Canvas Observer Role

In Canvas, the Parent/Observer role can be used to enroll parents, mentors, and guests who would like to participate in a Canvas course but do not need to earn course credit. Observers have limited permissions that allow them to see what is going on in a course without interrupting the flow of daily course communication. Like students, Observers cannot view a course until it is published and the course has started.

Observers may be able to view assignments, course events, and grades for a student in the Canvas Parent app. 

The main use of the observer role is to link a user to a student. Observers can be linked to a student or multiple students and view the student's data in the course. Observers cannot submit work on behalf of the students they observe, but they can see student grades, assignments and events, and course interactions.

Observer Access in Canvas

To learn more about observer participation, view the Observers Visibility and Participation PDF.

Observers can

  • View and read announcements
  • View assignments index page
  • View the calendar
  • Join conferences, if invited
  • Join collaborations, if invited
  • View personal inbox
  • Send conversation messages to instructor and student they are observing
  • View the dashboard
  • View and read discussions
  • View files unless they are locked
  • View grades, view assignment due dates and comments, and print grades
  • View modules and see due dates and point values
  • View pages and contribute if the instructor enables the Anyone can edit it setting
  • View profile pictures, if available
  • View syllabus
  • View outcomes
  • View quizzes index page

Observers cannot

  • Comment on announcements or discussions
  • Submit assignments or quizzes
  • View course rosters
  • Send conversation messages to students in the course they are not observing
  • View locked files or folders
  • Join groups
  • View unpublished courses
  • Access the Chat tool
  • Reserve appointment slots in the Scheduler
  • View grade audit trail

Observer Limitations

  • Observers can view the same content as the student they are observing unless the content is unpublished or restricted by locked dates.
  • Observers can view module content locked by prerequisites or requirements, as module progression is not measured for observers.
  • Observers can view assignments even if the student they are observing has not completed them unless the assignments are locked.
  • Each instructor can customize the links in the Course Navigation and limit the number of features that students and observers can see. Observers may or may not see links to certain features.