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Canvas (Continuing Education Instructors) - Methods for Enrolling Students in a Continuing Education Course

This document details the three main methods for enrolling users as Students in a Canvas course in the Continuing Education (CE) instance of Canvas and provides advice for when each method should be used.

IMPORTANT: The information in this document pertains only to courses in the Continuing Education instance of Canvas. Only the Continuing Education instance of Canvas allows for external community members to register for user accounts and be added to courses. Access to courses in the other instances of Canvas (Instructional and Training and Development) requires an employee or student username and password from a Universities of Wisconsin institution. Student enrollments in for-credit instructional Canvas courses at UW-Green Bay are added through an integration with the Student Information System (SIS) and cannot be added through any method in this guide.

Instructors and program administrators of Canvas courses in the Continuing Education instance of Canvas have three methods for enrolling Students in a Canvas course. Each method has unique strengths and weaknesses and will work better for some course audiences than others. Use this guide to help select a method best suited to your course and its audience. For additional guidance, please contact the UWGB Canvas administration team at

Table of Contents

  1. Manual enrollments through the course People page
  2. Canvas Catalog self-enrollment link
  3. Enable self-enrollment with a "secret URL" from the course Settings page

Method 1: Manual Enrollments Through the Course People Page

Most suitable for: courses with a set start date where the program can collect the list of participants before the start of the course.

Pros: Works for the widest audience, including UWGB employees/students, existing external Continuing Education Student users, and new external Continuing Education Student users.

Cons: This method is less automatable than the self-enrollment methods.

How to: Navigate to the People page of the Canvas course and select the + People button. In the Add People menu, enter a line- or comma-separated list of the email addresses of users you wish to add to the course. When Canvas cannot match an existing user account to an email address, you will be prompted to enter a name to create a new user account. Added users receive an email invitation to join the course and (for new users) complete their account registration. For complete instructions, see the following Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I add users to a course?

For new Continuing Education Student users created through this invitation method, you must wait for the user to complete their user account registration and accept the invitation to their first course before you can successfully add them to additional courses. A "Pending" tag will appear next to the user's name in the course People page until they accept the invite and finish creating their account. After they accept the invite to the first course, you can add them to any number of other courses at once. If you add a brand new user to multiple courses without waiting for them to accept the first invite and finish creating their account, that user will be unable to accept more than one of the course invitations and end up in a "login loop" when attempting to accept the other invitations. To resolve an invitation "login loop" issue you will need to re-add the user to the other courses to create new invitations.

Warning: Do not enter a name and create a new account when Canvas cannot find an existing account for an "" email address. Doing so will create a duplicate Continuing Education Student account that exists separately from the UWGB Employee or Student account and cause confusion. A UWGB employee or student who does not yet have a Canvas account can sign in to Canvas for the first time from to automatically create their account and allow others to add them to courses.

Instructions for Students: How do I accept an email invitation to join a Canvas Course? (Canvas Student Guide). To return to a course after enrolling, students can navigate to and sign in.

Method 2: Canvas Catalog Self-Enrollment Link

Most suitable for: self-paced courses with open enrollment where the course audience is primarily external community members and is not likely to contain UWGB employees or students.

Pros: Provides the most intuitive new account registration process for external Continuing Education Student users.

Cons: Users with existing Canvas accounts often overlook the option on the Catalog enrollment page to sign in with an existing account and instead fill out the form for creating a new account. This issue is especially problematic and leads to the creation of confusing duplicate user accounts when the course audience includes UWGB employees/students. Because of this problem, Canvas Catalog self-enrollment links should never be used to enroll UWGB employees or students in a course.

screenshot of the Canvas Catalog enroll page with the button to sign in with an existing account highlighted

How to: Canvas Catalog self-enrollment links can only be created by Canvas administrators. Send an email to UWGB Canvas administrators at to request the Canvas Catalog self-enrollment link for your Continuing Education Canvas course.

Canvas Catalog self-enrollment links begin with

Warning: Enrolling via the Canvas Catalog self-enrollment link exposes a Catalog Dashboard page to students. This page categorizes course enrollments for users as "Completed" or "Not Completed" based off of their completion of course module requirements. The categorization seen on this page can be confusing to students if a course does not use module requirements or if the module requirements in a course do not encompass all work required to complete the course. Read more about the Catalog Dashboard page in this Canvas guide: How do I use the Student Dashboard in Catalog?

Instructions for Students: Canvas (Continuing Education) - Joining a Course with a Canvas Catalog Self-Enrollment Link. To return to a course after enrolling, students can navigate to and sign in.

Method 3: Enable Self-Enrollment With a "Secret URL" From the Course Settings Page

Most suitable for: adding UWGB employees or students to a course and adding users with existing UW Continuing Education Student accounts to a course.

Pros: Very simple for UWGB employees/students and external users with existing UW Continuing Education Student accounts to use.

Cons: Not suitable for adding external community members who do not yet have a Canvas account.

How to: Navigate to the Settings page of the Canvas course, select the more options link at the bottom of the page, enable the Let students self-enroll by sharing with them a secret URL or code checkbox, and then select the Update Course Details button to save the change. After saving, copy the secret URL from the bottom of the Settings page and share it with the users you want to add to the course. For complete instructions, see the following Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I enable course self-enrollment with a secret URL?

Self-enrollment "secret URLs" begin with

Warning: While the secret URL can be a good way to enroll students, we do not recommend using the "" link and join code that appear immediately after the secret URL on the Settings page. The join code account registration process is not intuitive for users and can lead to the creation of Canvas user accounts with irregular usernames and no associated email address.

Instructions for Students: Students simply need to follow the secret URL link provided to them, sign in with their existing Canvas account, and then select the Enroll in course button. To return to a course after enrolling, students can navigate to and sign in.

Keywordsadd adding enroll people person catalog self-enrollment enrollment self-enroll user users LMS class CE secret URL join code courses external community member members login loop   Doc ID135587
OwnerScott B.GroupUW Green Bay
Created2024-02-20 15:03:22Updated2024-06-13 16:25:40
SitesUW Green Bay
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