Communicating through Canvas

There are several ways to communicate through Canvas, including conversations, announcements and discussions. This article explains how to use all of these.

Before You Start

You'll need:

  1. An active PennKey
  2. A Canvas account

Canvas Announcements

Use Announcements for communications all students should see, and to which they might later need to refer.

  • After an instructor publishes a Canvas site, students will begin to receive notices about new announcements based on the Notification Preferences they have set. 
  • Up to three of the most recent announcements will appear on your course site's home page. Click Announcements in the left navigation bar to view all others.
  • Once a notification has been sent about an announcement, Canvas will reflect any changes or deletions; however, the original version's wording will persist in the notification (which will also include a link to view it on Canvas).
  • You can edit an Announcement and/or the sections to include, by using the Edit button.
  • Once a Canvas course end date has expired, students will not receive Announcements.


Canvas contains an internal messaging system called Inbox to begin conversations with other Canvas users.  

  • When messaging multiple students, check Send individual messages.
  • Students will receive a notice about new announcements based on their Notification Preferences.
  • Canvas messages you receive from students will arrive as an email notification. You can reply to the email notification directly, without having to log into Canvas, and this reply will reach only the student who sent you the message, even if the message is part of a Group Conversation.

Canvas Discussions

Discussions allow you to enable interactive communication between two or more users. 

Canvas handles notifications for new discussions and new replies/posts to discussions separately,  so when adjusting your notification settings, consider how your students are posting questions. Are they creating new discussions, or are they replying to existing discussions, or both?