedback 🙂

I am a Canvas site admin at a university. After seeing your blog post I reached out to our faculties and gathered feedback on groups. Below I have summarized the comments and suggestions on group functionality that we received.

Finding groups in Canvas:

Multiple comments we have received indicate that groups are generally difficult to find in Canvas – for both teachers, administrative employees and students. We suggest making it easier and more intuitive for users to find groups within a course, and making groups generally more visible in the Canvas UI.

Within a course:

  • What about moving all functionality for creating, administering and opening groups to course navigation (the course menu)? “Groups” in the course menu would be a natural place to find groups in a course, and can become visible to students when groups are created in the course (similar to how Announcements becomes visible when the first announcement is published in a course).
  • “Groups” in the course menu could present the groups in a similar way to the user dashboard, for example group cards. Then students can see and open the group(s) they belong to in that course.

From the global navigation menu:

  • When accessing the groups from the navigation menu it should indicate which course each group is associated with.

Group creation:

Our sections are created based on registrations in our SIS. Very many of our teachers and administrators want to be able to create groups based on sections, without having to manually create the groups and add students individually. Therefore, when creating groups there could be an option to simply choose a section and create it as a group, and automatically add all the enrolled people in the section to the group.

It is possible to create groups based on sections using a csv file, but that is too time-consuming and technical. Using the “Require group members to be in the same section” option will not work at our university, because many courses have one main section in which all students are enrolled.

Adding, organizing and administering content in groups:

Our teachers and administrative employees would like to see the following:

  • The ability for group content to be organized in multiple ways, for example by adding modules and creating a homepage.
  • The ability to change, add, remove and re-arrange elements to navigation (the group room menu).
  • The ability to use LTIs in groups, including adding LTIs to group menus. Note: We don’t want students to be able to add new LTIs to their group, but we want to make it possible to do this via the API and also that a teacher or administrative employee can do this in the UI, just like in a course.
  • Group announcements appear in the group homepage in the same way as a course.
  • A new course role permission “Blueprint Groups” and a new type of blueprint, “Blueprint Master Group” that can be associated with specific group set(s). There is no need for “Blueprint Groups” to be an account role permission. This will allow teachers on their own (without needing an account role or needing to be a member of a group) to create a Blueprint Master Group and administer group content (pages, modules, announcements, discussions, etc.) simultaneously in multiple groups in advance of and during the semester.
  • A new course role permission that allows students to administer their own group without being the group leader, for example choose their own homepage, arrange content in modules, arrange elements in group navigation (the group menu).
  • Student View functionality for groups, so that teachers and administrative employees can check content. Some have tried to open groups using Student View and receive a message that they do not have access.
  • The ability for teacher/TA/designer course roles to add or create read-only pages in groups. For example a teacher has a page with assignment information or a help/resources page that students can only read, but not edit or delete.
  • The ability for a teacher/TA/designer to send an announcement to all groups in a group set simultaneously. They should be able to send them from Announcements in the course, or alternatively from a Blueprint Master Group if that applies.
  • Group Templates in order to streamline group set up, the folder structure in group files, etc.
  • The “Copy to…” function also includes the ability to copy specific content between courses and groups -- copy content to one or more groups in a group set from a course, and the reverse: to copy specific content from one group to a course.

Group visibility:

It would be great to have a setting that teachers can activate that will change group visibility for groups in a group set, to allow students in the course to access groups they do not belong to in a read-only state. In some cases teachers want students to view each others’ work or discussions in groups, so this feature would be useful.

Administrative needs for groups:


Hope this helps! Feel free to reach out if there are any questions.

Community Participant

I'm the main person in charge of teacher training at my institution of 2000+ teachers with 3+ years experience doing this. Many good suggestions have been posted here so I will not mention all of them once more

The three biggest issues that I want to underline/repeat are:

  • Security issue with self sign-up group sets: Make it possible to set a deadline for when self sign-up in a given group set must be completed. Self sign-up for the given group set will close when this deadline passes. It would also be nice with an option to automatically fill up groups with the unassigned students when this deadline passes. It's a security risk if the teacher leaves the self-signup option open for the group set, as students can jump in and out of groups to "spy" on what other groups are working on (i.e. cheating).

  • Assignments doesn't display that it's a group assignment with self sign-up groups. With the current situation, teachers must write detailed descriptions in the assignment text for students that "This is a group assignment and you must select your group before you hand in an asssignment. To sign up for a group, head over to "People" then select "groups", then select a group that's connected to this assignment. Oh, and if I happened to make other group sets in this course as well, you'll just have to guess which group is connected to this assignment and which aren't. Have fun".

    Please add an automatic notification on group assignments with self-signup groups, with a direct link to the assignment specific groups sign-up page. And restrict students from handing in an assignment before they've selected a group.

  • Create group sets from section – as other scandinavian institutions apparently do, we also utilize sections a lot. To create a group set based on sections is currently an administrative nightmare. Please add an option to choose which specific sections that are to be used in the group set, and make them follow the naming of the sections.


