Adding Students to Canvas Course Sites


There are two ways that students are added to a Canvas course site today: (1) automatically, based on the student’s class registration in Peoplesoft, or (2) manually by the instructor or other Canvas administrator.

New process beginning August 15, 2018

Starting August 15, 2018, instructors will no longer be able to manually enroll or directly add students into Canvas course sites.  Based on a review of the data in Moodle, University policies, legal requirements, and regulations that the University must follow, there will be different business processes outlined in the table below.

The automatic enrollment from PeopleSoft will continue, but with improved functionality. The registration information from PeopleSoft is updated in Canvas roughly every ten minutes, minimizing delay between systems.

Please note, the process for adding instructors and teaching assistants is not changing at this time. We encourage you to work with your department scheduler to update course information in PeopleSoft as appropriate. Instructor roles such as 'Teaching Assistant' can still be directly added in Canvas.


Why change?

Keeping enrollments the same in both Canvas and PeopleSoft is important for several reasons. Without corresponding PeopleSoft registration, we put the University and students at risk. These risks include:

Inaccurate data: Official PeopleSoft registration is required for accuracy of the University transcript, charging tuition, and awarding appropriate financial aid. It also enforces registration holds due to student conduct code violations, non-payment, Title IX violations, and more. If a student is not officially registered in a class they are more likely to submit petitions for “missing” credit.

Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) violations: If students are not in the PeopleSoft version of the class together, they are not considered “classmates” under the law. This means they are not allowed to see each other’s enrollment information, discussion posts, or other private data. See FERPA resourses for more information

Higher Learning Commision (HLC) violations: The University’s accrediting body prohibits offering a course that is both for academic credit and non-credit. For example, professionals obtaining continuing education should not be added to courses offered for academic credit.


New enrollment procedures and Canvas alternatives

In order to help prevent the risks associated with manual student enrollment, there are new options available. Below are common scenarios in which manual enrollment was occurring in Moodle and their recommended alternative in Canvas.

Questions about this process can be directed to your unit/college contact or [email protected] 

Enrollment Need


More Information

Test what a student will see.

The “Student View” in Canvas will allow an instructor to see the appearance of many parts of their course site including quizzes.

Discussion sections look the same for students and instructors.

To test LTI integrations, a test student may need to be added to the course.

Adding test students
Share course materials with a student for review.

If a student needs to see course content and discussions, but doesn’t need other access, the “observer” role in Canvas will work.

Alternatively, instructors may want to work with their department to share materials another way. A separate Canvas resource site can be created, or other options like a Google Site may work.

Enrolling observers

Learn about Canvas role types

Share materials with other instructors or future teaching assistants.There are multiple ways to share course materials, including the “observer” role in Canvas. Instructors may want to work with their department to share materials another way.

Canvas commons allows content to be shared with specific groups. A separate Canvas resource site can be created, or other options like a Google Site may work.

Enrolling observers

Learn about Canvas role types

Request a non-credit Canvas course site (coming May 1, 2018).


Allow a student registered in a different term or section to see the course materials and/or participate in the course.

Or, allow a student with a schedule conflict to see the course materials and/or participate in the course.

Ask that the student update their registration to the correct term and section of the course; their Canvas enrollment will then be updated.

Sometimes, students have been added to a Canvas course from a directed study because they have a schedule conflict with the “regular” course. It is possible to override the schedule conflict in PeopleSoft so the student can register as desired.

Sections can be combined and cross-listed if needed.


Contact your department course scheduler for more information about course set up options.

Contact student services or advising about student registration.

Help a student who needs to finish an incomplete.

First, check to see whether an incomplete is appropriate according to the Grading & Transcripts policy.

Have the student finish the work in the course site that corresponds to their registration if possible.

Manual Enrollment of Students for Resolution of Incompletes
Share information between students taking a course for credit, and taking a non-credit course.

Due to Higher Learning Commission (HLC) requirements, these types of students can’t be in the same course site.

Create a separate non-credit course site and upload the course to Canvas Commons as a way to keep the content in sync.

Request a non-credit Canvas course site (coming May 1, 2018).

Share content with a Teaching Assistant (TA).

If the TA is added to PeopleSoft, they will automatically be added to the course site as a TA.

If that is not possible, or that role is too broad, learn about other Canvas role types, or consult with [email protected] for assistance.

Enrolling observers

Add students from another institution who are taking a course as “visiting students”

First, make sure the appropriate agreements are in place and the course is set up correctly in PeopleSoft.

Students from another institution should register in PeopleSoft for the course as a non-degree student at UMN.

Add a student to a course site so they can see it before the course starts.

Or, add a student who can’t register yet.

Or, add a student who is observing the course.

Students can register for courses several months in advance. Once they are registered and the auto-generated course site exists, the students are in the course. The course needs to be opened for students to see it in Canvas.

  • If the course actually starts at a different time, consult with your department scheduler to set up the course differently.

If the student can’t register because of a “hold,” direct them to work with their advisor and/or One Stop to resolve the hold and register. Once they register, Canvas will be updated automatically.

If a student is observing the course, but won’t be taking it for a grade, the student should still be registered as an “auditor” in PeopleSoft. The student will then be added in Canvas.


Additional Resources