Canvas @ Yale

Understanding the Canvas @ Yale Visitor Purge

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All learners who added a course to their Canvas Worksheets in Yale Course Search are added to those courses as "Visitors." The "Visitor" learners are removed automatically from these courses at the end of the Add / Drop period. Please review the information below to learn more about the timeline of the visitor purge from Canvas, as well as specific information for instructors and students to be mindful of regarding this process.

Canvas User Roles

Student (Role) - A learner who is officially registered and enrolled in a Canvas course because they have added the course to their Registration Worksheet during registration or the add / drop period.

Visitor (Role) - A learner who added a Canvas course to their Canvas Worksheet to experience the course prior to officially adding the course on their Registration Worksheet during registration or the add / drop period.

Table of Contents

This article will address the following information:

Visitor Purge Timeline

Below is the timeline outlining the sequence of events for communication and action leading up to the Visitor Purge in our Canvas @ Yale instance.

  1. Instructors and Visitors (those learners that added a course on their Canvas Worksheet in Yale Course Search and are not officially registered for the course) are notified in advance of the pre-determined date that Visitor enrollments will be removed from courses via a Global Announcement on Canvas.
  2. Before and after this Global Announcement on Canvas has been posted, Visitors who wish to unofficially audit a course can send a request to the course instructor.
    1. Instructors can add these students to their Canvas course site with the role of "Guest Student" so the learner avoids losing access to the course site.
  3. Shortly after the last day of the latest school's add / drop period, all Visitor enrollments will be removed automatically from Canvas course sites.

Add / Drop period closes on different dates for different schools. Visitor enrollments cannot be purged until all schools' add / drop periods have ended.

Visitor enrollments (as enrolled from the Banner-to-Canvas feed) will be automatically purged from courses after add / drop has ended—but the timing of that purge varies from semester to semester.

Global Announcements (visible on the dashboard page in Canvas) are posted about a week before to notify both visitors and instructors when the visitor enrollments will be purged from the system.

Instructor Information

Please note the known issue of people being removed from groups within their Canvas course occurs most frequently during registration and the add / drop period. More information on this issue can be found in our support article: Students being Removed from Groups.

There may be multiple scenarios / enrollment situations you need to address as the add / drop date approaches in regards to granting Guest Student access to your Visitor students if they are planning to remain in your course site without officially registering for the course.

Retaining Manually Added Visitors by Instructor

If you have manually added any students to your course with the role of “Visitor,” these students will also be removed as part of the end of add / drop period visitor purge as well.

If you receive a request from a manually added "Visitor" to remain in your course site:

  1. Go to the “People” tool in your course navigation.
  2. Edit the user’s Course Role to “Guest Student.”

For instructions on changing a manually added user’s course role, please visit our support article Editing User Roles in Your Course.

Retaining Registered Visitors from Canvas Worksheets

Adding a Visitor as a "Guest Student" does not mean that the learner is officially registered for the course for credit.

If you receive a request from a Visitor who added your course via Yale Course Search's Canvas worksheet, you will not be able to modify their course role.

These students will either need to:

  1. Officially register for the course through Yale Course Search and/or with the assistance of their departmental registrar.


  1. Have the instructor add the student to the course site as a "Guest Student" so they have two roles. This will allow the students to be listed as "Visitor" and "Guest Student" in the course, which will prevent them from being removed at the end of the add / drop period as only their "Visitor" role will be purged.
    1. In order to do so, please visit our Adding / Removing Users in Your Course support article for more directions.
Additional Information Regarding Users with Multiple Roles in Your Course Site

If a student is listed with multiple roles in the same section within your Canvas site, as long as one of their roles is "Student" or "Guest Student" they will not lose access to your course site when the visitor enrollment is removed.

However, if you are using custom Canvas course sections to subdivide students for targeted assignments / announcements / etc., you will need to add the users to your custom course section with the role of "Guest Student" to ensure they are not removed from those specific course items.

Visitor section enrollments in the same section versus in different sections

Student Information

If you are listed as a Visitor in a Canvas course site at the end of the add / drop period, you either added the course to your Canvas Worksheet or, if you are a Visitor in a professional school course, you may have been manually enrolled into the course site by your instructor or department / school registrar (Yale College and GSAS courses do not manually enroll "Visitors").

If you are registering for the course...
  • You need to add the course to your Registration Worksheet in Yale Course Search. When you add the course to your Registration Worksheet, you will be added to the course as a Student (may take up to 2 hours for your enrollment to be reflected in Canvas).  
  • If you leave the course on your Canvas Worksheet, you will still be listed with the Visitor role in the Canvas course, but after the visitor purge your Visitor role will automatically be removed.  
If you do not plan on taking the course...
  • If you are listed with the "Student" role, remove the course from your Registration Worksheet.
    • Your Registration Worksheet represents those courses that you officially registered to take for credit. If the course is listed on your Registration Worksheet, you will need to remove it.  
  • If you are listed with the "Visitor" role, you can either:
    • Remove the course from your Canvas Worksheet


  • Do nothing—after the add / drop period ends, your Visitor role will automatically be removed.**

** If you were manually added to the course with the role of Visitor, after add / drop period ends, you will see a Canvas Announcement on your Canvas Dashboard page letting you know when manual Visitor Enrollments will be purged.

If you do not plan on registering for the course, but would like to maintain access to the course...
  • Contact your instructor and ask the instructor to add you to the course site with the "Guest Student" role. Please be aware that course membership is subject to the instructor's discretion.
If you are listed in the Canvas site with two (2) roles...
  • As long as one of your roles is "Student" or "Guest Student," your account will continue to have access to the course.
Questions about your role:

If you have any questions about your role or unsure of what role you have in your course, you can go to your "All Courses" area in Canvas and view the "Enrolled as" column to see if you are listed as a "Visitor" for any course.

You can also contact your instructor to have them check your role in the “People” tool on the Canvas course.

If you have questions about your registration status in a class, please contact your Residential College Dean's office or your Departmental / School Registrar's office.

For other questions, please contact [email protected]. Please reach out to the Registrar's office for questions or issues with your registration by emailing [email protected].

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