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Best practices handling a deceased user's account

I searched the guides and forums, but couldn't find any information so I am asking it here: how do other universities deal with the Canvas account of a deceased colleague or student?

At my university, we have a set of procedures to follow when this happens, and this includes disabling this person's account in our LMS (currently Blackboard, we're moving to Canvas soon). This occurs because colleagues or fellow students often find it eerie to still see this person's account in their courses. Simply deleting the user is not an option though, as the next of kin (or the university itself) may want or need to be able to access the deceased's files later on.

How do other schools or universities handle this situation?

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5 Replies
Community Champion

Thank you for asking this question. Although I have never encountered needing to do this I can share some information about the difference between removing a user from a Blackboard (Bb) course vs. removing  user from a Canvas course. When a student is removed from a Bb course (when our institution was still using Bb up to about 3 years ago) all of the student records from that course were deleted, too. Even re-enrolling the student in the class did nothing to bring back the work submissions. The best thing we could do was run a Bb Grade Center report in Bb and export the submissions from the Bb course's Grade Center before the student was removed from the course. If that is still the experience on Bb, I have some reassurance for you when you migrate to Canvas. If a student is removed from a Canvas just re-enroll the student user_ID into the course; all submissions are restored as if the account were never deleted. 


I'll take this one step farther hopefully to help reassure with this real-world example. We recently had a teacher in our new teacher academy (NTA) course (enrolled in the NTA course as a student user) be reassigned from one school building to another in our school district. This caused the automation in the system to close and delete her original user_ID assigned from her first building assignment and a new user_ID to open for her new building assignment. We weren't notified to catch it in time before the automation kicked-in and deleted her first Canvas account...and along with it removed all of her work. In additional Not-Helpful News both the Canvas test and beta servers where we could have at least grabbed a Canvas Grade Book report for a record of her work refreshed and showed her as deleted, too. This teacher was looking 100% work loss.


But because of the way Canvas associates course work to the user_ID in a different way than Bb does I was able to bring the user back with a few steps at the Canvas sysadmin level.

  1. I ran a Canvas provisioning report for all users both active and deleted.
  2. On the CSV I found her old user_ID row and changed her status from deleted to active and pushed the change back up to Canvas using the SIS import.
  3. Now that she was UNdeleted I could go to the NTA course and re-enroll her as a student. Voila! All of her submissions were restored.
  4. I grabbed a quick Canvas Grade Book report in PDF knowing that the automation will do its thing again at the next sync and REdelete her old account.
  5. Using the Canvas Grade Book report we were able to credit her new user_ID with what she had submitted in her old user_ID.


I'm sure there is an extra fancy Canvas way to do this, but this approach worked fine in the snafu we experienced, and it helped us establish new protocol for removing users especially since our systems talk to each other as one sysadmin might not know that deleting a user in systemA affects the user in systemB.


But getting back to your concern,  @cwhermsen , even when the user is deleted from a course and what appears to be "deleted" from the entire Canvas production server, he's not really gone for good, and once returned to active status and re-enrolled in the course, the submissions are restored, too. Hope this story helps on some level with your concern about retrieving work should a student be removed from a course.


Thanks very much for your reply, I'll go test this for myself. It looks like a decent workaround, even though I'd prefer a way to disable an account, à la Blackboard.

Community Contributor

We have also run into this. It would be nice if you could deactivate a user rather than delete them. We often don't know who the replacement will be right away. Unfortunately we have had 3 sudden deaths recently and a few more teachers out on indefinite maternity or sick leave.This would also be quite helpful in maintaining parent accounts. We have custody issues that flip flop all the time. We have a process to leave the parent account intact but un-link the students to the parent so they can log in but won't see anything.

Community Participant

We've had this issue come up a few times with instructor accounts, though I don't always think of it as a Canvas issue. Up to a point, it's handled like the rest of our IT accounts. I don't recall the full process, but basically we disable the account. The courses age out as we move from quarter to quarter, or depending on the circumstances we might un-enroll the person. If something happens mid-quarter, we enroll the new instructor in the existing course space, to minimize disruption to the students. 

One place to look might be whether you have an institutional data retention policy. We're currently developing one, and being asked a lot of questions about how Canvas handles deleting older data. That policy might have some useful info. 

Coach Emeritus

 @cwhermsen ,

We are giving the Canvas Admins area a little bit of love (especially questions that are really, really old) and just want to check in with you.  This will also bring this question new attention. 


Were you able to find an answer to your question? I am going to go ahead and mark this question as answered because there hasn't been any more activity in a while so I assume that you have the information that you need. If you still have a question about this or if you have information that you would like to share with the community, by all means, please do come back and leave a comment.  Also, if this question has been answered by one of the previous replies, please feel free to mark that answer as correct.



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