Canvas Use Policy

Last updated: August 3, 2023
Audience: InstructorsStaff

The UW’s Canvas LMS supports online learning for academic courses published in the time schedule for the Bothell, Seattle, and Tacoma campuses and Continuum College. Canvas courses are created automatically from the time schedule, and available up to two quarters in advance (depending on time schedule construction calendars) to official instructors of record.

Can I request that a course be created?

Canvas courses are created up to two quarters in advance. Check our published calendar to see if your course should be available. If your course is published in the Time Schedule and you don’t find it in Canvas, please contact your time schedule coordinator to be added as the instructor of record.

To support course content development for a future course, for example, when you are preparing a course in advance, and it has not yet been set up in the time schedule, you can request a manual course for content development. Note: Such requests can only be made for courses that will be published in the official time schedule.

When the official course is published in the time schedule and created in Canvas, course content should be copied to the official course. These “sandbox” courses are solely for instructor convenience, and should not have students enrolled, nor be published and used to facilitate online learning.

Can I publish program or degree resources in a Canvas course?

Yes. Canvas can be used to provide program or degree resources for students enrolled in an official program or degree, such as a professional degree cohort site or an advising site for an undergraduate degree. Please contact for assistance.

Note: All courses must be assigned to a specific academic term in Canvas, and are subject to the published data retention policy.

Can Canvas courses be used to support graduate medical programs?

Yes. Canvas courses can be used to support medical residencies or fellowship programs. For these programs, additional restrictions apply:

  • Programs must be listed on the UW Medicine graduate medical education website.
  • All participants in the residency or fellowship must be UW employees or affiliates and have a valid personal UW NetID.
  • Programs cannot conduct compliance training or maintain records of required staff training on the UW’s Canvas LMS. For assistance with compliance training for graduate medical education, contact the Learning Gateway,

Can I use Canvas to support professional development or training?

No. Access and data retention policies, as well as data retention periods, for professional development and training often differ from those for academic course content, which requires protection of confidential student data.

In addition, manual course creation and access management for these purposes is not sustainable (academic courses are created programmatically and users enrolled based on roles in the student information system).

Also, since it is designed as an academic learning management system, Canvas often doesn’t have the features required to support training workflows (such as granting certificates of completion).

An exception is made for courses that provide faculty development in best practice use of online learning tools and pedagogies, such as how to use Canvas quizzes, or how to engage students in online discussion. Please contact for assistance with this particular use. Note: For this exception, Canvas cannot be the system of record for training, certification or compliance, and courses will expire and be deleted in accordance with the standard retention policy.

What should I use to support training instead of Canvas?

UW-IT can consult with customers about available training and collaboration tools that might meet their needs. Among the recommended tools are:

Please contact for assistance.

Can I use Canvas for a student group? A faculty committee?

We are glad that you find Canvas useful! Although we understand the desire to use the Canvas learning management system for administrative purposes, given the parameters of the Canvas Use Policy, we cannot support the use of Canvas for purposes other than teaching and learning.

How was the Canvas Use Policy developed?

The Canvas LMS service and the use policy was designed to:

  • Provide security for confidential student data per FERPA obligations
  • Enable access and security protocols that protect confidential student data
  • Enable data retention policies and user account lifecycles specific to academic course content and student work per data governance decisions
  • Comply with the terms of the vendor contract and mitigate financial risk

The UW contract with the Canvas vendor provides for specific uses of Canvas, and provides assurances and protections for course and student data related to courses. UW-IT conducted a risk assessment to assess the security of course content and student data related to the above uses; other kinds of protected or confidential data (e.g., patient information, data related to human resources processes) have not been assessed.

Security, access, and integration policies have all been developed to address confidential student data and other academic content.

Data retention policy requires that academic course content and student work be deleted after the retention period has passed. In order to facilitate compliance with this policy, content in Canvas must be limited to academic and student data. Other types of content, such as staff training history or human resources documentation, have different protections and retention policies.