The University of San Francisco: Information Technology Services
Information Technology


PDF Version: Link

Effective Date: 01-01-2013

Last Updated: 04-22-2014

Responsible University Officer:
Director, Learning Technologies

Policy Owner:
John Bansavich, Center for Instruction and Technology

Policy Contact:
ITS Help Desk


      This is document is intended to provide the following:

    1. Consistency in decision making related to Canvas, in order to save time for instructors, students, Canvas support staff and Information Technology Services’ Help Desk
    2. Enhance the credibility of the Learning Management System
    3. Reinforce collaboration and stakeholder buy-in
    4. Assist and support Canvas usage
    1. This document is intended to serve as a set of guidelines for decision-making related to the use of the Canvas learning management software licensed to the University of San Francisco.
    2. Included are statements related to Access, Course Management, Information Security, Copyright, and Intellectual Property Rights. These policy statements have been reviewed and approved by the Learning Technologies subcommittee of the UITC, the full University Information Technology Committee (UITC), the Vice President for Information Technology, and the Provost’s Council. For further information or clarification, contact the Center for Instruction & Technology at
    3. This document is intended to reside solely online for ease in usability and access, as well as to ensure the availability of the most current version. Do not rely on printed copies of this document without first verifying their accuracy against subsequent online updates. Changes to these policies and procedures will be indicated by a change in the “Last Updated” date listed at the end of the document.
  3. SCOPE
    1. The policy applies to all USF community members: faculty, students, staff, part-time staff, term staff (under contract employment), affiliates, visitors, etc.
    1. See Scope
    1. Access –Access to the Canvas learning management system, materials, and affiliated online tools will be granted as follows:
      1. Standard User Accounts All current USF students, faculty, and full-time staff have a Canvas account automatically generated for them – using their USF Connect username and password. Even if these individuals are not involved with a course or organization that is currently utilizing Canvas, they may use the tools/features that are course-independent. Canvas is accessible via the Learning Technologies tab inside USF Connect.
      2. Special Accounts -- A limited number of users who are not officially affiliated with USF (guest speakers, lecturers or mentors, for example) may each be provided an account that is Canvas specific, at the request of a “sponsor” (faculty or staff member). These accounts (referred to as “exceptions”) are temporary. Exceptions are assigned only to individuals who are working with USF faculty/staff on officially recognized activities on the Canvas system (i.e., those included under the institution’s license for Canvas). These exceptions will need a USF Affiliate account. This process may take up to 10 business days to complete.
      3. Student Course Enrollment – Students will be automatically enrolled in the Canvas course site for which they are officially registered. The instructor has the ability to set other enrollment options.
      4. Instructors may manually enroll additional USF community members in a course site with the People feature.
        NOTE: Students must be officially registered for a course for instructors to assign an official grade for a course.
      5. Canvas Administrative Access – Canvas administrators may access a course site, without instructor permission or prior notice, to respond to a specific student or instructor problem or concern.
      6. Length of Access to Course Site –All instructional course sites are automatically changed to read-only access for students six weeks after a semester ends. Faculty members have access to their course sites for an undetermined period of time, but for a minimum of two years beyond the end of the course. Faculty may allow students to continue to have write-access to a course site beyond the end of a semester, where extending course access might be necessary for students who are finishing “incompletes” or for the continuation of an online discussion.
      7. Instructor Publishing –All course sites are created as unavailable or unpublished. The instructor of record for a course has the responsibility for making the course available by publishing it for users. Instructors can create a course copy (recycling a prior semester course site) for use in a new course site, unless, in writing, he/she authorizes another USF employee (such as a program administrator or teaching assistant) to carry out such duties. (See below: Course Management.)
    2. Course Management – Canvas is a cloud-based Learning Management System and is managed by Instructure Inc. USF Canvas course sites are administered locally by USF Canvas administrative staff who oversee the day-to-day support and performance of the system.
      1. All courses listed in the USF course schedule will automatically have a Canvas course site for that semester. Instructors are strongly encouraged to attend an orientation workshop or meet with a USF Canvas staff person to become familiar with the Canvas platform. Workshops provide appropriate online pedagogy and use of the Canvas features and design, as well as constructive teaching ideas and instructional development advice for Canvas course sites. New USF instructors are invited and encouraged to attend the New Faculty Tech Bootcamp prior to each semester.
        Reminder: All Canvas courses will be created as “unpublished.” Only the instructor(s) of record and TAs have access to an “unpublished” Canvas course site.
      2. Instructional Courses Kept on the Canvas Server -- Instructional courses (those listed on the USF course schedule) sites remain on the Canvas server for a minimum of two years. After two years, course sites may be removed from Canvas but not without adequate notification to faculty.
