UNF Center for Instruction and Research Technology

Support Document

Canvas / Limited Section Privileges in Combined Canvas Shells

Important Note

The term “cross-listing” refers to courses that are coupled on the UNF Schedule. The term “combined” refers to sections that appear in the same Canvas shell though not cross-listed on the schedule. When combining or separating sections in Canvas, it is import to understand what will happen to your shells and student data. Please review this article before proceeding. 


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their educational records to protect their privacy. Per FERPA, students cannot have access to student information (including enrollment information) for students in course sections other than their own.  Individual Canvas course shells are created for each course section (CRN) on the University’s course schedule. The only exception are sections that are cross-listed in the UNF course schedule (which are combined into a single Canvas shell at creation).  

Non cross-listed sections can be combined in Canvas when there are educational or pedagogical reasons related to the course during the semester, such as physical or online collaboration. Instructors who wish to combine course sections themselves in Canvas can do so using the native Canvas Cross-listing tool.

Note: Per UNF policy, undergraduate and graduate courses can only be cross-level listed if they meet the particular criteria detailed in the policy. CIRT will not fulfill any requests to manually combine undergraduate with graduate courses. Courses that are approved to be cross-level listed on the schedule will be combined by default.

When course sections are combined into a single Canvas course for administrative convenience, instructors must take additional steps to ensure student privacy and compliance with FERPA. Students in Canvas course shells with sections not cross-listed on the UNF Schedule will have limited section privileges, meaning that students cannot see the names, section affiliations, or user profiles of students in sections other than their own in the following tools: Collaborations (shared documents), Conversations (Inbox), and People.

Instructors who require assistance with or have questions about course combining may reach out to CIRT for guidance.

Additional Steps to Ensure Student Privacy

To prevent students from seeing students in other sections in in a combined course, instructors must disable or lock down tools that expose information about students in other sections. It is recommended that instructors change these settings prior to publishing the course: 

Course Settings  
Under Settings > Course Details > more options, make sure the selections are as follows:  

Disabling Course Navigation Links
Using this guide, under Settings > Navigation, disable the following: 

  • Chat 
  • Zoom 

If a discussion topic is assigned to “Everyone,” students will be able to view and respond to discussion post replies across sections. In order to require students to view and respond only to others in their assigned section, discussion topics should be duplicated and posted or assigned to individual sections.

  • For ungraded Discussions: In the Post to field, de-select “All Sections” and select a single section.
  • For graded Discussions: “All Sections” must remain selected in the Post to field to allow the Graded option to be selected. In the Assign to field, de-select “Everyone” and select a single section.

Canvas Inbox Messages  
When sending a Canvas Inbox message to two or more students, check Send an individual message to each recipient. This will send a separate copy to each recipient and hide the names of the recipients in the message header. 

Other Tips

  • Course combining should be done at the beginning of a semester prior to publishing a course. If you combine courses after the semester has already started, any student activity (including grades and assignments) will not be transferred to the new course.  
  • When adding TAs to your course, select Can interact with users in their section only, and add them to only the sections for which they are responsible.  
  • If students are allowed to edit pages, names of all users who contributed to a page will be visible through the page revision history. Instructors should only allow students to edit pages within section groups. 
  • It is possible to set calendar events and assignment due dates by section. See the Canvas Guide How do I set a different Calendar event date for each section in my course?   
  • When Zoom meetings are scheduled from Canvas in courses that have combined sections, students in any section will be able to access and view published cloud recordings. Instructors are advised to schedule meetings directly at unf.zoom.us and send the invites to specific sections. Sharing Zoom cloud recordings should also be done through the unf.zoom.us web portal. 
  • Comments made on Studio videos that are embedded in a course will be visible to all students across sections. Comments should be disabled on videos that will be visible to all sections. Instructors who wish to allow comments should create a duplicate copy of the studio video so that individual copies of the video can be assigned to different sections. 
  • Special care must be taken if instructors plan on importing content from previous courses or the Canvas commons. Imported content may not necessarily follow the above guidelines. Access settings concerning all imported content should be double-checked before publishing.

Important Information about External Tools 

Section visibility may vary when using third-party external tools such as VoiceThread,  Macmillian Learning, or McGraw Hill Campus. Instructors who plan on using external tools in their courses are advised to do so carefully, reviewing each external tool with respect to student privacy. Testing of these tools is recommended before course publishing.

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