Can Canvas See When You Switch Tabs

If you’re a student or educator who uses the Canvas platform, you may have wondered: “Can Canvas see when I switch tabs?” This question is particularly important for students during online exams where the platform’s ability to monitor activity could potentially impact exam integrity and outcomes. Let’s delve deeper into this question to resolve any ambiguity.

What is Canvas?

Before we answer the question, let’s first understand what Canvas is. Canvas is a learning management system (LMS) that is widely used in educational institutions across the globe. It provides a platform for teachers to distribute course materials and for students to submit assignments and interact with their instructors and classmates digitally.

Can Canvas Monitor Your Tabs?

The short answer is no, Canvas cannot see when you switch tabs during normal usage of the platform’s courses and assignments. This is because Canvas does not have access to your computer’s functions or browser history.

However, during proctored exams, the scenario may be different. The proctoring tools integrated with Canvas, such as ProctorU or Respondus Lockdown Browser, have certain capabilities that can prevent you from opening new tabs or windows while taking an exam. If your institution uses such tools, it’s important to familiarize yourself with their specific rules and functionalities.

Proctoring Tools and Browser Activity

Proctoring tools can track and record various activities during an online exam. They can monitor your screen, use your webcam to observe your physical activity, and even track keystrokes and mouse clicks. However, these capabilities are not inherent to Canvas but are features of the proctoring software used.

Example: Respondus Lockdown Browser

One example of a proctoring tool is the Respondus Lockdown Browser. When using this browser, students cannot navigate to other tabs, open other applications, or perform certain functions that would allow them to access external information.

Here’s a snippet of the code that helps ensure these restrictions:

    function disableRightClick(e) {
    var message = "Right click disabled!";
    if(!document.rightClickDisabled) { // initialize
        if(document.layers) { 
            document.onmousedown = disableRightClick; 
        } else document.oncontextmenu = disableRightClick;
        return document.rightClickDisabled = true;
    if(document.layers || (document.getElementById && !document.captureEvents)) 
        event.cancelBubble = true;
        event.returnValue = false;
        return false;

This JavaScript function, when executed, disables the right-click functionality of the mouse, limiting the student’s ability to open context menus and new tabs.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, while Canvas itself can’t see when you switch tabs, the proctoring software that your institution may use can monitor browser activity during online exams. It’s always a good idea to stay aware of your institution’s academic integrity policies and the specific functionalities of the proctoring tools used.