Archive Canvas course content

Last updated: March 3, 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 archive Panopto or Zoom recordings, you will need to do so separately.

What do I need to do?

You may want to review the course to archive select content. Note that you may not need to take any action. In that case, you should feel free to allow courses to be deleted.

  • If you have a more recent version of the course, you may not need to archive any content. Feel free to allow previous versions of Canvas courses be deleted.
  • If you do not have a recent version of the course, review the content to see if there is any content you plan to use in a future term, such as assignment descriptions, files, or discussion prompts.
  • If you do not plan to reuse these items, you do not need to archive them. Simply allow the course to be deleted.
  • If you are building a teaching portfolio, you may want to save examples of your instructional work.

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 Copying all content piles up out of date materials and early versions of assignments that you likely do not need.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.

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

Review the course content. 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 archive and what to delete.

Archive 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

What if I want to keep a few things?

Two safe options for archiving Canvas course content are:

Share 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.