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Understanding Canvas Term Dates (Instructors)

Understanding Canvas Term Dates (Instructors)

Beginning with spring 2022 courses, term dates will be applied to all Canvas courses as another way for instructors to control access to courses based on dates. While the use of term dates will be the default setting for all newly created courses, instructors may choose to use a different set of dates, or no dates at all. Learn more about what this means for you and your courses below.

Why is this change being made?

  • Helps both instructors and students manage their course dashboards and ensures that active courses are easy to find while older courses are cleared off of the dashboard on a regular basis.
  • Allows an instructor to make announcements or allow students to view other course content without giving students the ability to participate in the course until the start of the term.
  • Allows an instructor to publish a course in order to enable use of the Inbox for communication, without granting students full course access until the start of the term.

What are term dates?

Term dates are set by Canvas administrators and apply to all courses in a given term (i.e., spring 2022). The use of a term start date manages course access automatically in the following ways:

  • Instructors (teachers, TAs and designers) have access to courses as soon as they are created, regardless of the term date start.
  • Students will see courses prior to the term date start as a “future enrollment.”
    Term dates panel in Canvas showing future enrollment dats.
  • As before, all newly created course shells will be in an unpublished state until the course instructor publishes the course for student access. If the instructor publishes a course prior to the term date start, students can view any available course content but they cannot participate in the course (i.e. submit an assignment, take a quiz or reply to a discussion board).
  • Instructors may use the “Restrict students from viewing course before term start date” checkbox in the course Settings area to further restrict students ability to view a published course prior to the term date start.
  • Once the term date start arrives, students will be able to both view and participate in the course content.

The Canvas term date end does not closely correspond to the actual end of each term according to the academic calendar (see below) and automatically manages course access in the following ways:

  • All enrolled users (instructors and students) will now see this course listed as a Past Enrollment and it will no longer be displayed on the course dashboard. These past enrollments will remain accessible from your All Courses page.
    Term dates panel in Canvas showing past enrollment dats.
  • Instructors and students (if permitted to view, see below) will see the course in a read-only state. Instructors may no longer edit or create new course content and students cannot participate (i.e. submit assignments).
  • Instructors may use this course to import course content into a new course.
  • Instructors may use the “Restrict students from viewing course after term end date” checkbox in the course Settings area to further restrict students ability to view a published course after the term date end.
  • Instructors may not add new users (teachers or students) to a course after the term date end.

What will the term dates be?

At Pitt, we have chosen to set all term dates for upcoming terms to conform to the following formula:

Start of term: One week prior to the official term start date per the Pitt Academic Calendar.
End of term: 1 year after the official term end date per the Pitt Academic Calendar, rounded to the end of that month.

Term dates as applied to upcoming terms:
Term Start Date End Date
Spring 2022 Jan. 3, 2022 April 30, 2023
Summer 2022 May 2, 2022 Aug. 31, 2023

Additionally, in the coming months Canvas administrators will be retroactively applying term end dates to courses that were delivered in previous terms, adhering where possible to the above formula (with some deviations to allow for an adjustment period for this new behavior).

Dates fall 2021 and earlier terms.
Term Start Date End Date
Fall 2021 n/a Dec. 31, 2022
Summer 2021 n/a Aug. 31, 2022
Spring 2021 n/a May 31, 2022
Fall 2020 n/a May  31, 2022
Summer 2020 and Before n/a Dec. 31, 2021

Please note that the first set of courses to be given term end dates will be those taught in summer 2020 as well as those migrated to Canvas from Blackboard.

What if I don’t want to use term dates?

While all courses will initially be created with term dates as the default, course instructors may choose to instead use a different set of dates, or no dates at all. This is done by changing the course settings from term dates to course dates.

  1. Enter the course at any time prior to the set term date end.
  2. Go to the course’s settings page.
  3. Use the participation drop-down list and select course.
    Term dates panel in Canvas showing participation options.
  4. Use the start and end calendar fields to select an alternative set of dates. You may also leave any of the calendar fields blank to have a course with no dates at all, no start date, or no end date.
  5. You may optionally use the “Restrict students from viewing” check boxes to control whether or not students can see your course content either before or after your new set of course dates.
  6. Click the Update course details button at the bottom of the page.

Where can I go for help and more information?

Please contact Educational Software Consulting at for further assistance.

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