Canvas Vocabulary and Basics


What are some of the common Canvas terms. 


Course Availability

Courses are considered available during the period after their start date and before their end date. An instructor can change the start and end date anytime during the 13 months after the course is created originally. A course should be available anytime a student may need to interact with the course.

Start / End Date

An instructor can set a start and an end date for their courses by going into the Settings menu and then selecting Course Details. If an instructor publishes a course before setting the start date, a start date will be added that matches the publish time. If an instructor sets a start time before publishing a course, the original start time will be kept in place. The start date can be changed at any time and will prevent students from accessing the course until that date, even if students have already accessed the course. An end date is only added when an instructor chooses to add one and is important to add to prevent students from working after a course ends.


All content created in Canvas is considered unpublished until the instructor actually publishes it. At the course level, the entire course needs to be published before any student can see content. This can be done either on the home page that loads when an instructor loads the course or in the Settings > Course Details menu. If a course is already published, the Course Details screen will have a green line of text that says Course is Published. Individual content needs to be published before students will have access. 

Course Shell and Section

The difference between these two things can be confusing. A course shell is the page in Canvas that shows up when a student or instructor selects the link that is in their list of courses. Course Shells contain all of the content designed, uploaded, or created within a shell. A section is the list of students that have been added to a course. Sections can be seen by going to Settings and then selecting the Sections tab within any Course Shell. The main time the difference matters is when a course is cross-listed.

Concluded Course

An instructor can choose to conclude their course at any time in the settings menu. This will archive the course and prevent any content in the course from being changed. This includes the enrollment of both students and instructors. No one can be added to a course once it has been concluded. 

Closed Course

A year and a day after the last day a course was taught it is automatically moved to a closed state. Closed and Concluded courses are basically the same. Closed courses are archived and no content can be changed or added. No users can be added to the course. Closed courses cannot be re-opened.

Admin Side Course Search Information

When you search for a course within the Canvas Admin tools, you will see a variety of terms and numbers. Below is a list of the terms you may see.

  • Course Name 
  • Term code (the year without the second character and a 2/5/8 for spring/summer/fall)
  • Department Teaching Course
  • Catalog Course for the class
  • Number of class
  • Course Section
  • LEC (Type of section. Generally this is LEC/Lecture RES/Resortation, LAB)
  • 5 digit administrative code
  • Semester 
  • Number of Students 
  • Instructor

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Article ID: 110433
Thu 6/18/20 4:41 PM
Fri 5/21/21 4:24 PM