A new version of Canvas is released every three weeks.  Quite often, the new releases include awesome new features, and these are almost always easy to use, if only you knew enough to look for them. Less frequently, Canvas modifies existing features in ways you might not like. Unfortunately, users are more likely to notice changes that impact them negatively.

Instructure works hard to keep the Canvas user interface similar enough from one release to the next that changes won’t be disabling, indeed, most of the time people don’t even notice the changes. That can be both good and bad. Good, because your old work flows will continue to work. Bad, because the familiarity of the interface disguises the fact that great new options have appeared.

Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting feature additions from the last 3 months. Please bear in mind that this list is not even close to comprehensive. Visit the Canvas Community website for more information.

Note – for details and screenshots, follow feature-specific links to the official Canvas Release Notes

Coming Soon – July 18, 2015

  • Differentiated Assignments – Canvas assignments can now target not only course sections and course groups, but individual students.
  • Recurring Events – When creating a new calendar event, users can choose to create multiple copies of the event every day, week, or month.

June 27, 2015 Highlights

  • Excused assignments – an individual can now be excused from any assignment. Simply award a ‘grade’ of EX.
  • Mark as Done – Instructors can assign Mark as Done as a module requirement for course assignments and pages. This change helps students keep track of their progress in Modules. For instance, an instructor may want a student to review a page multiple times before progressing to the next module item, or the requirement can also be used on assignments that are purely for self studying.

June 6, 2015 Highlights

  • Custom Calendar Colors – Canvas allows users to set their own colors for each calendar in their account. Canvas will assign an arbitrary color for each calendar unless a custom color is chosen. Each calendar contains 15 default colors, but users can insert a Hex code to create any color of their choice.
  • Persistent Gradebook Columns – Canvas saves a user’s custom Gradebook preferences and associates them with the user’s profile. This change allows users to rearrange a column in the Gradebook, including the size of the column, and have the changes persist across any computer or browser. This feature only relates to assignment columns in the Gradebook.

May 16, 2015 Highlights

  • Like icon – Instructors can create Discussions and allow students to indicate “liked” discussion replies.

April 25, 2015 Highlights

  • Anonymous Peer Review – Instructors can choose to create peer reviews with anonymous responses. Located in the Peer Review options for assignments and graded discussions, the Anonymity option allows instructors to hide the name of the student reviewer from the student with the submission.

How to keep up

screenshot of the Follow button.

Look for the Follow button to subscribe to any Canvas Community page or category. You must log in to see the follow links.

The very best way to stay informed is to follow the Canvas Release Notes.  In addition to helping you track changes in Canvas, the Community provides a way to ask questions, submit feature requests, and much, much more. You will only need to log in to the Community site if you want to subscribe to or contribute content.  Logging in is easy. If you can access Canvas, you can access the Community.


If following the Release Notes seems like too much of a commitment, simply subscribe to the Faculty Commons newsletter. We have let the Canvas updates go mostly unreported up until now, but no more!

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