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Good way to search content within a course?

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Does anyone have a good way to setup a search feature within a course?  I know that the Files tab has a search feature, but I'm looking more for content pages than files.  Here is the scenario.  We have a curriculum course with hundreds of pages of resources organized by grade level and subject.  A teacher can click through a series of buttons to browse to their desired resource, but the curriculum department wants teaches to be able to search for say "Poetry" and find all the pages on poetry.  I know this is not a built in feature, and I know I can submit a feature request, but I'm looking for an external tool or some other work around/clever idea that would let me do this in the short term.

Ideas I have thought of:

-Create an index page that lists all pages in a table of contents and use the browser search command on that page to locate a page. (downside -- hard to keep up as pages are added over time).

-Make sure pages are named with a clear naming convention and open the pages tab and use the browser search command on that page to locate a page. (downside -- when many pages are present, not all appear until you scroll, so you would not be able to search the ones that do not yet appear on the page using the browser search).

I don't think either of these ideas are particularly good, so I'm hoping that someone out there has an amazing idea for how to do this!

Thanks in advance!

ANOTHER THOUGHT:  Is it possible to use Google Site Search somehow?  I googled this, but couldn't find an answer.  😉

I thought maybe there was some custom javascript that could be embedded that would let site search crawl the pages.....anyone? anyone?

Message was edited by: Michelle Lattke

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30 Replies
Community Member

Thanks, Randy, for the reply. You’re right, our courses are not public, and policy prevents us changing that for many good reasons.

I shall keep thinking and keep researching…



Community Participant

I'd meant to reply to this, but I just realized that I never did. Here is a quick write up I made on how I created the custom search:

Creating a search engine

The process is pretty involved and technical. I'm sure the workflow can be a bit more automated. I guess this approach is viable depending on how badly you want the search option Smiley Happy. We were submitting our course for state board approval and having search was a key requirement. So we bit the bullet. 

Community Contributor

I seem to be having the same problem some users have had. 

I made a copy of a course, made sure it was public, created my search engine, and no results. Could it be that on the back-end of Canvas, it takes time to convert everything to public, so that google can crawl it? Or is there another issue that I could be missing. 

Community Contributor

Did you ever figure out why one worked, and not the other? 

Community Champion

Hi  @kevinw ,

My experience with the Google search on public sites is that it can take 48 hours or more before anything gets indexed. It takes a long while. The other thing to test is to make sure that your html file really works.

If you are interested in a bit more of an enterprise class solution that searches within all course content, even in private courses, take a look at "Atomic Search" by a company called "Atomic Jolt". Their CEO is  @joel_duffin ‌. We have a sandbox course configured at the moment and have been quite impressed with the search results and the responsiveness of the dev team when we have run into issues. It is a bit pricey for our small organization at this point but worth a look if you want to use it across an organization. We did a survey of our students and faculty about search within Canvas sites and 91% of faculty and 96% of students said they would like to see search in all Canvas courses.

Good luck!

Community Contributor

Hi Randy, 

Thanks for the response. I am in 100% agreement with you there, Canvas needs a way to have a course content search. It's been in the radar for a long while but I haven't heard any updates recently. I suppose it's just a waiting game at this point, to see if the course gets indexed, and how long it takes it to do so. It couldn't have been the HTML file because I was search directly from the Google CSE and getting no results. 

Community Member

I've gotten good results (as mentioned above) by downloading an export of the course, renaming the file extension to ".zip," opening the zip file and then just searching the resulting folder for whatever content I'm looking for. Many pages are named exactly the same. Other items like discussion instructions are in xml format, but always toward the top of the page there is a <title> tag that identifies it. No scripting required! Just a plain-text editor.


Hi  @mlattke ‌,

Have you had the opportunity to check out Atomic Search? They have an lti‌ with Canvas, it might be worth a look!

- Am

Community Champion

Noticing the dates of these comments and then Deactivated user‌ encouraged the look at  Atomic Search.  Anyone using that? Is the Javascript answer working for others? orwinr - your iSchool Learning Technologies page is incredible and just what I needed to see this morning!  Thank you for sharing!

Community Champion

Hi  @rislis ,

We have been using Atomic Search for almost the last year and really like it. As a company they have been quite responsive to our needs and our faculty and students love being able to search individual courses as well as across all of their enrollments at the same time.