How to make your course available to students

Controlling How Students Access Courses: Course State and Semester Dates Matter!

Course access in Canvas works differently than it does in D2L, and there are two important changes to keep in mind: 1) course access is controlled by the course state, and 2) course access is controlled by semester (term) dates.  


First, there are three different states that a Canvas course can be in:

  • Unpublished - The course is unavailable to students, but is available to instructors and collegiate admins. Generally set while course is “in preparation.”
  • Published - The course is available to students. Generally set throughout the semester, thus allowing interaction.  A course can only be moved from the Published state to the Unpublished state if you have not entered grades.  Once you enter grades for students, the next state you can set the course to is Concluded.  
  • Concluded - The course is put in "archived" mode and is non-interactive, but students can still access the course material.  Generally after final grades have been submitted.

More information about these course states can be found at


Second, semester (term) start/end affect how students can access a course.  By default, students cannot participate in a course before a semester starts or after a semester ends, and these dates come from the start/end dates for semesters that are defined in MAUI. Instructors can change the start/end dates of a course, which will override the semester start/end date. has more information on how to do this.


Instructors and TAs can access a course regardless of the course state or semester date, but it is important to keep these changes in mind when working with courses that run outside of the semester dates defined in MAUI.   


How to make your Canvas course available to students

Open your course and view the Course Home Page.

Publish Course button

In the Sidebar, click the Publish button.  Your course is now available to students.

NOTE: The Publish button is also available on the ICON dashboard.


How to provide early access to your course

In Course Navigation, click the Settings link.

Click the Course Details tab.

Course Details tab

Set Course Start Date and End Date.

Enter Start and End Date

Select the Users can only participate in the course between these dates checkbox.

Limit Participation checkbox

Click the Update Course Details button.

Update Details button

NOTE: You will also need to be sure to Publish your course.

Article number: 
Last updated: 
May 2, 2017