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Northwestern University

How Does Information Get to Canvas?

While it may seem like magic to have your course for an upcoming quarter appear in your Canvas dashboard, the connection of Canvas to CAESAR is maintained by a regular and robust data synchronization process. If you’ve ever wondered how courses and enrollments get into Canvas, read on.

Most of the courses and enrollments of students and instructors in Canvas come from the Registrar’s Office. In Weinberg, as with most other colleges at the university, that registrar data starts with programs submitting their schedules for the upcoming quarter. At a designated date in advance of the upcoming quarter, courses in CAESAR have a Canvas course generated for them. Anyone listed as an instructor of record in CAESAR will automatically be enrolled in the newly created course in Canvas, either in the Teacher or TA role. Anyone listed as Course Coordinator in CAESAR will be enrolled in Canvas in the Support role. (Learn more about course roles here.)

In most cases, the courses that are designated in CAESAR as “lecture” or “seminar” automatically have courses generated for them in Canvas. While discussion sections, lab sections, and independent study courses had Canvas courses created during the period of remote learning, we will soon return to the pre-COVID practice of only creating Canvas courses for those sections upon request. Instructors should email to request a Canvas course for a discussion, lab, or independent study course.

Once students begin registering for their upcoming courses in CAESAR, those enrollments will pass over to the associated Canvas courses during the scheduled synchronizations of CAESAR and Canvas. This process occurs three times per day on weekdays and twice per day on weekends. Thus, enrollment in a Canvas course is not an instantaneous process upon registration in CAESAR, but the enrollment will pass from CAESAR to Canvas within a few hours. Instructors should NOT manually add students to their CAESAR-connected Canvas courses since doing so can result in discrepancies between the official enrollment record and the records in Canvas. 

If students or instructors have questions about Canvas course enrollments (e.g., “Why am I not seeing a Canvas course in which I am enrolled?”), they should email

While most courses in Canvas arrive via synchronization with CAESAR, there are also courses that are manually created. These include courses for special programs (like a summer workshop), academic cohorts or groups (like the incoming students to a graduate program), or any other student-faculty collaboration that is not tied to a course in CAESAR. In these courses, all students and instructors are added manually and no synchronization occurs. To request a custom course site in Canvas, a form should be submitted for review by the Teaching & Learning Technologies team.

The Teaching & Learning Technologies team works closely with the Registrar’s Office to ensure that the communication between CAESAR and Canvas works as expected to keep courses and enrollments up-to-date throughout the quarter. Always feel free to be in touch about any questions regarding the synchronization between Canvas and CAESAR.


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