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Community Champion

How to accommodate "sub-terms?"

Before we moved to Canvas, we would create numerous terms in our old system. During the summer, we would create up to 25 terms to accommodate all of the differences of the terms. When we moved to Canvas, we decided to drop down to just one term for each semester. We could use our SIS import to designate the face-to-face courses, online courses, and blended courses. We also could use the course start and end dates to accommodate for the block (partial term) courses. Fast forward almost four years, and we are finding different reasons we need to go back to multiple "terms" in our system. Having a semester broken out into multiple terms can cause some issues when it comes to searching and reporting in the system.


During the summer, we offer the following "terms" for the trimester:

   1. Block 1

   2. Block 2

   3. Block 3

   4. Block 1 & 2

   5. Block 2 & 3

   6. Block 1, 2, & 3

   7. 7-week block 1

   8. 7-week block 2

   9. Online professional block 1

   10. Online professional block 2

   11. Off-schedule

This is all for just one trimester. We have a similar setup during the fall and spring trimesters. This makes searching for courses, reporting, pulling grades, etc rather cumbersome. It also makes our list of terms extremely lengthy when filtering by terms, at any point.

Do any other institutions have a similar setup? Is anyone else doing something different to accommodate a similar situation? Are there other reasons an institution might need sub-terms? If there are other uses, and/or other institutions that would benefit from something like this, I will submit a feature request.

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9 Replies
Community Champion

Are you using subaccounts? Could some of what you're trying to do be accomplished through a combination of terms and subaccounts?

Community Contributor

Yes, please! And terms at the sub-account level, too!

The whole Canvas term setup is absurd. They sell the product to complex institutions, but seem to think the law schools want to see the undergraduate schools', and graduate schools', and business schools' and professional schools' terms, and vice versa! 

At my current institution we had 25 parts of term last year, for three programs, that all have to exist at the account level. Try navigating that drop-down menu! It's insane!

Community Contributor

As far as workarounds, we code a lot of information into the sis_course_id field, and run a complex set of daily cron jobs to mimic the desired term start and term end behaviors for "off schedule" courses.

Community Champion

 @jsavage2 ‌, it sounds like we are working in similar realms! I've inquired if there is a way to manipulate the multiple grading periods to make it work, but it doesn't sound like that is going to be a possibility. Smiley Sad

Community Champion

dgrobani‌, our system is structured that the sub-accounts mimic our school and department breakdowns. Unfortunately, the way our terms run, any course in any of the schools or departments could run during any of those terms.

Community Champion

Hello,  @sbeck1 .

We set the course start and end dates to the actual dates for the given course (plus a buffer of a few weeks on either end) and check the "Students can only participate in the course between these dates" box to override the term dates. This way, we need only three terms per year (Spring, Summer, Fall) while having courses open when needed. You can use the CSV SIS Import file or the API to set the dates, but the checkbox has to be done via API.

Best regards,


Community Participant

@sbeck1 ,

I just came across this post as I have increasingly had questions regarding our module terms or sub-terms within our main terms that start and stop at different times. Instructors don't quite understand how dates work in Canvas. It took me a while to figure it out. So, they set dates without knowing the repercussions. 

We have a term breakdown with multiple start and end dates just as you described, especially during our summer term.

I don't like the option of importing all the start and end dates for courses in the courses API. To me, that undoes the point of using terms, which is to partially globally control course dates. 

If Canvas could turn on sub-terms, allowing you to create as many sub-terms as you need, that would solve a large part of our problem and make my life easier. 

I hope you would consider submitting this as a feature request. I think it is definitely needed!


Community Contributor

We're a system of 23 colleges all with different term dates and sessions/sub-terms within terms. We don't set up sessions/sub-terms in Canvas, but if the interface scaled better, it would be very helpful. We have hundreds of terms already.

Community Participant

There is an idea conversation for sub-terms posted for anyone that would like to see this idea come to life.