Publishing Courses in Canvas

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One big difference between Canvas and Blackboard is that instructors must publish their Canvas courses before students will be able to access them. In Blackboard, courses would become automatically available at the start of the semester, but in Canvas it is up to individual instructors to determine when their courses are ready for students to review the content. Don’t forget to publish your Fall courses in Canvas by the start of the semester on August 25!

The post below reviews the three types of publishing in Canvas:

  • Course publishing
  • Module publishing
  • Item publishing

You can learn more about Canvas by exploring the Faculty Guide to Canvas, attending a Canvas workshop, or contacting an Instructional Designer to discuss the best way to transfer your content from Blackboard to Canvas.


Course Publishing

By default, all courses are unpublished, making them unavailable to students. This gives you the opportunity to develop your course before making it available for students to view. You must publish your course before students will be able access your course content.

The course home screen prominently displays the course status in the right sidebar. Courses can be published and unpublished using the Publish button that is shown below. Once an instructor has graded any student work, the course can no longer be unpublished and the course status buttons will disappear.

Note that you cannot send messages to your class through Canvas until your course is published.

Screenshot of the publish and unpublish buttons for courses in Canvas

Module Publishing

In addition to publishing your course, you must also publish any modules that you want to be available to students.

To publish a module, click on the Modules link on the course menu. Then, click on the gray cloud parallel to the module’s name. Once it turns green, that module is published. Publishing the module will also publish all of the items in that module, though you can choose to unpublish specific items.

You can unpublish modules by clicking on the green cloud and verifying that it has turned back to gray.

Screenshot of the modules area in a Canvas course, showing a published module and an unpublished module

If you have chosen to lock a module until a given date, you must publish the module when setting this up. This will enable that module to automatically open up on the date that you set.

Item Publishing

You can publish and unpublish items in your modules like content pages, assignments, and external links. Click on the cloud parallel to the item’s name to publish or unpublish it.

Assignments, quizzes, and discussions must be published before students can submit their work. If any of these tools have points allocated to them, you will see a grading column for this assignment in your Grades area only after it has been published.

If you have chosen to limit the availability of an assignment, you must first publish the assignment in order for the assignment to automatically unlock and lock for students on the dates you have set. The dates will not apply to unpublished assignments.

Shows the section of the assignment setup area that allows instructors to set availability dates

You cannot unpublish files that have been added to modules. Instead, you must use the Files area on your course menu to manage the availability of your files. You can lock any files that should not be available to students. Visit How do I lock files and folders in Canvas? to learn more about managing your files.

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