Canvas Public Course Visibility and Request Process


The Course Visibility settings in Canvas provide flexibility regarding access to a given course site. When the Public Course Visibility setting is activated, any individual is able to access, view, and interact with a course site and its content without logging in.

There are circumstances in which selecting Public Course Visibility may be appropriate, including:

  • Providing independent learners and educators with access to educational resources.
  • Showcasing a sample learning experience in a particular program or course of study.
  • Engaging with members of university stakeholder groups, such as community partners and parents around educational activities.

University Policies and Expectations

Owners and administrators of public course sites are responsible for observing the following university policies and expectations when configuring and adding content to a public site:

  • Copyright — Abide by JHU’s Copyright Compliance Policy
  • Accessibility — Content must meet WCAG 2.1 AA Web Content Accessibility Standards. See “Accessibility Best Practices” below for a list of measures that should be adopted.
  • Privacy — Student privacy must be protected in accordance with FERPA; take measures to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of staff and non-instructor faculty; ensure that all included data sets are free of PII or other protected data.
  • Brand — Use of university and school name and marks must abide by brand guidelines
  • Intellectual Property — Respect and protect the intellectual property of JHU, its faculty, and students.
  • Licensing Limitations — Abide by the limitations in place for sharing content licensed to JHU libraries. See “Library Resources Best Practices” below for additional information.

Allowable Content

Owners and administrators of public course sites are responsible for ensuring that content shared on public course sites is accurately and appropriately cited and limited to works in the following categories:

  • Original works by the course instructor(s)
    • When posting their own original work, instructors should include a corresponding copyright statement: Copyright © [Year]. Johns Hopkins University and [Instructor Name]. All Rights Reserved [or appropriate open license]. 
  • Public domain works
  • Openly licensed works used in accordance with the license terms (e.g. Creative Commons License, GNU General Public License, Open Data Commons, etc.)

Any works that fall outside of the above categories must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Permission to use the work on a public site has been granted in writing by the copyright owner
  • A fair use analysis has demonstrated that the use of the work on a public site is permissible

Prohibited Content

The following types of content may never be shared on a public course site:

  • Non-directory personally identifiable student information, including but not limited to recordings of class sessions in which student names and/or faces are visible 
  • Staff and non-instructor faculty personally identifiable information
  • Content that does not meet WCAG 2.1 AA Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (see below for best practices)
  • Copyright-protected content for which proper permission and/or license has not been secured
  • Data sets that include PII or other protected information

Sanctioned Uses of Public Course Visibility

  • Providing independent learners and educators with access to educational resources
  • Showcasing a sample learning experience in a particular program or course of study
  • Engaging with members of university stakeholder groups, such as community partners and parents around educational activities

Unsanctioned Uses of Public Course Visibility

  • A quick and easy web publishing workaround to promote an event, program, or organization. Groups should work with divisional and university communications teams to establish websites.  
  • Opening an official course site to an external audience. Instead, select content from an official course site may be copied into a public course site for publication, providing the site and content are in compliance with the policies and expectations stated above.

Requesting a Public Course Site

  1. Fill out the Canvas Public Course Request form, including:
    • Purpose of public course site
    • Source of content for the public course site
    • Personnel responsible for overseeing configuration and maintenance of public course site
    • If the intended public course site is based on an official course site, please provide the link to that site
  2. Your divisional Teaching and Learning Center will evaluate the request and contact you with follow-up questions and instructions.
  3. If the request for a public site is granted, your teaching and learning center will conduct a pre-launch review in coordination with other relevant parties:
    • Accessibility review (in conjunction with Student Disability Services) to ensure the course is fully accessible in compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA
    • Copyright and fair use review (in conjunction with the Library) 
    • A brand and privacy review by your teaching and learning center
  4. Once all reviews are documented and in place, the course will be locked, and a request will be submitted to IT@JH to make the course public.
  5. Public sites are subject to the annual site renewal process in place for all community sites in Canvas.
  6. All public courses will be appended with “_public” at the end of the course code.

Accessibility Best Practices

All courses with public visibility must undergo a thorough accessibility review, including both manual and automated processes.

The WCAG 2.1 AA Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are the authoritative source of information about web accessibility. Below are a few best practices that can be adopted to meaningfully improve accessibility.

  • Document Templates (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, etc.): Ensure that content is prepared in a consistent set of templates that are designed in such a way to promote the use of recommended contrast ratios, alt text for images, accessible fonts, headings, tables, and logical reading order. 
  • PDFs: Produce and post PDFs that have been checked and remediated with the Acrobat Accessibility Checker. When this isn’t possible, original document types (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc) are preferable to PDFs.
  • Alternative Accessible Formats: Include alternative accessible formats for accessing the content of the video and audio presentations. Post slide presentations, transcripts, and descriptions alongside video and audio content.
  • Captioning of Video: Include human-generated (or edited) captions on video content.
  • Alt Text for Images: Incorporate alt text into all informational images embedded in documents.
  • Images and Color Contrast: Avoid the use of images of text and presentation of data that relies solely on color.
  • Ally: In addition to manually assessing content for accessibility issues, use Ally to identify and address accessibility issues.

Library Resources Best Practices

Please note the following best practices for sharing resources that came from licensed databases:

  • DO share the full citation, including the digital object identifier (DOI) or PubMed number, so non-JHU students and researchers can search their own licensed resources to see if they have access.
  • DON’T include links from your course to JHU licensed electronic resources. Those links will have JHU-specific proxy information embedded and will lead to a dead end for the non-Hopkins community.
  • DO consider finding Open Educational Resource (OER) equivalents to your content.
  • Need help? Email [email protected].