        Example: Courses offered in Fall 2013 would be removed from the server Oct. 2015, after the semester has begun.
      3. Portal or “specialty” courses---These are course sites in development that will be used in a future semester for an indefinite period. These will remain on the server at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record for the course.
      4. Course Copies - Courses to be used in a future semester may be “recycled” (copied) for use with another course site. Instructors who would like to copy content from a previous semester’s site into their current course site can do so directly in Canvas using the Canvas Course Copy Tools
      5. Course Size Limitations –The current course size limit is 1 GB. Canvas server administrators will work with instructors whose Canvas site(s) contain extremely large files (video clips, for example) to provide advice and assistance to compress files in order to utilize server space as efficiently as possible.
      6. Course Archives (saving a copy of a course from the Canvas server) - USF does not archive (save) copies of a Canvas course site. Retaining copies of the syllabus, Grade Book and electronic student work is the sole responsibility of the instructor. Instructors may opt to Export a Canvas course and save the output file to a computer for portability. The exported course file can be later imported into a new Canvas course site. [Canvas Administrators may need to help with exceptionally large courses, as browsers often time-out during the archive / export process.] Explicit steps for creating an archive are outlined here
        Note: The Canvas Export file does not contain individual student data such as grades, discussion posts and replies, assignment submissions and emails.
      7. Transferring Course Sites – Instructors may elect to transfer/share their course contents with another faculty member, or give other faculty member access to their course site. Instructors can share content between courses in Canvas through the Copy Course tool or through the import of a Canvas Export file. Administrators will not copy course sites without written permission from the original instructor, program administrator or school dean.
      8. Non-instructional Uses – The Canvas system is maintained primarily for instructional use (i.e., to support courses offered by USF). Non-instructional sites (for example, co-curricular student organizations, program related sites) may be requested and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A University sponsor is required for all non-instructional sites.
      9. Gradebook Information – The Canvas Online Gradebook is a tool designed for the convenience of students and faculty. Thus, it is not an official record of student grades, nor should it be considered a legally binding record of student scores. Instructors are strongly encouraged to periodically export, through a .CSV file, a copy of the Online Gradebook, and to export a final copy for their records after the semester ends.
      10. End of Term and Canvas Course Availability Six weeks after the end of the semester, Canvas Courses will become read-only for Instructors and students; no additional content will be able to be added or removed from these courses. Instructors will still be able to export content from these courses. These End-Dated courses will appear under the Past Enrollments section of the Course list for each student and Instructor.
      11. Course Backup and Recovery – It is strongly recommended that if instructors made significant changes to a course that they Export the course out of Canvas, particularly the Gradebook feature. This can be done with the Export feature in each course and the download feature from the Gradebook. Instructure, the makers of Canvas, can restore a course or course components to a previous state to retrieve deleted material. This is done on a case-by-case basis and there is no guarantee that deleted content can be recovered.
    3. Information Security – The security of the Canvas learning management system is of paramount importance in maintaining a reliable and trusted resource for instructional materials and tools.
      1. Controlling Access to Student Information – As with other university records, faculty are cautioned to take care that student information (including, but not limited to, grades, test scores, usernames, or ID numbers) be closely guarded (See FERPA information at As noted in the Gradebook Information section above, grades should not be posted so that a student sees scores belonging to anyone but the individual student. Granting someone else access to your course as a Teacher or TA will provide privileges that include access to grades. Providing Canvas access as an Observer or Designer would be appropriate if access to grades is not desired.
      2. Email Address Display – Users can send and receive messages from other Canvas users through the Canvas Conversation Messaging system. These messages reside in users’ Canvas Conversation Inbox. By default Canvas users are also notified in their USFCA or DONS email account that they have new messages in their Canvas inbox. However, this destination email address is never displayed to the sender.
      3. Third Party Applications – Canvas users may choose to have Canvas activity and Student/Instructor notifications sent to their non-Canvas accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Skype. However, Canvas does not expose personal information in these accounts.
    4. Copyright Issues --Faculty are expected to respect the property of others by adhering to copyright law and requesting permission, when appropriate, before using the work of others.
      1. Posting Copyrighted Materials – Copyright law and Fair Use Guidelines allow faculty to provide limited access to copyrighted materials using the Canvas system. Information regarding these appropriate uses and legal constraints on such uses can be found at
        and at Gleeson Library’s Copyright Guide -

