Canvas Learning Management Systems Practices and Procedures

Canvas Learning Management Systems Practices and Procedures

Table of Contents

Canvas is the enterprise learning management system (LMS) at Iowa State University.

The following practices and procedures were developed by the Learning Management System Enterprise Team and reflect existing practices approved by the Teaching Technology Advisory Committee (TTAC), the Learning Technology Change Advisory Board, and the Technology Supporting Online Academic Programs Audit (Report to the Board of Regents Dated: April 14, 2021).

Canvas is centrally supported through Informational Technology Services (ITS) and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT).  

Section 1: Teaching & Learning Functionality User Accounts

User accounts are considered any account created and listed in the learning management system (LMS), making the account available for course, institution, or system use as governed by roles assigned to the account.

All members of the Iowa State University community with an IASTATE NetID and password have a user account within the LMS. This includes faculty, students, and administrative and academic staff. An affiliate user account can be created by a member of the Iowa State University community in order to give course access to a user outside the Iowa State University community.

Course-Level Role

This section is intended to clarify the Canvas roles and their use. Each role has a specific function within a course but does not affect any information within the LMS. Canvas user role permissions allow users to access certain features and perform certain functions within a Canvas course. A user’s permissions within the course are determined by the role the user is assigned.

Course-Level Role Permissions (as of this April 12, 2021, updated periodically)

TADesignerGuest LecturerPeer ReviewerObserverStudent
Analytics – viewXX    X
Announcements – view*XXXXXXX
Assignments – add, edit, deleteXXX    
Calendar – add, edit, deleteXXX    
Course Content – add, edit, deleteXXX    
Discussions – createXXXX  X
Discussions – moderateXXX    
Discussions – viewXXXXXXX
Email – send to entire classXXXX   
Email – send to IndividualsXXXX  X
Grades – edit, viewXX     
Grades – select final gradeX      
Groups – add, edit, delete, viewXXX    
Pages – add, edit, deleteXXX    
Question Banks – view and linkXX     
Quizzes – add, edit, deleteXXX    
Rubrics – add, edit, deleteXXX    
Student Collaborations – createXXXX  X
Users – add/remove students       
Users – add/remove TAs, designersX X    
Users – view listXXX   X
* = Review policies section for information on Global Announcements requests

Course Enrollment Requests

Iowa State University is committed to protecting the privacy of student education records as outlined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). To support FERPA compliance and the protection of student information privacy, enrollment in Canvas course sites is strictly regulated. Below are the guidelines associated with Canvas course enrollments.

Any non-student user can request a Canvas course using Global Course Administration within Canvas. Upon course creation, the creator is made a Co-Teacher in a Canvas Only section within that course with full access to the Canvas Course. Department Administrators request Instructor of Record access for each Registrar section, which allows an instructor to use Prepare to Teach to add Registrar sections to their Canvas course.  Once the Instructor of Record has added the Registrar section to their Canvas course they will gain the Teacher role in those sections.

Course Access

If an individual is not the instructor of record for a course, they must either (a) request access from the instructor of record for the course or (b) request access from someone with a higher level of access to that course, i.e., a dean, associate dean, or director.

When giving access to your course, it is important to select the appropriate level of access in order to protect students’ privacy rights. For example, course guests who do not need access to student grades, choose from the more restricted role of Teaching Assistant. If you only want to share course content with another instructor, choose the Course Designer role. Refer to the Course-Level Role Permissions table above to determine which level of access is appropriate.

Teaching Assistant (TA) Required Training

If your TA is a student, they must have completed FERPA training prior to gaining access to the course. At Iowa State University, FERPA training is available through Learn@ISU system.

Enrollment of Additional Faculty or Administrative Personnel

The Instructor of Record has the ability to add additional users to the course.  If an instructor needs access to a course and the course Instructor of Record is no longer at the university, they will need the written permission of their Dean, Associate dean, or Director to gain access.

Course, Institution, or System Role Requests

If a Canvas user requires a role that is currently unavailable or would better fit their needs, a request can be made to CELT for a new course, institution or system role.  The Learning Management System Enterprise team will review if the request is possible.

Any Canvas user whose primary interaction with the system is in a student, guest, or observer capacity is not permitted to request roles.

Course Copy

A Canvas course site (and its content) from a previous semester can be copied by the instructor of record, who is assumed to be the creator and owner of the site and its content.

In the event the instructor of record is unavailable, a written request for a course copy may be submitted by the dean, associate dean, or director of the college/department.


All content created and used in the LMS are subject to all rules and policies set forth in the university’s Copyright Policy (see Faculty Handbook, 8.2.3, and

Section 2: System Administration Third-party Tools and Functionality Policy

Many vendors produce tools, commonly referred to as “apps,” which link their materials into an LMS. Apps can provide both faculty and students with supplemental information or functionality to complete coursework. See the Instructional Tools page for information on current third-party tools and to Request a Software Review for installation of an app or “plug-in.”

Course Content Availability

After the course has ended, the course instructor has the discretion to determine student availability as set in the course site’s options. Faculty may use the term settings for consistent university-wide dates or set the course/section availability as they choose.

Section 3: Canvas Policies

The Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) can be used only for the following purposes:

  • To deliver instructional content for Iowa State University courses
  • To support course content development for a future course
  • To share program or degree resources for students enrolled in an official program or degree
  • To provide a platform for Iowa State University entities (e.g., academic departments, divisions, offices, centers, registered student organizations, etc.) to use for their work, services, or content delivery.

Update Approval Process

The CELT Instructional Designer team meets regularly to review Canvas updates and make recommendations regarding the level of approval needed as designated by this Canvas approvals process table.

Most Canvas features are updated following Canvas’ schedule. Feature options are enabled in the early morning during university breaks (e.g., 2 weeks before the start of the Fall semester, 1 week after Spring final grades, and the first working Monday in January).    

Data Retention Policy

At the end of each semester, all Canvas courses will continue to be available to the instructor(s) of record. Any course copy request made by someone other than the Instructor of Record (assumed to be the creator of the content) will require that the appropriate dean, associate dean, or director of the appropriate academic department make a written request.

Examples of data that can be created and/or stored:

  • Authors: teachers, TAs, course designers
  • Participants: students, guests
  • Course content: files, HTML, video, quizzes
  • Student grades
  • Student Communication: Announcements, Inbox
  • Profile information
  • Quiz responses, discussion posts, group work
  • Uploaded files

User profiles are never deleted from Canvas. A user who leaves the university will lose access to Canvas through NetID expiration but will regain access to Canvas upon rejoining the university.

Global Announcement Request Process

Requestors must complete a form with all of the necessary information (i.e. title of the announcement, message, target demographic, dates the announcement should be shared, etc) to the CELT Canvas Administration team upon submission. 

If you are interested in submitting a message for review for Global Announcements on Canvas, please review the request process and the different tiers of submission to see if your message would be considered for Global Announcements.

Intellectual Property Protections for Faculty and Students

Refer to Section and of the Faculty Handbook.

For questions regarding Canvas Terms of Use and ISU Policies on Educational Materials see the Canvas: Terms of Use FAQ.

For information about Observer access in Canvas courses see the Canvas: Observer Role FAQ.