Communication in Canvas


Students in online courses rely on electronic communication from their instructor for a variety of reasons: for answers to questions about the course structure and content, to receive feedback on assignments/assessments, for updates to the course, and for motivation. 

Because students won’t be seeing you to ask questions in person, and they often can’t proceed with the content until their question is answered, it’s important to respond promptly to student questions.

Canvas has multiple options for communicating with your students, and you should be familiar with all of them. You will want to know how to use the Canvas inbox, the “Announcements” tool, the Speedgrader, and the “Message Students who…” feature in the gradebook.

Canvas Inbox

The Canvas inbox External Link Icon is similar to a regular email inbox and allows you to communicate with individual students External Link Icon or send a message to the whole class External Link Icon . Make sure and set your notification preferences External Link Icon to receive a notification ASAP to your regular email account when you receive a Canvas inbox message so that you can respond promptly to student questions. We recommend having a communication policy that states you will respond to student questions within 24 hours Monday-Friday. 

Canvas Announcements

Canvas Announcements External Link Icon make it easy to communicate important information to all of your students in one place. We encourage instructors to post weekly announcements to touch base with students and to help maintain regular communication. Consider recording a video and embedding it in your announcement to help students connect with you.

Canvas SpeedGrader

Feedback is a vital part of the online instructor’s role in the virtual classroom. Through timely, personal, encouraging, specific feedback, you have a unique opportunity to positively influence students and connect virtually in the online environment.

The Canvas Speedgrader External Link Icon is a great way to leave feedback for your students. You can leave general comments External Link Icon about the submission, write annotated feedback External Link Icon directly on student submissions, evaluate student work using a pre-built rubric External Link Icon , and enter a score External Link Icon that pushes right into the gradebook. Students receive a notification once a score has been entered. If you’d like to do all of the grading on an assignment before students receive a notification, you can adjust the grade posting policy for the assignment External Link Icon before you begin your grading.

Message Students Who…

Canvas makes it easy to send targeted messages to specific groups of students External Link Icon , which is a huge time-saver in a large course and increases your ability to connect with students on an individual level. From a gradebook column dropdown menu, click the button to “Message Students Who”. You can then choose to send a message to students who haven’t submitted or who scored above or below a certain threshold. The messages go out as a blind carbon copy, so students aren’t aware of who else was included in the message. This is a great way of connecting with your students and showing that you care about how they are doing without having to write lots of individual messages. Try sending messages to students who exceeded your expectations in addition to students who seem to be struggling

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