Canvas Group Space: Preparing Students to Use Group Work Space

This information was gathered during a Canvas Investigation meeting attended by academic technologists held in March 2019.


Instructors know that group work develops skills students need and reduces the number of assignments to be graded, but implementing effective and meaningful group work takes forethought and preparation. Students need help becoming accustomed to working in groups, and they need clear instructions for how to use the group-work tools that Canvas provides. This document describes how to prepare students to use Canvas Group Workspace.

Introduce Group Workspace to Students

Canvas Group Workspace can be used as both an organizational framework and as a collaborative space. To encourage students to think of themselves as part of a group, direct them the group space whenever you want them to work together.

To help keep students engaged in their groups in Group Work Space, you should:

  • Provide instructions for students for accessing and using group space. Demonstrating it during class and providing links to instructions are good ways to show how it is used. (Group Creation and Interaction for Students (Video))
  • Create a low-stakes group assignment for practice before the larger projects are assigned.
  • Create something in each group's workspace before they first enter it, like a discussion.  The blank workspace can be confusing for students.

Encourage students to spend time in the group workspace working together

The key here is that you need to adapt how you build group work and the instructions you have for any assignments in which you have groups working together. 

  • Create group-specific discussions from within in each group workspace instead of in the main class.
  • In the directions provide a direct link to each group's workspace or to a discussion in each group's workspace. 
  • Direct students to go to the group space to work together, even if they turn in individual products.
  • In the group space discussions, link  back to the assignments.
  • Send announcements to each group through their group space.
  • Encourage students to create their own pages, documents, and discussions in their group workspace.
  • Encourage students to use announcements like a log to inform their group of the work they've done in the group space.

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