A tip about groups in Canvas

Groups are a small version of a course and can be used as a collaborative tool where students can work together on group projects and assignments.

Canvas appears to have two types of groups: Student Groups and Group Sets. Canvas states that Student Groups can be created by either an instructor or a student and are self-organized by students. This is not the case. Students cannot self-assign to groups (as they cannot see groups to which they are not assigned). Group Sets are groups that you create to use for graded assignments.

The issues

  1. Students in groups in different classes will see all their groups collected together, with no differentiation between classes.
  2. Students cannot self-assign to groups.

The solutions

When creating groups, make sure you include your course name to alert students to the class to which the group belongs.

Instructors must assign students to groups – automatically within Canvas, or manually.

First, add a group set. Open People.


Select Create Group Set. This is where you create the name for the group. Include your course name to identify the course the group belongs to.

Currently, you can automatically split your class into groups in the set or manually assign students to groups. Please note that from the instructor perspective, Canvas appears to allow you to let students self sign-up into groups; however, self sign-up is not currently available as an option to students.


After creating groups, you can view them by selecting People, then the gear wheel, then View User Groups. For more information, check out the Canvas guide to viewing groups as an instructor.

Please note that as of mid-December, UBC will be activating the People tab, and students will be able to create their own groups in Canvas and self-enrol in Canvas groups.
Images from this post were created by the Canvas Doc Team and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Agreement.

– Dr. Joseph Anthony (Faculty of Medicine) and Dr. Suzie Lavallee (Faculty of Forestry)