Managing Announcements and Notifications

As the fall semester begins, IT staff members have received a number of inquiries related to notifications and sending announcements to students, especially with the growing number of instructors opting to use Canvas instead of Sakai. Below are some options and “gotchas” regarding notifications in UD-supported technologies, including Canvas, Sakai, and P.O. Box.

I. Verify student access

The first thing you need to consider is whether students have access to the course site you want to use (hosted in one of our learning management systems–Sakai or Canvas). Enrolled students do not get loaded in course sites until  2 weeks prior to the official start of the semester.

In Sakai, check Site Info in your course site to see if your students show up in the list of participants. In Canvas, check People instead.

Also, your course site will need to be published to students for them to be notified of anything changing there.

If you need to contact your students before the rosters are loaded or before you publish your site, use P.O. Box. Only students officially registered at the time of the P.O. Box announcement will get an email, but communications initiated through P.O. Box are archived for students to view later if necessary. If your main goal is to push announcements by email all semester, P.O. Box might be the only tool you need for that purpose.

II. From the Sakai LMS

From Sakai, the way to push an email notification to students is to set the option called Email notification to High priority. This option is available under many tools, but the one most instructors use for this purpose is simply called Announcements.

Setting an announcement to High priority will generate an email to the address associated with the account (generally the students’ addresses, except for Sakai guest accounts).

III. From the Canvas LMS

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Canvas doesn’t have a way to push an email to students. Every user in Canvas is in charge of their own notification preferences (as a subscription model).

The good news is that the notification setting for updates coming from the Announcements tool is set to ASAP by default for all users. So, as long as students did not change their settings, they will get an email to their address when you create an announcement in your published Canvas course site. But if a student has changed that setting, he or she will not receive an announcement ASAP.

In Canvas, in personal Notification Preferences, set Announcement to ASAP.

As an instructor, you can address this in two ways:

1) By setting expectations for announcements

Make sure your students understand the way you will communicate with them, and which settings will allow for that communication channel to remain open. You could, for instance, use a sentence such as this one in your syllabus:

Course announcements

Throughout this course, I will publish frequent (mostly weekly) updates about the course and will use the same channel for emergencies (such as cancelling class). You are responsible for receiving and reading these notifications. I will use the Announcements tool in our Canvas course site to publish the updates. To be notified by email (or another channel of your choice) as soon as an announcement is published, make sure your personal notification settings are set to ASAP under Course Activities > Announcement, as described in this Canvas guide.

2) By using P.O. Box

If you want to be absolutely sure enrolled students will get an email, P.O. Box will do that for you.

If you have any question or comment regarding Sakai, Canvas, or P.O. Box, contact the IT Support Center (submit a request, mail, or call [302] 831-6000).


Guest management issue: Microsoft Email Accounts (Hotmail, Live, MSN, prevent invitations from being delivered

As staff and faculty use the Sakai and Canvas Guest Accounts services, we have noticed that when they invite guests who use Microsoft-hosted email account domains, such as: or any country-specific ones, such as, or … the original invitation is not delivered properly, preventing the guest from completing the […] more >

The App Center

The Canvas@UD App Center is the place to go when you want to add third-party content or tools to a Canvas course site. What is third-party content? It is anything that is hosted or provided by someone other than the University of Delaware or Instructure (Canvas). For example, if you embed a Google map into […] more >


Understanding the Canvas grades, part 3: Extra credit

Now that we have covered how the grades are calculated (part 1) and how to enable the grading scheme (part 2), let’s explore how to assign extra credit in Canvas. Extra credit assignments in Canvas Coming back to the scenario we looked at in part 1, let’s assume we want to add a fifth optional […] more >


Understanding the Canvas grades, part 2: Enabling letter grades

In part 1, we covered how Canvas calculates the Total column. This post discusses how those grades can be turned into letter grades automatically. Enabling the course grading scheme To prevent confusion and unpleasant surprises, the letter grading scheme is turned off by default. You can turn it on in the course Settings, under the […] more >

Understanding the Canvas grades, part 1: Current grade vs Final grade

Some instructors have contacted our team recently about the Grades tool in Canvas, expressing some concerns over its features and calculation process. In order to clarify the process and share some tips, we are posting this three-part series on the Canvas gradebook.

