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Canvas Overview for Observers

Canvas Overview for Observers

In this video, you will learn about the Canvas Dashboard and Global Navigation links, and about basic course navigation to view assignment details and grades.

Last Updated 2023-06-02


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Video overviews reflect current feature functionality in Canvas; they are updated based on workflow changes, not on minor or non-functional interface enhancements. Depending on your institution's Canvas theme, the Canvas interface may display differently than shown in this video, but the functionality is the same.

Canvas Overview for Observers Video Script

In this video, you will learn about the Canvas Dashboard and Global Navigation links, and about basic course navigation to view assignment details and grades. 

Card View displays a course card for each of your favorite courses. New courses automatically display on the dashboard. You can manage your favorite courses from the Courses link in Global Navigation. Click Courses and click the All Courses link. Click the Star icon next to any course to mark it as one of your favorite courses. Return to the Dashboard by clicking the Dashboard link.

Each card can include four clickable icons for Assignments, Announcements, Discussions, and Files. To help organize your dashboard, you can manage course card settings by clicking the Options icon. In Course Card Options, you can create a nickname for your course and change the color of the course card. You can also manage the color overlay for all course cards with images. To remove or display color overlays, click the Dashboard Options icon and select the Color Overlay option. The course card color displays behind the card’s Options icon. 

Recent Activity displays a stream of recent notifications from all your student’s courses, including conversations and assignments. You can view the details of each activity by clicking the Show More link. To collapse recent activity, click the Show Less link. You can access an activity by clicking the activity name. To remove a notification, click the Remove icon. The sidebar includes a Coming Up feed and a View Grades button. The Coming Up feed lists upcoming assignments and events within your student’s courses. To quickly access the grades for any of your student’s courses, click the View Grades button. Note that when viewing Canvas with a small screen resolution, any sidebar content aligns with the bottom of the page. 

Canvas displays a Global Navigation menu that gives you direct access to various areas of Canvas. From the Account link, you can modify your user settings, specify your notification preferences, upload personal files, manage ePortfolios, and log out of Canvas. Click the Dashboard link to return to the Canvas Dashboard at any time. Click the Courses link to quickly access your favorite courses and to view a list of all your courses. Click the Calendar link to view your personal calendar and course calendars. Click the Inbox link to view and send conversations within Canvas to instructors. And finally, click the Help link to access help resources for your institution.

Now let’s take a look at the Course interface. Click the Courses link and then click the name of the course you want to visit. Canvas automatically opens courses to the course home page set by the course instructor. The course interface consists of four main components. Course content displays in the Content Area. You can use the Course Navigation links, breadcrumb navigation, or the Sidebar to navigate to different areas of the course. The course home page sidebar includes a Coming Up feed displaying upcoming activity in the course. You can click any assignment name to view the assignment details. Return to the course home page by clicking the Home link or the course name in the breadcrumb navigation. You may be able to view your student’s course grade by clicking the Grades link in Course navigation. The Grades page displays their current course grade and a clickable list of all of the course’s graded assignments and assignment details.

You've now completed this tutorial video on the Canvas Overview for Observers. For additional information on this or any other topic about Canvas, please visit You can also ask questions and engage with other Canvas users by visiting

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