How to send a Canvas announcement from your email app

To send an announcement on Canvas, you normally use the Announcements tool specific to each course. However, you can also send announcements from your native email app using the external feeds feature on Canvas. To send an announcement via email, set up a dummy blog that supports RSS feeds and posting over email, then link that RSS feed with your Canvas site. The instructions below are for Blogger, but any platform that meets these requirements will work. When finished, you will be able to send announcements to one or all of your Canvas courses, from any email.

Create and configure a dummy blog

Create a new blog at Blogger.com, or another blog platform. This will likely be tied to your Google account if you have one. In the Blogger settings, set the following options:

  • Disable “Visible to search engines”
A screenshot of the settings screen in Blogger — explained in detail in the article text.
A screenshot of the settings screen in Blogger — explained in detail in the article text.
Blogger email settings

Your feed URL will be https://(your-blog-name).blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss. Remember this URL for the next step.

Connect your feed to Canvas

In the Announcements tool, click the External Feeds link on the right, and paste in your feed’s URL. Select “Full article”, check “Only add posts with a specific phrase in the title”, and add your relevant keywords if desired (explained in the next section). Click “Add Feed”.

A screenshot of Canvas showing how to set your external feed settings
A screenshot of Canvas showing how to set your external feed settings
Canvas settings for your external feed

At this point, an email sent to the Blogger email address will post to Blogger and its associated feed, which will then be posted as a Canvas announcement.

Send the same announcement to multiple courses

Using the above method, you can also send the same announcement to multiple courses automatically, simply by linking all the courses to the same RSS feed. This is handy if you have a general announcement to make that applies to all your students. As the Announcements tool currently works, there is no way (that I know of) to natively send the same announcement to multiple Canvas courses.

However, you can also set each site to only post announcements from the feed that have specific words in the title. Assume you are teaching three courses, with the course numbers 101, 202, and 303. On the Canvas site for 101, set the feed to only post announcements with the following words in the subject:

  • [101]

For 202, you would use [202] and [all], and so on. If you want to post to a specific class, start the email subject with the one of the keywords:

[101] No homework due this week…

The above, if configured properly, will only send the email as an announcement to the 101 Canvas. Having [all] as a keyword for all the classes means that any announcement with [all] in the subject gets sent to all the courses, without cluttering up the subject line with each course number listed individually. There are other options; use whatever works best for you.

As long as you have the posting email address saved from the Blogger settings, you can compose and send an announcement from your regular email.

Disclaimers!

The above method requires that you have a dummy blog that serves only as the host of the RSS feed. But this also likely means that the blog will be public. You can set Blogger to not index the blog for search engines, but it’s also best to not use this method for any sensitive information. Most course announcements I send are general information that I assume is also public knowledge, but fair warning. Additionally, keep the posting email address a secret, as any email sent to this address will be posted as an announcement.

Also, there might be a bit of a delay (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours) in Canvas posting the announcement from your feed. I wouldn’t recommend this method for any urgent messages, like canceling your class in 15 minutes.

One last thing to consider: this method adds some convenience for the instructor but it does add another layer of technology between them and the students. Effective and open communication is essential when classes are fully remote, and you should consider best practices when deciding to implement this hack.

Phonologist, lecturer in linguistics, he/him.