Access to Canvas in China

Florida State University faculty, staff, students, and alumni have an international presence. Wherever they are located, they require stable and timely access to FSU's Canvas learning management system (LMS). China in particular is a major destination for American students and academics studying and researching abroad. However, its unique regulatory and political environment can pose significant challenges for individuals attempting to access Canvas while they are there.

Particular Considerations

The Chinese state mandates that foreign technology companies offering products and services abide by several requirements specific for operations within China. These requirements include:

  • Establishing a company branch within China itself
  • Securing cooperation from Chinese firms
  • Making your product source code openly available
  • Providing backdoor access for the Chinese government
  • Locating all physical data sources within China

Canvas' core functions were designed to be compatible with China's internet security measures regarding internet content, but its parent company, Instructure, has yet to fully commit to the requirements set forth for doing business within China. Because of this, Canvas and other Instructure services may not have reliable functionality in-country.

Can I Use Canvas in China?

Users report still being able to access Canvas within China itself, although they are often subject to data throttling based on IP address. Virtual private networks (VPNs) also provide a means to access Canvas in-country, with varying degrees of success. This paradigm is subject to change, however, with access reportedly being more difficult to manage as "loopholes" such as VPNs are restricted or blocked.

China's state security services do not keep foreign entities in the loop regarding what sites and services they restrict access to and why, so there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding restriction of site access. We do not know if some site restrictions are only temporary or if additional censorship measures will go into effect.

While users' abilities to access Canvas in-country can be intermittent, some commonly used tools in Canvas are blocked. This means that even if a user is able to access Canvas, they will not be able to access:

  • Google products (e.g., Google Docs, Drive, and various APIs)
  • Canvas LTI tools (e.g., Turnitin and Kaltura)
  • Facebook
  • Dropbox
  • YouTube

Solution

FSU Canvas users may be able to gain limited access to course materials in Canvas while in China. Due to a lack of reliable and complete access, however, instructors and administrators should for the time being explore alternatives to using the Canvas LMS while operating within China.

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  • 26-Jul-2018
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