Announcements and Inbox are Canvas’s two communication tools. Announcements facilitates communicating with everyone in the course, while Inbox provides direct email-like messaging system that is secure and easily sortable. Both tools send email notifications to class members when they receive a communication.
Why Use Canvas Announcements?
I could email my students, right?
One thing we learned during the Covid-19 transition in Spring 2020 is how quickly emails can accumulate and introduce the potential for confusion. Announcements mitigate that. When you post a message to your class through Canvas Announcements, Canvas will send a notification to their email, and will also create a durable record of the message, grouped with all announcements you’ve sent previously in one easy-to-find area of Canvas. It also allows you to easily link within Canvas (for example, a due date reminder can link straight to the assignment). In short, Announcements allows you to communicate with students in a more streamlined way.
You can create an announcement by visiting the Announcements area in Canvas (in the course menu on the left), and adding an announcement. Announcements use the Rich Content Editor, so you can embed media, attach files, link within Canvas, format your announcement using headings for screen-reader compatibility, and more. You can also create announcements that will go live in the future. Students receive notifications automatically, and every announcement, once saved, appears in the Announcements index.
Instructure has produced an overview video:
Why Use Inbox?
Inbox is a streamlined, sortable, FERPA-compliant (secure) communication tool that allows you and your students to access your one-on-one communications (instructor-student or student-student) from the hub of your course. You can sort conversations by course, and have access to a course-specific address book. Inbox avoids missed emails and centralizes your communication.
Instructure provides a general introduction to Inbox here, and a variety of more specific instructions here. To centralize your own communications, be sure to inform your students that they should contact you via Inbox rather than via email. You will receive notifications of Inbox messages, but it is still good practice to check manually every few days.