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Changes Coming to Canvas Feature Options (Part 1)

Community Team
Community Team
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Way back in 2014—which in Canvas time feels like an eon ago—product and engineering devised the idea of a feature option, which was a way to help each Canvas admin manage larger features that may disrupt the workflow if included as part of a regular release cycle. In the Account Settings and Course Settings pages, this new concept was given its own tab where most included features could be managed at any time. Depending on functionality, features may be able to be allowed or turned on at the account, sub-account, course, and user levels. 


Our Canvas Guides account-level feature options lesson conveys that most feature options will be optional for a short period of time. But most of you are probably thinking, what does a short period of time actually mean? Originally we noted that it would be within a few releases, based on user feedback—but clearly, if you’ve been following the feature option changes within said account-level lesson, some of these feature options have been around since 2015. 


With the recent changes in the Canvas release process, it’s time to reset expectations about the mysteries of feature options. 


Feature Flag vs Feature Option

The term feature flag is a term used by our engineers to indicate functionality that will be hidden until a later date. The functionality of feature flags allows our engineers to keep new and updated features out of sight until our product teams are ready to unveil their work as part of our new release process.


Feature flags are always enabled as part of releases. Since any change that affects user workflows is designed behind a feature flag, the majority of feature flags in a release contain small changes enabled in Canvas by default.


Feature options are feature flags that may change the workflow for common activities in Canvas during an institution's current term and allows Canvas admins to enable the feature based on their preferred timeline. These features are determined by our product team as being optional for a specific period of time, such as the case with the New Gradebook or New Quizzes. However, all feature options will eventually be enabled for all accounts (compared to a setting, which can be enabled by individual institutions on an account- or course- basis).


Resetting Feature Option Expectations

To help set better expectations, we’ll be making several changes to help Canvas admins know which feature options are truly optional and which will not be.


If you’re a Canvas admin, you’ll start to notice the number of feature options start to decline in Account Settings and Course Settings because of three factors:

  1. We’re removing any feature options that have already been enforced so they’re no longer listed in the settings pages.
  2. We’re announcing feature option enforcements that are long overdue, and then they’ll eventually be removed from the settings pages. 
  3. We’re transitioning feature options that will never be enforced and moving them to an account setting, course setting, and/or user setting.


Let’s discuss each of these factors in detail.


1. Removing Previously Enforced Feature Options

Any feature option that displays as On has been previously enforced in Canvas. These options will be removed from the page so you do not have to wonder what they are and why you cannot change them. 


2. Announcing Overdue Feature Option Enforcements 

Beginning January 2020, the following features will be enabled for all Canvas accounts:

  • Enable Dashboard Images for Courses (Course)
  • Rubric Criterion Range (Account)
  • Student Context Card (Account)


Read about the details of these features in the Upcoming Canvas Changes page.


Some remaining feature options will be enforced at a later date, but they’re mostly options that are used with LTI or SIS tools and need to be enabled by a Customer Success Manager. Those types of feature options still display in the Feature Options page when enabled, but we want to change the configuration of those features so a separate feature option does not have to be turned on for an LTI tool to work correctly. We want users to be able to install tools without requiring this extra assistance from a Customer Success Manager. These enforcements will be outlined with their changes in an upcoming release.


3. Transitioning Never-to-Be Enforced Feature Options

As our engineering teams are able, a significant number of features will begin to transition from the feature options page to account, course, or user settings. These feature options have been determined by our product team to never be enforced. 


For reference, the following features will always be optional and will eventually be moved to the following locations:

  • Account-level feature options moving to Account Settings: 
    • K12 Specific features
    • New User Tutorial
    • Public Course Index
    • Anonymous Instructor Annotations
    • Wrap event titles in calendar month view
    • Encrypted Sourcedids for Basic Outcomes
    • Content Security Policy
    • Require Usage Rights for Uploaded Files (can be enabled at the course level)
    • Learning Mastery Gradebook (can be enabled at the course level)
    • Student Learning Mastery Gradebook (can be enabled at the course level)
  • Course-level feature options moving to Course Settings:
    • Moderated Grading
    • Anonymous Grading
    • Final Grade Override
    • MasteryPaths
    • Course Set-up Tutorial
    • ePub Exporting
    • Learning Mastery Gradebook
    • Quiz Log Auditing
    • Student Learning Mastery Gradebook
  • User-level feature options moving to User Settings:
    • High Contrast UI
    • Underline Links
    • Include Byte-Order Mark in compatible spreadsheet exports
    • Use semicolons to separate fields in compatible spreadsheet exports
    • Autodetect field separators in compatible spreadsheet exports


Actual changes will be announced in the release notes as they take place, and changes may take place over several months.



Stay tuned for more updates related to feature options coming soon!

Community Contributor

Thanks for the update erinhallmark‌.

While you’re looking at making changes to the features page, is it possible we can have an [Update Features] button, like on the settings page? 

The fact you can change a feature settings with no confirmation, does allow for the occasional accidental change occurring. I know of it happening at least once at our institution.

Community Team
Community Team

Hi, Mark,

The functionality will be different, so although there won't be a confirmation, changing the feature option accidentally will be a bit harder. Smiley Happy


Community Champion

Bravo!  Cleaning up the back yard is just as important as the front.