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Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Course Structure

For those Canvas Admins - How have you structured your sub-accounts? Do you do it by department or do you just drop all courses into a sub-account and not worry about sub-sub-accounts? For example, I have a middle school and high school and set them up as sub-accounts, and now I am wondering if I should build our sub-sub-accounts using departments or if I should throw all courses into the general sub-account?​ and​ and I were conversing and I thought I would throw out this question here too.

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Hey Brad,

One thing to keep in mind, is for schools/districts with automated SIS imports, the sub-account structure is often determined by the SIS. Most SIS only have sub accounts, not sub-sub accounts. For schools who are manually doing everything via the UI or with manual CSV uploads, there is more flexibility.

I too, am curious to hear other's thoughts on this, and perhaps even take the question one step further - if you only have sub accounts, do you wish you could have sub-sub accounts? Why or why not?


We are only 1 division-a high school, but we sub each department.  This allows us to create sub admins who can take over some of the routine labor but only within their own department.

Learner II

At Baylor University, we use sub accounts, sub-sub accounts, and even sub-sub-sub accounts. Smiley Happy

Our three main sub-accounts are Courses, Organizations, and Manually-Created Courses.  We use the latter for things like demo courses, template courses, or things that don't exactly fit within the official courses or organizations category.  Under Organizations, we have sub accounts labeled Academic, Administrative, Athletic, and Residential.  In these we create organization sites like departmental group sites, major-specific sites, residential community sites, etc.  Finally, under the main Courses sub account (which is the only one loaded with data from our SIS), we have it broken down by school or college, and then by department.

It looks something like this visually (shortened tremendously of course):

Courses (structure loaded via SIS data)

  • College of Arts and Sciences
    • Art
      • courses like Art 1301
      • courses like Art 1302
    • Biology
    • Communication Studies
    • Geology
  • School of Business
    • Finance
    • Economics
    • Management
  • Law School
    • Law School (some schools that are comprised of only a single department look something like this)
  • School of Education
    • Curriculum and Instruction
    • Educational Administration
    • Educational Psychology

Organizations (structure created manually)

  • Academic
    • organizations like Biology Majors
    • organizations like Engineering Majors
  • Administrative
    • organizations like Biology Department Faculty
    • organizations like Human Resources VP Search Committee

Manually-Created Courses  (structure created manually)

  • Demos
    • courses like John's Demo
  • Templates
    • courses like NURSING 5342 Development Course
Community Coach
Community Coach​, this is a great question, but given the nature of it (no right or wrong answer), it seems more like a discussion. Would it be ok if I changed this over to a discussion so you could continue the conversation without the need for a right answer?


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Thanks Mindy, that is what you shared and it makes sense.

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Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Do you find that those sub-admins getting their hands "dirty" and taking over some of the reigns? In other words, is it a huge value to have the departments?


Some of ours do, but most others don't.  For example, our School of Nursing IT staff is very involved in the day-to-day operations in the LMS.  In fact, we've even got some LTI app configurations that they manage specifically for their school.


Wow John, this is amazing. I love the structure. It makes sense. Obviously you are a huge university compared to my small 5000 student district. But I am very attracted to the department level organization. And you guys are rocking it there.

What has been the greatest benefit for you in having it so organized?


The greatest benefit is allowing each school or department to self-govern somewhat if desired and also to separate out resources and services.

Sorry to use Nursing again as an example, but it is the most recent one I can think of quickly.  The School of Nursing recently contracted with McGraw-Hill to license Tegrity for their department.  Without the sub-account structure in place, it would be almost impossible to manage the deployment of the Tegrity app.  We'd be in violation of the licensing agreement to deploy it at the top level, and deploying it to dozens of individual courses each semester is a disaster waiting to happen.  Using the sub-account structure, I could install the Tegrity app one time in the School of Nursing sub-account and it is instantly available within every course in that department but only for courses in that department.

Another example is access for people.  Some of the departments like Military Studies and Aerospace Science under the College of Arts/Sciences here at Baylor are actually faculty not employed by Baylor but by the US Military.  Their program coordinator needs to have full access to see everything going on in each of the courses in those programs.  Without the sub-account structure, we'd have to list him as a Teacher or TA in all of those courses and he'd get all the course messages and notifications.  With the sub-account structure, I simply add him to each of those two department sub-sub-accounts under the College of Art/Sciences with a role that we have designed called "Instructor Support".  That allows him to see and do just about everything that the actual instructors of those courses can do without actually having to be in the roster for each of those courses.

In your case, you could do this separation of resources too.  If your Math department uses a certain textbook publisher, but your English department uses a different publisher, you could install the Math publisher's app in the Math sub-account and the English publisher's app in the English sub-account.