Canvas Course Role Permissions

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The LMS Steering Committee approved course permissions. They are based on compliance, FERPA, financial aid, and faculty use cases. In defining these roles, they were tailored to academic courses. Make sure to review the information carefully so you can pick the best role for your needs.

FERPA and Compliance Reporting

The roles we created with compliance in mind. There are a number of laws and guidelines we need to follow when providing access to an academic course. JHU is bound under FERPA, which protects student information (including names and course participation). Follow guidance from your registrar’s office and the FERPA training you received when providing access to courses.

Academic Versus Community Sites

Canvas supports two main categories of courses, academic courses and community sites, that have different rules and uses. One major difference is that Academic courses have “teachers” (cannot enroll students) and community sites have “leaders” (can enroll students) due to compliance issues.

Academic Courses

Academic courses are officially offered courses by a JHU division that are managed and enrolled through SIS. Community Sites (previously “orgs” in Blackboard) are course sites that are not created by SIS.

  • Course Creation: Courses tagged for Canvas in SIS and then are created.
  • Naming: They always start with the division prefix, followed by the course code, section, and term (e.g. AS.100.100.02.SU24).
  • Enrollment: Academic courses have teachers and students enrolled via SIS. “Teachers” or admins can enroll other roles such as TAs, Observers, and Guest Facilitators to support the course.
  • Compliance: These courses need to follow JHU rules (relating to financial aid, copyright, and compliance), ADA, and FERPA. These guidelines determine who can access the course and what permissions they have.

Community Sites

These courses often are orientations, placement tests, lifelong learning, executive education, and many other uses.

  • Course Creation: The course needs to be requested and approved by the division through our course request form.
  • Naming: In Canvas all community sites start with CO. (community site) or LM. (connected to, our catalog courses) followed by the division code (e.g., CO.EN._____ or LM.AAP._______)
  • Enrollment: It is up to the “Leaders” of the course to manage enrollment in the course. Community sites do not have “teachers.”
  • Compliance: Depending on the course usage, these courses may fall under a variety of different rules, policies, and guidelines. Talk to your division about how to best comply with guidelines around accessibility, privacy, copyright, and other elements.

Summary of Roles

This table provides a summary of the roles available in Canvas, what permissions they have, and who can enroll them. For more information on any role, select the role name in the table for details.

Canvas​ RolesRole SummaryEnrolled ByCan Enroll
(academic courses only)
Can access all course content, manipulate course content, and gradesAcademic Courses: SIS only
Stage Courses: Admins
Guest facilitator, TA, Grader, Designer, Observer
(community sites only)
Can access all course content, manipulate course content, and gradesCommunity Sites: AdminsGuest Facilitator, TA, Grader, Waitlisted Student, Designer, Observer, Student
StudentCan access all published course content.
Submit assignments and quizzes
Participate on the discussion board
View their own grades
Academic Courses: SIS only
Community Sites: Leaders, Admins
Waitlisted Student
(new Canvas role)
Can submit assignments and quizzes
Cannot participate in discussion, message other students in the class, or view announcements 
Admins at a Teacher’s request or LeadersNone
TACan access all course content and manipulate course content and gradesTeachers, Leaders, AdminsNone
GraderCan view all published course content but not edit
Can update grades
Teachers, Leaders, AdminsNone
DesignerCan access all course content
Can change any course content
Cannot access the grade book
Teachers, Leaders, AdminsNone
ObserverCan view course content that is publishedTeachers, Leaders, AdminsNone
Guest Facilitator (new Canvas Role)Can view all published course content
Cannot manipulate course content ​
Can post to the discussion board
​Can see the People tab and email those in the class
Teachers, Leaders, AdminsNone

Questions on Roles

Contact your division for any questions on roles.