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Groups Part 1: Creating Groups in Canvas

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This article is for faculty who use Groups in their Canvas courses. 

Student groups are a useful way to organize students for course activities like group projects or papers. Every student group gets their own calendar, discussion board and collaboration tools so they can organize themselves and work together more effectively.

You can randomly assign students to groups of a specific size, or manually create and organize the groups. Once your groups are created, you can set assignments to be "group submission" assignments, which means each group will have one submission for all users of that group.

1. View People in Your Course

To create a group, you will need to start by viewing the people in your course. Click on People in the Course Navigation Menu.

Image of the Course Navigation Menu with People selected and the list of people in a class blurred out

This page will show the students that can be added to a group.

1.2. Create a Group Set

If you are importing group assignments or discussions from a previous Canvas course, Canvas will create a default group set call Project Groups. This group set will not have any groups in it.

You may have more than one group project in your course, so Canvas will prompt you to make a Group Set. Click on the Group Set button at the top right corner of the page.

Image of the People course page with the + group set button highlighted

If you have multiple group assignments with different configurations of students for each assignment, consider naming the set after the assignment. If you plan to use groups for just one assignment in your course or if the groups will stay the same throughout the term, you might name the set after your course and term.

Write the Group Set Name. If you would like to allow students to choose their own groups, check Allow self sign-up. If you teach multiple sections of the same course and want students to meet with members of their section, choose Require group members to be in the same section.

Image of the Create Group Set window with Group Set Name and the text Group Assignment 1 typed into the text entry field

If you allow students to sign up for their groups, remember to add a group limit, or you may end up with very uneven numbers of students in your groups. You can add a maximum number of students per group.

Image of Create Group Set window with the group set name self-select 3 and the allow self sign up option checked additionally for group structure the option to limit gorup members to option is selected and 6 is the limit

If you prefer to work with a spreadsheet when creating groups, learn about how to use a CSV file to do so in the article "How do I import groups in a group set?"  

If you know how many groups you want to have or if you know how many student you want per group, click on the drop down menu for Group Structure. Canvas can automatically split students into the number of groups that you would like or set a maximum number of students who can be added to each group. If you are not ready to assign students to groups, select Create groups later. Section 2 will show how to manually create groups.

Image of Create Group Set window with the Group Structure dropdown menu select with the option to create groups later, split students by number of groups, and split number of students per group highlighted

After you have made your group structure selection, click the Save button.

Image of Create Group Set window with the save button highighted

Once your group set is created, you will see it in a tab on your People page. If you chose to wait to create your groups, you will need to do so before students will have access to your course groups.

Image of the people page with the newly created tab for Group Assignment 1 Created and Unassigned students and 0 groups below with the +Group button on the right highlighted

2. Make and Edit Groups

2.1. Create a Group

To create your first group of students, (1) make sure the correct group set tab is active and (2) click on the + Group button.

Repeated Image of the people page with the newly created tab for Group Assignment 1 Created and Unassigned students and 0 groups below with the +Group button on the right highlighted

In the Add Group window, write the name of your first group of students in the (1) Group Name text box. Limit group membership using the (2) up and down arrows. Then click the (3) Save button.

Image of the Add Group window with Group 1 in the Group Name field and 3 in the Group membership limit field, and the save button highlighted

(1) Group 1 will appear under Groups in this set. Click the (2) + Groups button again to create your other groups.

Image showing Group 1's new link and the +Group button highlighted

Once your groups are created, you can add students. Do this by clicking on the + sign after a student's name.

Image with Group 1, Group 1, Group 3 created and the + sign by a student's name highlighted

This will open a small window with the Add to Group options. Click on a group to add this student.

Image with the + sign by a student's name expanded and the Add to a Group window opened with the Group 1 highlighted

Continue adding students to your groups.

2.2. Editing Settings for Existing Groups

To view the students in a group, click on the arrow at the left of the group name.

Image of Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3 with the arrow on the left of Group 1 highlighted

Use the eight-dot icon on the left of each name to drag students to different groups.

Image of Group 1 expanded with a rectangle with a student's name and an eight-dot waffle grid on the right of the name

To limit the number of students in a group, click on the vertical three-dot menu next to the group and click on the Edit button.

Image of Group 1 expanded and the three-dot kebab menu on the right side for the group selected and the edit option highlighted

This window will allow you to change the group's name and (1) limit the number of students who self enroll in this group. Click the (2) Save button to keep these changes.

Image of the edit group option window with the Group Name field available and the Group Membership Limit field option highlighted and the Save button highlighted

3. Access Groups

3.1. Accessing Groups from the Navigation Menu

Once students have been added to a group in an active course, they will be able to view it from the Groups icon on the Global Navigation Menu. This student is a member of several groups.

Image of the Canvas Global Navigation Menu with the Groups Icon selected and several group links highlighted on the Groups page

Students and faculty can also access groups in an active course by going to People in the Course Navigation Menu

Image of the People page witht the people link in course navigation highlighted and the groups tab highlighted

Students can see the members in each group in the course by clicking on the arrow next to a group name.

Image of Group 1 with the arrow on the right highlighted and blurred names below

3.2. Viewing Group Home Pages

Students cannot visit other groups' pages. Faculty will be able to view all course groups' home pages. To do so, go to (1) People and choose (2) a group set. Then (3) click on the three-dot menu to the right of a group.

People page with the group set Group assignment 1 highlighted

Clicking on the three-dot menu will open a small menu with the option to Visit Group Homepage. Click on this button to view what your students have created.

Group set page with the three dot menu next to group 1 open and Visit the dropdown option toGroup Homepage highlighted

Group members can make group announcements, create Canvas pages that other group members can see, create and use group discussion threads, share files, meet virtually using BigBlueButton, and work collaboratively on Google files.

Image of a group (in this example: Group 1) home page with links for announcements, pages, people, discussions, files, bigbluebutton, collaborations and the message Recent Activity in Group 1 No Recent Messages: You don't have any messages to show in your stream yet. Once you begin participating in your courses you'll see this stream fill up with messages from discussions, grading updates, private messages between you and other users, etc.

Students will also be able to see both discussion topics that faculty assign by group and discussion topics that their peers create. In the example below, (1) "Group Project Planning?" was posted by a student, and (2) "Research methods for writing papers" was posted by faculty.

Image of a group's discussion page with two discussion topics highlighted

A student can click on the + Discussion button to start a new group discussion topic. Faculty can do this too for a group-specific topic but will use the Course Navigation Menu's Discussions link to create a group discussion with the same topic for each group. Learn how to assign a discussion topic to all groups in a course in Section 4.

Image of a group's discussion page with the + Discussion button highlighted


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