        Instructors are advised to consider the use of online reserves through Gleeson Library (, or online course packs from vendors, such as XanEdu (, to avoid copyright infringement.
      2. Linking to External Sites from Canvas – The Canvas software provides an easy-to-use interface for integrating links to other websites into course materials. Instructors are encouraged to link to other sites, rather than attempting to integrate the desired materials directly into their Canvas course site. This alleviates copyright concerns and also retains the integrity of the materials (and associated links) in their original environment. It is the responsibility of the instructor to confirm that links from Canvas to external sites are viable.
    5. Intellectual Property – The University of San Francisco recognizes the intellectual property rights of faculty, staff and students. The following policies are aligned with those of the University, already in place, which can be found at
      1. Ownership of Course Sites – Instructors who create Canvas course sites retain rights to those materials, including the right to request and receive an archived copy of the site in digital format. The instructor of record for a course has the responsibility for making the course available to users, recycling or archiving a course, unless, in writing, he/she authorizes another USF employee to carry out such duties.
      2. Student-created Materials on Canvas – Instructors may choose to post student work (or expect students to post their own work) on the Canvas course site. Students must be informed of this (preferably in writing) at the beginning of the course. They must also be told if their work will be retained in the course site beyond the duration of the semester and whether others will have access to it. No evaluative commentary or grade information from the instructor may be included with student work if the work includes information identifying its creator. Students retain all rights to their work. These policies also apply to student-posted messages in a Discussion Forum. If an instructor wishes to make it available to a future group of students, the instructor must get written permission from the student(s) prior to sharing any student intellectual property. (See Sample Student Work Written Permission form below.)
      3. System Management Data – Information regarding Canvas’ system performance or usage is considered the property of the University of San Francisco. Information regarding specific Canvas sites or individual accounts will be held in confidence, to the extent legally permissible, although data may be gathered and presented in aggregated form by university staff members (e.g., Learning Technologies subcommittee, CIT, ITS, Library, etc.) for professional development activities, such as conference presentations and/or scholarly/industry publication.
      4. System Management Data – Information regarding Canvas’ system performance or usage is considered the property of the University of San Francisco. Information regarding specific Canvas sites or individual accounts will be held in confidence, to the extent legally permissible, although data may be gathered and presented in aggregated form by university staff members (e.g., Learning Technologies subcommittee, CIT, ITS, Library, etc.) for professional development activities, such as conference presentations and/or scholarly/industry publication.
    6. Term and Conditions of Use -The University of San Francisco Computer and Network Appropriate Usage Policy governs the use of Canvas (Technology Resources Appropriate Use The University may add to or modify the Terms and Conditions of Use from time to time, and continued use of Canvas constitutes an agreement to comply with such modifications.
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    1. Learning Management System (LMS)
      1. A web-based platform used to provide students exclusive access to electronic files and multimedia resources. The LMS also provides a way for students to access collaborative tools, submit assignments, and receive feedback from instructors as well as feedback from fellow students.
    1. (None)
    1. 05-09-2014 – First publication of policy, description of revision, etc.
    1. Failure to follow this policy can result in disciplinary action in accordance with Human Resources Employment Handbook and Office of General Counsel employee and labor relations. Disciplinary action for not following this policy may include termination, as provided in the applicable handbook or employment guide.
    1. A proposed exception request to ITS Policy requires a formal email explanation related and in support of job function.
    2. A proposed exception request to ITS Policy, mentioned in 'XII.A', must be approved via email by respective department or division supervisor, Dean, or VP, before submitted to ITS for review.
    3. Forward approved email as stated in 'XII.B' to for processing.
    4. Evaluation of ITS Policy Exception will escalate internally, and as applicable may include further review by: UITC subcommittee(s), the Information Security Officer, and others as appropriate at the request of VP for IT.
    1. Sample Student Written Permission Form
      Permission To Use / Share Student Work with Canvas Course Student Work to be Shared________________________________________
      Canvas Course _____________________________
      Canvas Instructor ___________________________
      "I hereby grant [insert USF instructor] permission to use materials I create in the Canvas [insert USF course] course."
      Student Name _________________________________
      Student Signature_______________________________
      Last updated: 1/1/13