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macaulayl
Community Member

Canvas Commons for Course Templates

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At our institution, we have two templates we use and we have things configured so that as courses are brought in via our SIS integration, the template automatically is copied into the new course shell.  But we are thinking that putting the course in Commons is a better idea so as we update the content in the shell over time, the faculty can notice there is something new and update the template.  However, it seems only the faculty member (or an admin masquerading) can import the template from Commons into their course.

Is there any way to get this Commons content to import automatically when we create courses via the SIS integration?

1 Solution
kmcgee
Instructure
Instructure

Hi Linda,

I'm so happy to hear you are considering using Commons for your template needs! This is a great use case for Commons.

So I heard two different questions above.

1. Who controls the updatability of a resource shared to Commons?

Currently in Commons, if I want to be able to initiate the updating of a resource in then I have to also have been the person who placed it in the course.

For example: I'm an Instructional Designer I place the template in each course that I want to use that template. An update is made to that template. I will see the update availability and can initiate the update for all those courses.

I hope that is clear. If not please let me know and I will try and explain better Smiley Happy

2. Is there a way to get Commons content automatically imported into a course via the SIS integration?

We have started work on the Commons Public API. Using the API would allow one, post having done your SIS integration, to populate many courses with the template.

I have heard many cases where users would like to use a Commons Resource ID in conjunction with creating courses via SIS, like you are suggesting. It would be awesome if you wanted to share this idea with the Community via our share an idea page, then others can chime in, vote, and we could work towards having that functionality exist between Commons, Canvas, and SIS imports.

Thanks for taking the time to post this question. Your feedback and use cases really help us shape our product!

All the best,

Kate McGee

Commons Product Manager

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11 Replies
kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

macaulayl​, those are great questions... that I don't know the answer to. Smiley Sad

Yet, I'm wondering if we move this question over to the Canvas Developers​ or Canvas Commons​ groups if you'll get more of a response. Would it be ok to move it over to one of these groups?

Renee_Carney
Community Team
Community Team

macaulayl

I'm reaching out to our fabulous Commons team to see if we can get an answer for you!

kmcgee
Instructure
Instructure

Hi Linda,

I'm so happy to hear you are considering using Commons for your template needs! This is a great use case for Commons.

So I heard two different questions above.

1. Who controls the updatability of a resource shared to Commons?

Currently in Commons, if I want to be able to initiate the updating of a resource in then I have to also have been the person who placed it in the course.

For example: I'm an Instructional Designer I place the template in each course that I want to use that template. An update is made to that template. I will see the update availability and can initiate the update for all those courses.

I hope that is clear. If not please let me know and I will try and explain better Smiley Happy

2. Is there a way to get Commons content automatically imported into a course via the SIS integration?

We have started work on the Commons Public API. Using the API would allow one, post having done your SIS integration, to populate many courses with the template.

I have heard many cases where users would like to use a Commons Resource ID in conjunction with creating courses via SIS, like you are suggesting. It would be awesome if you wanted to share this idea with the Community via our share an idea page, then others can chime in, vote, and we could work towards having that functionality exist between Commons, Canvas, and SIS imports.

Thanks for taking the time to post this question. Your feedback and use cases really help us shape our product!

All the best,

Kate McGee

Commons Product Manager

macaulayl
Community Member

Kate, I am still confused...I am the one who originally added the resource to Commons and it is available within my organization.  But when I enter a course from the admin side of things and click the "import from Commons" button in the course, I only see the list of courses that I am listed as an instructor to choose from.  It seems to me that if I start with the "import from commons" from within a course and then navigate to the resource I want to import, THAT should then import into the course....why do I need to find the course in a long list of possibilities?  And, of course, in this case, I can't even do it....I have to masquerade as the instructor of the course to even be able to import the resource.  Very clunky and not helpful.

Hooray for Commons API!

SHEBENE
Community Champion

Quick follow-up question: If an institution uses templates in Commons to give users access to pull down a template, wouldn't an update of the template wreck courses that clicked to "update" it? I'm picturing a template with placeholder images on the homepage, some red text to edit, etc. Then I download it, customize, add text, replace images, etc. A month later there's an update and I click to import it. Has my homepage been blown away again? Should we instead upload a new version of templates and toss out the old so teachers grab the newest version when making a new course but don't accidentally update themselves to death?

SHEBENE
Community Champion

I was just testing this and it seems that if you update a course it blows away everything in the course and imports a clean version of the course in commons. All customizations lost, any added pages, etc, lost. This is alarming. The popup note when you update does allude to the fact that it will copy over content in the course it's going into but that seems to make the update feature broken in my mind. I don't see very many uses for it at all. If I copy a course into a course (instead of updating) and there are things named the same ("Front Page" for example) it makes an additional copy. Updating is like a two-step process, reset course content, followed by import course file. If I have the course already to where I would need an update I would just want fresh copies of whatever was edited. Back to the drawing board for how we were going to roll this out!

hsiao_62
Community Member

Hi Neal! Having more or less the same experience:

  • I can't just simply edit imported content because the reference persists
  • If a folder is empty in the template, it wipes clean the customized version; I've had to put a placeholder in it
  • Overall, I have not been able to reliably tell what's going to be retained and what's going to be overwritten upon an update; I'm seeing duplicate files being created even though they are not modified in anyway.

I'm coming to the same conclusion that Commons is just not reliable enough for course templates yet ...

SHEBENE
Community Champion

Some things have gotten better since the last time I posted. Now when we update it keeps any new pages/elements that were added to the course instead of wiping it out. Ultimately though, we are operating under a rule: No templates will be updated. If there's a new version we are to take down the original and share the new version so it's not an "update". Otherwise any customized things (such as the homepage or syllabus) get reset to the original template content. I think this will work for us as long as teachers don't import a template twice into the same course after customizing, but you can't protect people from themselves in that case.

awilliams
Instructure
Instructure

Hey macaulayl​, you are correct that once you get in to Commons it does not have any functionality for tracking where you came from and using that information to impact the list of courses you see when you click "Import into Course." I agree that it would be nice if this functionality existed.

I think I see two feature requests here for the Commons Feature Ideas​ space.

#1: Track which course id user entered Commons from and set that as the destination course when clicking "Import into Course." (While still leaving the list of other courses to choose from as well)

#2: Allow admins to import content from Commons into any course they have access to edit.

- This one would be harder I think because the interface for choosing a course would have to be overhauled to accommodate the amount of courses an admin could import into.

For now, the best option is to enroll yourself as a teacher in the courses you want to import into from Commons or use the masquerade option as you mentioned.

SHEBENE
Community Champion

Yes, unless #1 occurred, #2 would be very difficult for us. I have access to 2-3,000 courses scattered across over 8,000 sub accounts. If I were to try and access any kind of course list it's a horrible experience. Many courses are named similarly too.