Getting Started with CanvasAPI

Installing CanvasAPI

You can install CanvasAPI with pip:

pip install canvasapi


Before using CanvasAPI, you’ll need to instantiate a new Canvas object:

# Import the Canvas class
from canvasapi import Canvas

# Canvas API URL
API_URL = ""
# Canvas API key
API_KEY = "p@$$w0rd"

# Initialize a new Canvas object
canvas = Canvas(API_URL, API_KEY)

You can now use canvas to make API calls.

Working with Canvas Objects

CanvasAPI converts the JSON responses from the Canvas API into Python objects. These objects provide further access to the Canvas API. You can find a full breakdown of the methods these classes provide in our class documentation. Below, you’ll find a few examples of common CanvasAPI use cases.

Course objects

Courses can be retrieved from the API:

# Grab course 123456
>>> course = canvas.get_course(123456)

# Access the course's name
'Test Course'

# Update the course's name
>>> course.update(course={'name': 'New Course Name'})

See our documentation on keyword arguments for more information about how course.update() handles the name argument.

User objects

# Grab user 123
>>> user = canvas.get_user(123)

# Access the user's name
'Test User'

# Retrieve a list of courses the user is enrolled in
>>> courses = user.get_courses()

# Grab a different user by their SIS ID
>>> login_id_user = canvas.get_user('some_user', 'sis_login_id')

Paginated Lists

Some calls, like the user.get_courses() call above, will request multiple objects from Canvas’s API. CanvasAPI collects these objects in a PaginatedList object. PaginatedList generally acts like a regular Python list. You can grab an element by index, iterate over it, and take a slice of it.

Warning: PaginatedList lazily loads its elements. Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine the exact number of records Canvas will return without traversing the list fully. This means that PaginatedList isn’t aware of its own length and negative indexing is not currently supported.

Let’s look at how we can use the PaginatedList returned by our get_courses() call:

# Retrieve a list of courses the user is enrolled in
>>> courses = user.get_courses()

>>> print(courses)
<PaginatedList of type Course>

# Access the first element in our list.
# You'll notice the first call takes a moment, but the next N-1
# elements (where N = the per_page argument supplied; the default is 10)
# will be instantly accessible.
>>> print(courses[0])
TST101 Test Course (1234567)

# Iterate over our course list
>>> for course in courses:

TST101 Test Course 1 (1234567)
TST102 Test Course 2 (1234568)
TST103 Test Course 3 (1234569)

# Take a slice of our course list
>>> courses[:2]
[TST101 Test Course 1 (1234567), TST102 Test Course 2 (1234568)]

Keyword Arguments

Most of Canvas’s API endpoints accept a variety of arguments. CanvasAPI allows developers to insert keyword arguments when making calls to endpoints that accept arguments.

# Get all of the active courses a user is currently enrolled in
>>> courses = user.get_courses(enrollment_status='active')

For a more detailed description of how CanvasAPI handles more complex keyword arguments, check out the Keyword Argument Documentation.

Smart DateTimes

CanvasAPI is set up to make working with datetime strings a little bit easier.

If Canvas’s documentation calls for an ISO 8601 format datetime string, you can pass in a Python datetime object instead. For example, updating the start_at and end_at dates of a course:

from datetime import datetime

start_date = datetime(2018, 1, 1, 0, 1)  # '2018-01-01T00:01Z'
end_date = datetime(2018, 12, 31, 11, 59)  # '2018-12-31T11:59Z'

        'start_at': start_date,
        'end_at': end_date,

If Canvas returns an ISO 8601 formatted datetime string, CanvasAPI will automatically create a datetime object from that string. This new datetime object will be a the string attribute as the same key with _date appended. For example, start_at becomes start_at_date. The attribute with the original string representation of the date is retained.

>>> course = canvas.get_course(1)
>>> course.start_at
>>> course.start_at_date
datetime.datetime(2014, 2, 11, 16, 38, tzinfo=<UTC>)