How to Create Groups in Canvas

How to Create Groups in Canvas

Canvas allows the creation of groups for various uses. Instructors can create groups for students to collaborate on group assignments, pages, collaborations, and more. Instructors can also allow students to create their own groups.

Canvas has two types of groups: student groups and group sets. Student groups can be created by either an instructor or a student and are self-organized by students. Group sets are groups that you create to use for graded assignments.

To learn more about Groups, check out  How to Manage Canvas Groups


Related Topics: Canvas People & Groups, Canvas

What are Group Sets?

Group sets house the different groups within a course and allow an instructor to create different groups for different purposes or assignments. For example, a course could have groups of 5 students for a term project and groups of 2 for weekly labs.

How to Create a Group Set

Click the People link in the Course Navigation Menu [1].

Click the Add Group Set button [2].

Canvas page with People link highlighted in Global Navigation and + Group Set button highlighted

Name the Group Set by typing into the Group Set Name field [1]. 

You can allow self sign-ups by selecting the Allow self sign-up checkbox [2].

In the Group Structure drop-down menu [3] you can choose to:

  • Create groups later. Use this if you want to import a CSV file or manually add students to groups.
  • Split students by number of groups. Use this option to divide students into a specified number of groups.
    • e.g., I want 5 groups with an equal number of students.
  • Split number of students per group. Use this option to divide students into groups with a specified number of students per group.
    • e.g., I want 7 students per group and it doesn't matter how many groups there are.


Canvas Create Group Set setup

When you select "Split students by number of groups" or "Split number of students per group," you'll need to enter the number of students or groups you want automatically created [4].

You can also chose to have a Group Leader automatically assigned [5].


Canvas group structure and leadership setup

In this example, the instructor wanted 3 groups and chose to set a random student as the group leader. The result is 3 groups of 2 students each. The student listed after the group name is the Group Leader. The group names were automatically generated. You can edit them by selecting Edit from the kebob menu [⋮] on the right side of the group.


Group final set-up and view of groups in canvas

NOTE: The “Require group members to be in the same section” option available in self sign-up and automatically created groups is broken. We do not have any information from Canvas on when this will be fixed. For now, you must use a CSV file to manually distribute groups across sections. Check out How to manually Create Groups Across Sections for more information.

Group Naming Conventions

When choosing a Group Set name, use a naming convention with your course's unique course code, an abbreviation, or some other easily distinguished group name rather than using generic group names with numbers or letters. Once a student is a member of a group, a Groups button appears in their Global Navigation Menu, which lists every group in which the student is a member. Groups with generic names (e.g. Group A, Group 1) may result in confusion or duplication of group names across courses. To help students clearly identify their groups between all of their courses, create group names specific to your course.



Poor Group Names Good Group Names

Lab Group 1

CHEM 201: Lab Group 1

Peer Writing Groups

ENG 101: Peer Writing Group A
Cats, Dogs, Birds

GEOG 142: Cats

Canvas Add Group window in manual mode

When using the automatically create group functions, Canvas will use the Group Set name, along with the number of groups.  For example, naming a Group Set BI 201 and choosing to create 6 groups will result in groups named BI 201: Group 1, BI 201: Group 2, etc.

If you would like to give groups more unique names, you can choose to manually create groups.