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Close self sign-up to groups on a specific date

Close self sign-up to groups on a specific date


Currently if instructors create a group assignment, and a group set, they can enable self sign-up within that group set. This is desirable as often they want students to self-organise into groups of common interest.

It is clear that students changing groups after submissions have been made can cause trouble and confusion in Canvas.

To prevent this, instructors have to remember to manually edit a group set and disable self self-up on a date that comes before students start submitting.


When enabling self sign-up, allow the instructor to set a date and time at which self sign-up becomes disabled or closed. For example: self sign-up might become disabled on October 10, at 11:59pm.

If this date is set, place an event in students' to-do lists and calendars, set for that date and time, reminding them that they have to join a group if they haven't already. Once they join a group within that group set, remove the to-do list item.

Community Champion

Voted! Another great idea submission,  @jeremy_stevens . For me, the ideal implementation would be to use available From and Until dates on a group set, for consistency with availability-setting by Teacher/TA/Designer elsewhere in Canvas.

Community Contributor

Great suggestion, Rob! I agree. This would allow those group sets to be set up by instructors early on, without them worrying about students signing up to the groups before they know about the assignment, have been to the first class of the teaching period, etc.

Community Participant

I agree as well, it should be an option to set the from and until date.

New Member

I suggest an alternative setting: As soon as someone submits something from a group, that group becomes locked for self-signup. Would that be possible to implement?

If assignments come early on in a course it might not be possible to have a long enough time window to sign up before the assignment is open for submissions.

Community Contributor

I had not found this idea before putting mine in, I was also recommending open dates too since some professors would like to make the sign-up only available during class time. This prevents absent students from getting into a group that wasn't discussed in class about.

Community Member

We like this suggestion. To clarify, it might be better, however, to close the group automatically as soon as something has been uploaded rather than submitted (so students can't copy any partial work unnoticed). 

Community Member

As part of the feature set that might be employed to help alleviate the current shortcomings of group self-enrollment, we'd like to suggest that students who have already signed up for a particular group be notified when someone else joins or leaves the group. That way, they know if another student has seen any work they've done and would be aware if someone came in to the group, viewed their work, then left. (This functionality might serve as a deterrent to copying work.)

Community Contributor

I couldn't agree with this more. This sounds like a crucial feature addition.

Community Member

I had a previous student switch project groups after the group she switched to was submitted and graded, so she got their grade without doing any work! I had another student sign-up in a group, download that group's submission, and submit it to the old group. This absolutely needs fixed. I think we should have the ability to lock the group after an upload has occurred and also to lock it according to a date. I like the available from and to idea.

Community Member
Problem statement:

Hi – there is a pretty big safety hole that has been in place for some years. I wonder if we can work on patching it. If an instructor defines a group set with groups that students can join and leave as they please, and then sets up a group assignment with that group set, one group can hand in an assignment and then another student can join the group, copy the assignment and then leave the group. In other words a student can switch groups, copy another group’s work, then go back to the original group have basically stolen others’ work. This is a problem – at least for our university.

Proposed solution:

We advise our teachers to turn off the self sign-up before students are allowed to start hand-ins. If this could be automated - not relying on intervention by the teacher - it would be a big plus, reducing the chances of cheating for all.

User role(s):


Community Champion


This can be automated using the Update Course Settings endpoint of the Courses API.

You want to send { "allow_student_organized_groups" : false } to disallow students organizing their own groups. You would need to obtain a list of all courses where you want that to happen and then iterate through the course, updating the settings on a course-by-course basis.

Some faculty may want to students to be able to create their own groups, so a blanket disabling may not be the best solution, especially for courses already in progress. You may want to make that part of the course creation process, updating the course settings as soon as the course is created, or you may want to go back through closed courses that are still available for copying and change the setting (this may lose historical records of whether the group switching was an option).

Ultimately, education of the course designer (faculty, instructional designer, whomever) is the best  long-term plan. Then they can get the settings correct in their courses and that will be copied over when they copy courses.

There are other options that may help reduce the group-swapping. You can assign a group leader who can control group membership. Emphasize that it is important for them to not allow students to enter their group. Another way is to make sure that all of the groups are filled and that there is a maximum limit on the size of each group. That way a student could not join a group that was already filled unless someone leaves. There are issues with this approach (groups that aren't maxed out and someone could swap, get the info, and swap back before anyone noticed).

Here are a couple of resources in the Canvas Instructor Guide that can provide additional information.

The group membership object contains when someone joined a group and when the membership was last updated. If a membership record was created on November 1 but last updated on November 14, then you know something funky happened in-between those two times. You don't know what else happened with any certainty as the student could have popped around to two or three different groups just to come back.

If you want tracking of group changes, then you will want to look at Canvas Live Events and the Groups event. You can get an event notification sent whenever a group membership is created (initial join) and when a group membership is updated (changed). Those are real-time notifications, but if Canvas is overloaded or there are network issues, they may not get delivered. That likely won't be an issue here -- a few might slip by, but it would provide evidence that they group-hopped. I'm pretty happy with the information we collect and the cost is pretty cheap (we're a small institution collecting information on anytime an asset is accessed and it costs me less than $2 a month in AWS charges).