Canvas Quick Start for Students

New to completing coursework online? These tips will help you get started.

Tip 1: Update your browser and download the Canvas Student app
Tip 2: Set your Canvas notifications
Tip 3: Access course content
Tip 4: Review grades and feedback
Tip 5: Prepare for a live session in Zoom, Blue Jeans, or Canvas Conferences

Need help?

Contact the Library's Canvas Support:

You can check Penn's system status page for system-wide issues.

Tip 1: Update your browser and download the Canvas Student app

Apply system updates and download the latest version of your favorite supported browser to minimize technical issues. Review Canvas's basic computer specifications  and supported browsers.

Go mobile with the Canvas Student app

Canvas offers limited support for mobile browsers. For the best experience on a mobile device, download the Canvas Student app on your iOS or Android device.

Canvas Student app help

Canvas Student Android Guide 
Canvas Student iOS Guide 
Canvas Student Mobile Features 

Tip 2: Set your Canvas notifications

Stay on top of changes in your Canvas course by adjusting your notifications preferences. You have several options for receiving notifications including sending them to an additional email address, receiving them via text, and enabling push notifications in the Canvas Student app (iOS  or Android).

Notifications are custom to you and everything you set applies to all of your courses in Canvas.


Set to Notify me right away

  • Due Date (assignment due date changes)
  • Announcement (new announcements)
  • Grading (a grade is entered)
  • Invitation (web conference, group, collaboration, and peer review)


Tip 3: Access course content

Your professor may use Modules to organize your Canvas course. Modules can consist of items such as readings, links to resources, and videos as well as assignments, discussions, exams, and quizzes.

Canvas Discussions

A Canvas Discussion provides a way for all course members to engage in conversation. Depending on how your professor organizes your course, you can access Discussions from a module or the course navigation menu. You can reply to prompts or to other students in your class.

General expectations

Be respectful and supportive when participating in online discussions: avoid assumptions and disagree respectfully. Before posting, re-read what you’ve written to assess its tone.

Canvas Assignments

Canvas Assignments provides a way to view all of your assignments in a course, depending on how your professor organizes the course. You may be required to submit your work in various formats including uploading a file. If you need to upload pictures of your work, this can be easily done through Canvas Mobile app.

General expectations

Unless otherwise stated, expect to complete assignments individually and adhere to Penn's Code of Academic Integrity.

Canvas Quizzes

Canvas Quizzes provide a mechanism for delivering both exams and quizzes. How you view Quizzes depends on the way your professor organizes your course and how you take a quiz depends on the settings your professor chooses to deliver the quiz or exam.

General expectations

Unless otherwise stated, expect to complete quizzes and exams individually and adhere to Penn's Code of Academic Integrity.

Requesting accommodations

The University of Pennsylvania provides reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities who have self-identified and been approved by the Office of Student Disabilities Services (SDS). If you have not yet contacted SDS and would like to request accommodations or have questions, you can make an appointment by calling SDS at 215-573-9235. The office is located in the Weingarten Learning Resources CenterLinks to an external site. at Stouffer Commons 3702 Spruce Street, Suite 300. All services are confidential.

Discussions, Assignments, and Quizzes help

Discussions guide 
Assignments guide 
Quizzes guide 

Tip 4: Review grades and feedback

Your professor can share assignment grades, comments, and rubrics in Grades. Some professors may provide feedback on submitted work using annotations. If your professor uses a rubric, be sure to check the rubric results to access their feedback.

Grades and feedback help

Grades guide 
Assignments guide 

Tip 5: Prepare for a live session in Zoom, Blue Jeans, or Canvas Conferences

Most web-conferencing tools need an up-to-date browser and a strong Internet connection to function well. Your professor will share the necessary details for you to join a session. Earbuds, or a headset, can reduce distracting audio feedback and improve your audio quality. Plan to join your session a few minutes early in case you need to troubleshoot any technical issues.

During your live session

  • Find a space that minimizes distractions so that you can fully engage in the session
  • If you plan to be on camera, take notice of what’s behind you
  • Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking
  • Use the chat to ask questions
  • Engage in respectful discussion
  • Use reactions or emojis to convey meaning and interact with others