Preserve Canvas course content

Last updated: October 20, 2023
Audience: Instructors

Per the UW Canvas Course Data Retention Policy, content created in the UW Canvas LMS is retained for five years after the end of the academic year in which the course section was offered. The following instructions are intended to help you decide what, if anything, you want to save from Canvas courses that are due to expire soon.

Important: Panopto recordings and Zoom recordings within a Canvas course have separate retention policies. If you need to save Panopto or Zoom recordings, you will need to do so separately.

What do I need to do?

Review the course to determine whether any content needs to be preserved.

If the answer is no, you can simply allow courses to be deleted. For example, you might have a recent version of the course, and do not need older versions.

If the answer is yes, in the table below, find your goal for preserving course content and follow the suggested method.

Goal Method Time required
I am teaching in an upcoming quarter Copy to another course or master course in Canvas Copying course takes about 5 minutes per course; review of course content takes as long as you choose
I want to keep course activities viewable and editable
I want to be able to review and maintain currency of the course content
I want to maintain activities or the course as a whole in an easily viewable format Move to Canvas Commons

Courses in Commons can be private to you, or shared with others at the UW

5 minutes per course
I want to view versions of a course as it evolved
I want to share activities or courses with colleagues at the UW
I want to keep a “just-in-case” backup Export course cartridge

A course cartridge is viewable only in another LMS

2 minutes per course
I want to take courses with me to another institution

You may need to take action if:

  • You don’t have a recent version of the course, or you teach the course less than once every five years.
  • You’re building a teaching portfolio, and want to save examples of your instructional work.

What if I want to keep a few things?

Two safe options for archiving Canvas course content are:

Move a course or course content to Canvas Commons, which is a learning object repository integrated with Canvas. Courses or assignments can be shared to Commons and visible to just the instructor, the department, or all Commons users

Download files and store somewhere you can safely retain and easily find when needed again.

What if I want to keep most of the course content?

One option is to export the course content as a “course cartridge” or .imscc file. This is a standard file type that can be imported into most learning management systems, but not viewed offline. No student contributions or grade data are exported in this format, just the instructor created HTML content and attached course files.

Before you export, take time to delete any content that you will not be using in the new term such as files, discussion board prompts, or assignments.

What if I’m preparing for a new term and want to copy content forward?

  1. Review the course content.
  2. Consider deleting any items that you will not be using in the new term such as files, discussion board prompts, or assignments.
    • You can also select specific content to copy forward when copying a course.
    • Note that student submissions will not be copied forward as part of a course copy process, so you do not need to manually delete this content.

The table below is a general guideline for what content to preserve and what to delete.

Preserve Delete
Assignment instructions Assignments you’re not going to use. If you haven’t used in a couple of iterations, let them be deleted
Course readings Files you’re not going to use
Discussion board prompts Quizzes you’re no longer using
Quizzes & quiz questions. Make sure your questions are in a question bank. Unused discussion board prompts
Syllabus Announcements

Why shouldn’t I just copy everything?

Although it is tempting — and may seem expedient — to copy all content in a Canvas course doing so creates a mass of content that you will have to deal with eventually. Copying all content piles up out of date materials and early versions of assignments that you likely do not need. Have confidence to let go of old content and resist the temptation to hoard.