Term Consolidation in Canvas

Document created by Quin Swallow Employee on Jun 19, 2019Last modified by Quin Swallow Employee on Aug 7, 2019
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Term Consolidation in Canvas
Yearly term maintenance to keep your term list manageable

Each school year, the list of terms in Canvas will get longer. In some cases, particularly those where a school district is particularly large and/or terms are provisioned by a SIS (student information system), terms can become unwieldy, and it can be particularly difficult to identify and separate current terms from completed ones.


Consolidating terms accomplishes the following:

  • Moves (archives) concluded courses from across many terms (in which they were originally created) to one or a few ‘archive’ terms for permanent storage
  • Deletes concluded, no-longer used terms, shortening the master term list

Here are some things you should know about consolidating terms before you start:

  • Term consolidation is not mandatory. If you have a small institution and your terms are manageable, or you simply want to leave terms and course term assignments as they are, you are free to do so. Term consolidation is for your convenience, and does not have any technical effect on your Canvas instance.
  • A basic knowledge of spreadsheets and CSV exports is recommended. If you do not feel confident with those, please consult with your CSM for guidance if you wish to consolidate your terms.
  • Term consolidation can be done at any time. Typically, this is done between school years, after a school year has completed and before ‘rollover’ when new courses for the upcoming year are completed. However, consolidation of old terms and archiving of old courses can be done after the next year’s rollover. Also, you can consolidate terms with matching start and end dates as soon as they appear in Canvas, if you so desire. (For example, you can put all of the courses for Semester 1 throughout your institution into a single term, rather than individual terms for each school.)


Remember that terms serve two purposes: They grant access to students and teachers to courses by time, and they provide term-aligned reporting in Analytics. If you wish to obtain Canvas use reports by term (semester / year, and location), you will want to run these reports before you consolidate terms. After terms are consolidated, reporting for your deleted terms will be unavailable. 
For example: If I consolidate all of my 2015-16 terms into one term, I will no longer be able to run reports like “Canvas High School- 2015-16 Fall Semester” However, I will be able to run reports on my new, archive terms, like “Canvas School District 2015-16 Archive” which will be useful institution-wide information. 

Helpful Things to Understand About Terms

  • Terms have two purposes: Granting access to contained courses by time (start date and end date), and term-based Canvas usage reporting.
  • Terms and grading periods can be connected, but are not synonymous.
  • Terms can be created automatically (by your SIS / SIS file import)
  • Terms can be created manually through the Canvas UI or CSV import.
  • Terms are assigned term IDs in ever-increasing values upon term creation. This means that, by default, when you list terms by order according to term ID, oldest terms will appear at the top of the list, and terms will be progressively newer. This is helpful to know when managing / changing large blocks of terms in a list. Note: This general rule will not necessarily hold true when term IDs have been re-assigned manually.

Archive Term Setup
How many terms you use as archives, and how you divide them up, is entirely up to you. Here are some options you might consider:

Archive terms by year
Example: “Canvas District 2015-16”
Create one single archive term for each academic year, and dump all courses into it.
Multiple yearly archive termsExamples: 
“Canvas District 2015-16 Semester 1”, “Canvas District 2015-16 Semester 2”
Create one archive term for each of the study blocks in your academic year.
Archive terms by school / buildingExamples:“Canvas High Archive”“Canvas Middle Archive”“Canvas Elementary Archive”Create one single archive term for each of the buildings / schools in your district.
CombinationCreate your own variation of the above choices

Step One: Create your archive terms
First, you will need to designate a term, or terms, that will store your concluded courses. You can do this manually, through the UI. Choose names that effectively describe the courses that will be contained in them (time period, school building, etc.) You can easily change the name of this term later if you like.
When you have created your archive term(s), make a note of the each archive term’s ID number. This is the SIS ID when viewing the list of terms in the Canvas UI, or the term_id when viewing a list of terms in the terms.csv provisioning report. (It is not the canvas_term_id in the provisioning report.) 


Step Two: Run SIS export reports for terms and courses

  • On the account level in your Canvas instance, go into “Settings” and click on the “Reports” tab.
  • Scroll down, and click on the “Configure … “ button associated with “SIS Export.”
  • When asked to designate which reports to run, leave “All Terms” selected in the Term drop-down bar, and choose “Terms CSV” and “Courses CSV.” 
  • You should included deleted objects, to make certain that the terms you will be deleting are truly void of all courses before you attempt to delete them.
  • Click on “Run Report”

Step Three: Prepare and run courses.csv

  1. Sort your courses file by term_id. (This will typically leave courses attached to older terms at the top, and courses attached to newer terms at the bottom.)
  2. Delete all courses from spreadsheet that do not need to be moved:
    • Already archived courses: Those assigned to already-created ‘archive terms’
    • New courses: Those assigned to your newest terms for the current or upcoming year
    • Manually-created courses you do not want to archive.
    • Essentially, you are keeping only those courses you want to archive in the spreadsheet, and deleting everything else from the spreadsheet (except the header row). The courses you are archiving at this time should be listed together in one block, because they will have been created, with their terms, at the same time, and will have consecutive term-ID associations.
  3. Save the courses.csv file (Saving a copy, if you want to keep track of changes)
  4. Navigate to your test instance (https://______.test.instructure.com)
  5. At the account level, go into “SIS Import” (in your test instance)
  6. Choose your modified courses.csv file
  7. Leave “This is a full batch update” unchecked.
  8. Click on process data.
  9. Verify that the desired term re-assignments have taken effect in your Canvas.

Step Four: Prepare and run terms.csv

  • Sort your terms file by term_id.
  • Delete all terms from spreadsheet that do not need to be deleted in Canvas.
  • Change the ‘status’ column of the terms listed to ‘deleted.’