Community Explorer


At our site, we have experienced the following issues with groups in Canvas: 

  • it's really hard to get an overview of the list of groups if you click "Groups" in the Global Navigation Menu. An improvement could for example be to only show groups from courses that are displayed on the dashboard (i.e. from the ones that are marked as favourites). Another alternative could be to let users hide groups in the list or in some other way being able to edit the view. At our site, we don't conclude courses in Canvas so the list of groups gets unmanageably long quite quickly.

  • comments that are submitted, both from students and teachers, for group assignments aren't showed in Canvas. This happens quite often and is a cause of students not belonging to a group and still being able to submit a group assignment. I don't know the best way to improve this, but something needs to be done, for example by restricting students from handing in group assignments if they don't belong to a group and/or by providing a warning for teachers who create group assignments with group sets that include empty groups.  

Best regards, 
Sofia Toivonen
Chalmers University of Technology

Community Member

Extend the functionality of automatic group creation by taking into account previous group compositions (cross-courses).

This to have as much variation as possible in group assignments for participants.

Community Participant

@SofiaToivonen , I totally agree with point #2! We recently had a support issue about this with Instructure, and they say that it is "intended behavior". I strongly disagree. For example, I don't know why it is intended that the teacher can neither see nor delete their own comments, but can find them by clicking "Download submission comments" in SpeedGrader. Right now, if teachers want to delete comments or make them visible to themselves and the student, they have to enable "Assign grades to each student individually". There's got to be a better way for Instructure to do this.

Also, I don't see mention of this restriction in Instructure's own guide. Instructure needs to write that the comments cannot be seen or deleted, and where to find them in this case.

Community Explorer

I second @lnorth1 

From a K-12 setting we would welcome the ability to toggle on and off some of the features of Groups - specifically the ability of students to start their own discussions and conferences. For some students who dabble in inappropriate use the environment is challenging to monitor for teachers. Unfortunately because the environment is so open our teachers at times avoid using Groups. 

Community Member

- Instructor should be able to see inbox messages the groups send. So allowing the messages to be forwarded would be helpful- so my inbox isn't flooded.

-There needs to be a better way to move students around in groups. I have students that don't contribute so I want to remove them. I just click through to get this done, but I shouldn't have to get a message about things being messed up. It hasn't messed up anything other than leaving them in the group fro an already submitted assignment.

-Individual grades for groups need to be better. I'm grading groups right now and I have to re-do the rubric for every group member! Thank goodness I download and use Word for feedback or I'd have to re-do the annotations too. I give individual grades because some students do no work- so they shouldn't get credit. But I'm doing a lot of repetitive grading feedback to make this work. I noticed a new radio button for comment to student or whole group- can I get that for annotations and the rubric too?

-Help with notifications for group discussion. Students are always telling me they don't get any notice that something was posted in their group discussion. Can we default it to notify them for groups? Or have the instructor set it? They shouldn't have to set ALL discussions to notify them when they really only need notification on their group discussions.

Community Champion

I agree with much of what every else has posted previously.  Here are our pain points. 

The ability to set a page as the home page. This provides a better landing page for each group. 

There is a groups feature at the admin level but it is pretty useless so it would be nice to have self-sign up at the admin level or allow a group admin to add people. 

Navigation is problem. Everyone gets confused. 

If the groups allow self-sign up and the assignment is a discussion, if students never signs up for a group, they can still post and the post is in neverland. It doesn't display in the group or speedgrader. 

When assignment or discussion is a group project, it would be nice to have an icon display next to the assignment name in the all the places it may display (assignment, discussion, and module pages). Something similar to what you see with peer review assignments. 

Some faculty want to make the group work for each group different so it would be nice if they could create separate instructions for each group. 


Community Novice

Hi there,

I'm sorry this isn't directly related to Groups, but more to Canvas in general - it would be super helpful to be able to see student ID numbers listed next to student names in the Grades section of Canvas.

With thanks,


Community Member

Genial, hoy pide mis preguntas de COA

Thanks for your job! 🙂



Opiniones Catawiki hoy pide mis preguntas for certificate in PDF for print  in autógrafo 

Very good!

Community Champion

We've recently discovered (and reported to support/our CSM) that group rosters are visible to everyone in the course not just the members in the group ... this is visible from the Groups tab if People is enabled and in the Inbox regardless of how course navigation has been configured. In C4E, the Group tab was enable to allow students to navigate to their groups since the links in the old sidebar are gone, but they see every group and every member, rather than just their own groups or self-signup groups. This came to us from a parent around student privacy and it is really pressing that the visibility of groups that students are not members of gets limited to members only. Even for self signups, students should just see the group name until they have joined a specific group. 

Community Member

Warning! You are about to adjust this group's membership.

This change will affect existing group submissions, annotations, and comments and result in data loss for BOTH this group and the student's previous group.


Students with registration issues come in late, but have been doing group work from day 1.

Community Participant

An option to split students into groups alphabetically, (A to Z )  automatically after the teacher clicks this choice's button, would be nice.

Community Explorer

I would like there to be an indicator on a discussion that it is connected to a group set or a warning that it is linked to an empty group set.

Sometimes teachers get their course content from the previous teacher which they import into their course and they don't know that some of the discussions are linked to an empty group set. So they don't know to disconnect it or create groups.