Skip to main content

Learning Management System (Canvas)

Northwestern’s learning management system, Canvas, allows Northwestern instructors to deliver course materials, manage grades, and create learning activities and allows students to submit assignments and tests and view grades.


Available to

Course Creation and Enrollment

Most Registrar courses are created automatically in Canvas based on the information listed in CAESAR. Discussion sections, lab sections, clerkships, and independent studies are excluded from this automatic process; requests for creation of these types of course sites in Canvas may be sent to

Canvas synchronizes with CAESAR three times daily on weekdays (at approximately 8 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.) and once a day on weekends, bringing over new enrollment and course information from CAESAR to Canvas each time the synchronization process runs. An instructor must be listed as a Primary Instructor in CAESAR in order to be automatically added to Canvas as a Teacher.

Roles and Permissions

Primary roles within Canvas include Teacher, TA, and Student. A summary of the actions each user can take are found in the user roles and permissions table.

Schools and departments may also assign Canvas Administrators who have unit-specific permissions to access Canvas.

Multi-section Courses and Combined Courses

Some courses have multiple sections that students may enroll in within CAESAR. For multi-section courses, each individual section automatically has its own course site created within Canvas. Each section’s course site in Canvas contains the student enrollments and the instructor(s). Instructors who teach multi-section courses may manage their sections either separately or by combining them.

Custom Courses

Custom course sites may be created within Canvas for academic and University business purposes upon faculty or staff request. Any course that is not maintained by the Registrar is considered a custom course site in Canvas.

Instructors may request a prep site at any time in order to prepare material for an upcoming course or try Canvas features.

Canvas Mobile Apps

Access to Canvas is available on the web and through free mobile apps.

  • Canvas Teacher — allows teachers to manage their courses on mobile devices. Provides access to the SpeedGrader tool as well as the Gradebook.
  • Canvas Student — allows students to view course content, upload submissions and view grade information.

Course Retention Guidelines

All course sites are retained in Canvas. Courses that have "ended" are viewable under "Past Enrollments." Student accounts remain in Canvas after graduation; however, deactivated users will not be able to access the Canvas system.

Terms of Use

Some of the materials on the Canvas learning management system are subject to copyright and may NOT be distributed beyond members enrolled in classes served by this learning management system. Students' use of these materials is limited to the term in which a course is taught. This system contains student records that fall under the regulation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). See the Northwestern University FERPA policy for more detailed information on FERPA.

Support Resources


Last Updated: 4 August 2022

Get Help Back to top