Canvas Observer Role

What Is an Observer in Canvas? 

The Observer role is a feature unique to Canvas. This role allows a Canvas user to be linked with a student or multiple students and view those students’ progress in a course. Observers cannot submit work on behalf of the students they observe, but they can see grades, assignments, events, and course interactions for the students they are linked with as observers.  Canvas’ Basics Guide (2022) provides details related to this role:

Observers cannot submit work on behalf of the students they observe, but they can see grades, assignments, events, and course interactions for the students they are linked with as observers.  

Observers cannot:

  • Comment on announcements 
  • View discussions 
  • Submit assignments or quizzes
  • View course rosters
  • Send messages to students they are not observing
  • View locked files or folders
  • Join groups
  • View unpublished courses
  • Access the Chat tool
  • View grade audit trail  

Observer Limitations:

  • Observers can view the same content as the student they are observing unless the content is unpublished or restricted by locked dates. 
  • Observers can view assignment overview and instructions even if the student they are observing has not completed them unless the assignments are locked.

To learn more about observer participation, please review the Observers Visibility and Participation PDF.

How is the Observer role used at The University of Memphis? 

The Center for Athletic Academic Services (CAAS) is currently using the Observer role to support student-athletes.

  • CAAS staff Observers can only view academic information for student-athletes.
    • A list of student-athletes and their CAAS Staff Observer is provided to Derek Hardaway (dhrdaway@memphis.edu) with the University Libraries/UM3D who provides CAAS staff Observer access in Canvas.
  • Student-Athletes sign a waiver allowing CAAS staff to track their academic progress as an Observer and monthly academic progress requests. 
    • This waiver was approved from University General Counsel in 2015.
  • CAAS uses the academic information gathered for daily and weekly grade reports that are sent to coaches and for early intervention with students who are doing poorly to implement more academic programming (study hall, tutors, mentor meetings, etc.). Observer allows CAAS staff to gather student-athlete academic progress on more students more efficiently, effectively (helps our staff prepare for individual meetings with students), and expediently.  
  • CAAS staff can only see what the student they are observing sees in Canvas, and you, the professor can track where CAAS staff visits and how long they remain in those areas on Canvas. CAAS staff cannot see or take quizzes, tests, or view quizzes or test questions prior to a quiz-based assessment.
  • As CAAS has done with one Faculty Senate staff member, CAAS staff would be more than happy to meet with you to show you the Observer role from their perspective. Just contact Fernandez West at f.west@memphis.edu.  

CAAS goal is to work with the Faculty Senate and other constituents moving forward and openly communicate Observer access before each semester.  Departmental GPA of 3.24 is the 3rd highest we have ever had.  

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Associate Athletic Director, Academic Services, Dr. Fernandez West: office (901-678-3467) or cell (865-712-0057). Below is a list of CAAS staff members and their sport responsibilities.  

How do faculty “Opt-Out” of having Observers in their course(s)? 

Before the start of each semester, Fernandez West, the Associate Athletic Director, Academic Services, will email all faculty who have CAAS Staff Observers in their course that term. If you, as a faculty member, do not feel comfortable having CAAS staff utilizing the Observer role for your class, you can ‘Opt-Out’ by placing a Canvas Observer Role Opt-Out Ticket.

Please note that you will need to submit this opt-out request via the ticketing system each semester.

CAAS Staff 

Fernandez West (pfwest@memphs.edu; 901.678.3467)   
Associate Athletic Director, Director of CAAS - Mixed Rifle                
Kristin Williams (khenke@memphis.edu; 901.678.3466)    
Assistant Athletic Director - Baseball and Women’s Tennis 

Ashleigh Hayes (avhayes@memphis.edu; 901-678-5045)
Assistant Director – Football (Offense & Special Teams)

Kimi Videto (k.videto@memphis.edu; 901.678.5586)    
Athletic Academic Counselor – Women’s Basketball, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Volleyball 
Thomas Phillips (mjphllp2@memphis.edu; 901.678.3982)   
Athletic Academic Counselor – Football

Leslie Brooks (lmbroks1@memphis.edu; 901.678.2447) 
Athletic Academic Counselor – Men’s Basketball, Women’s Softball, Women’s Golf, Women’s Tennis 
Mar Newell (menewell@memphis.edu; 901.678.3309)   
Athletic Academic Counselor – Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field, Men’s Soccer 
Tania Studer (tbstuder@memphis.edu; 901.678.3064)   
Lead Learning Specialist – Monitors all students-athletes

Tommy Winston (901.678.2429)   
Learning Specialist – Monitors all students-athletes

‘What is the Observer role?’ Canvas Basics Guide, Instructure Community website.