Contributors:Misty Hamideh

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Canvas has several ways to communicate with your students. Here are two of them:

  • Announcements are course-wide.
  • Inbox messages may be private between an instructor and a student or group of students, or a message between students.


You can use Announcements to give students news, updates, and reminders. Students receive email copies of your announcements in their campus email. This is based on their notification preferences; by default, they receive the message immediately — but they can opt for less frequent notifications.

From the Canvas Tutorial Video Series for instructors

Note: A default Canvas course is set to show the latest announcement at the top of the page. You can set how many announcements to display, but we recommend just one to make sure students notice the most important and current information.

The primary use of an announcement is for news and reminders:

    • Notify students of class cancellation, if a class location has moved, if you will be out of town or delayed in providing feedback on an assignment, etc.
    • Remind students of upcoming due dates.
    • Notify students of campus events or news items of interest or relevance.

You can also use announcements to engage students at the beginning of each unit (week). Doing this consistently helps participants stay connected and recognize that you are a human with a personality (and not just a computer). It helps define your “presence” in an online course.

When writing an announcement, use the “inverted pyramid” model from journalistic writing. Open with the most important facts or information and then progress through less important details. Most people will read only the first sentence or two unless they perceive a need to keep going.

Guiding announcements generally include two or more of the following:

    • Introduction to the main idea for the week — short, one sentence, to motivate and encourage engagement in the topic of the week.
    • Any scheduling information such as days the teacher will not be available, a changed due date, holiday, etc.
    • Summary response to previous week’s discussion (or assignment submission). Provide positive feedback; whenever possible, mention student names and take quotes directly from their postings. This should be only a paragraph highlighting just one or two exceptional comments. (This recognizes and motivates, as well as demonstrating that you actually read the discussions.)
    • By default, students receive an immediate email copy of a course announcement. However, faculty do not automatically receive copies of announcements they have created. If you want email copies of your own announcements (e.g., as reassurance that the announcement went out), edit your notification preferences.
    • You can schedule Announcements in advance or post them immediately. Delaying release — even by a little — gives you time to proofread (and revise if needed) before students receive it.
    • If multiple sections are loaded to your Canvas site, you can post an announcement to just selected sections if necessary.
    • Announcements are also available in Canvas Groups. You can post an announcement to just one group, and group members can post announcements to each other.
    • When you copy an entire Canvas site from one semester to the next, the announcements are included. You will need to go through them and delete any that are no longer needed or edit the release date for those you wish to reuse. Be sure to also edit out any information that was only relevant to the previous class!
    • You can use the Rich Content Editor and Content Selector when you create an announcement. Use these to format the text of your posts or to link to the items you reference; for example, if you are reminding students that an assignment is due, you can link to that assignment.

The Inbox

The Inbox allows Canvas users to send messages to one another within Canvas.

Both faculty and students can configure their notification settings to receive Canvas Inbox messages at the email address of their choice. You can also choose how often to receive these notifications.

Use the Inbox to:

  • Send information or updates to an individual student, a section, or a group.
  • Record a media comment (audio or video) to send to an individual student, section, or group.
  • Send file attachments to an individual student, a section, or a group.
  • Use the “Message Students Who…” feature in the Gradebook to contact students who have not submitted an assessment, who scored less than a given grade, or who scored more than a given grade.

Adapted from “Communicating in Canvas” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.