The Total column doesn’t seem right…

Consider the following scenario: A course has four assignments, each one graded on 100 points and worth 25% of the final grade. After having graded the first assignment, the Grades tool looks like this:

By default, the Grades tool only displays the total for graded assignments, which can be misleading. You can change how the Total column calculates the grade by going to the gear icon and choosing Treat Ungraded as 0s.

Choosing this option will reset the Total column to include all the assignments in the calculation, not only the ones that are already graded. In this scenario, the first student’s Total dropped from 100% to 25%.

Be careful when analyzing your students’ grades because if you leave the setting at the default view, you might be missing students who have not turned in an assignment. Look at the first student’s total in the following screenshot, for instance. Even though she’s the only student who has not turned in assignment 2, she still has the highest grade according to the Total column.

Changing the setting to Treat Ungraded as 0s again gives a clearer picture of what’s happening. The other students have made more progress in completing the course.

In the same gear icon menu, you can download all the grades to your computer as a .csv file.

You will notice that the .cvs file, when opened in Excel, will show two score columns. The first one (Current Score) is the same as the default view. The second one (Final Score) is the same as the Treat Ungraded as 0s score.

Before turning in your grades to UDSIS, double-check to make sure you are submitting the grade that fits your grading scheme.

In part 2, we will explain how to enable the calculation of letter grades in Canvas.

Request your Spring 2014 Canvas course site!

Faculty can submit requests for spring 2014 Canvas courses. Currently, we are creating the courses manually but plan to have an automated system in place in the future so instructors can set up their own Canvas courses. Please allow two to three business days for our staff to set up your course. To learn more, visit the Canvas@UD page.

Please contact the IT Support Center (submit a request, mail, or call 831-6000) if you’d like:

  • a demonstration of the Canvas Learning Management System,
  • help preparing your Canvas course,
  • assistance deciding which online tools can serve your needs the best.

Sakai and Canvas Guest Accounts Web form released!

Photo credit: Bezajel on FlickrInformation Technologies is happy to announce the launch of a Web form called Sakai  and Canvas Guest Accounts. It is intended for faculty and staff to create and manage guest access to UD’s learning management systems. In addition to conforming to our integrated guest account service (which also includes the Parent/Guardian accounts), it will allow for guests to set their own display names, passwords, and security questions required for password reset requests.

Guest accounts can be provided to external contributors (such as fellow researchers, guest speakers, non-matriculated students, etc.) or for personal course-related use (creating a guest account for yourself to see your course as a student). Any email address can be used to create a guest account.

This new process replaces the Sakai Guest Management System (SGMS), which was used to create more than 4,000 guest accounts since 2008. All active guest accounts created using the legacy SGMS have been ported to the new system, using the same username and password as before (if you are the sponsor of one or more of those guest accounts and want your guests to choose a new password, use the Reset password option in the management interface).

Documentation for the Sakai and Canvas Guest Accounts Web form is located at

If you have questions about this process, contact the IT Support Center (submit a request, email, or call 831-6000).

Request your course sites for winter 2014

Faculty can submit requests for winter 2014 Canvas courses.  Currently, we are creating the courses manually but plan to have an automated system in place in the future so instructors can set up their own Canvas courses. To learn more, visit the Canvas@UD page.

Please contact the IT Support Center (submit a request, mail, or call 831-6000) if you’d like:

  • a demonstration of the Canvas Learning Management System,
  • help preparing your Canvas course,
  • assistance deciding which online tools can serve your needs the best.

Additional prompt for Chrome users in Conferences

Here is a note from the BigBlueButton team that was distributed to the Canvas administrators. If you’re using the Conferences tool in Canvas, it might apply to you.

Last week, when Google updated the Chrome browser to version 27, they added a prompt for permission to access the user’s webcam and microphone.

Canvas users will see the prompt appear just below the address line (see screen shot below).


This prompt is in addition to the Flash Security Manager which prompts for access to the webcam and microphone (shown below).

Flash setting to allow webcama dn microphone.

Google indicates that they added their own prompt to Chrome for greater security.

Bottom line: You now need to accept two prompts to grant BigBlueButton access to your webcam and microphone.

Next Page »