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Master Template for all courses

We are a small University and with the need to move all classes online I am being asked if we could push out a home page template created by one of our faculty to all existing courses in our Canvas instance for Fall 2020 (about 520 courses).  I am not a programmer and do not have one available to help (we don't even have a course designer or instructional technologist). I am one of the Windows systems admin for the college that also doubles as the admin for Canvas.
My three questions are:
1. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to automate the distribution of a master template (home page in our case) to all new and existing courses?
2. What is your opinion of using a standardized home page in a University setting?
3. Any best practices advice on creating a master template for mass distribution?

I ask question 3 because the template that I am being asked to try and automate to all courses seems to have some format issues on how it looks on different devices  (phones, laptop, desktop (wide screen monitor).

Thank you

9 Replies
Coach Emeritus

Hi  @scott_groomes   Just so you know, I moved this from a question to a discussion as there are likely different approaches that could be considered correct to your question!  Hopefully you can get a number of responses with various approaches that may work, but here some things that came to my mind:

1- I spoke to our success manager about something similar not long ago and they thought Blueprint courses were the best option (see How do I enable a course as a blueprint course as an admin?).  In working with our IT department, they indicated they could do this on their end through a CSVS file but in our testing IT was able to keep classes associated with the blueprint master even with this process.  Not being in IT, I'm not sure the specifics of what they are doing but perhaps someone in the Canvas Admins or Canvas Developers could provide some insight.

2- Personally, from an instructional design standpoint I love a common landing page for courses.  This can contain information that all students must know and helps reduce confusion on student's part.  While not required, we currently have a template that our instructors can use and edit to add their photo, office hours, etc.  In general, I am a fan of course templates that help standardize the way students access material in a course.  From feedback I have read from students, this helps reduce the amount of time students spend looking for information as opposed to participating in class.

3- As far as best practices go, hopefully you will get a lot of other responses, but in my opinion you definitely want to determine how students will access what material in class and disable any course navigation buttons that are not needed.  In seems like we have dozens of these that faculty often visible to students even though they are not used.  On a more granular level, do you want students to access material predominantly through Modules (my suggestion) or have access to the Assignments tab, Quizzes tab, Files tab, etc. separately.  I like the context that module use provides and it allows for greater control of how students access material by way of requirements and pre-requisites.

I hope this helps and best wishes!  

Thanks Eric,

This was very helpful. I thought about blueprints but wasn't sure if it was a good solution for the number of courses we have which is around 500 that live in different departments (subaccounts).  I found blueprints to be very helpful for a general education experience course that has 24 sections which uses the same content but different instructor. I like the use of the module page as the home page because that is what most students access.  We find a home page useful for some courses, but overall the module page seems to make the most sense as the home page.  Right now, our administration wants to push a standard home page for all courses.

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I'm a new admin for a new instance of Canvas at a very small college. (I'm also the VP for Academic Affairs if that gives you some sense of scale.) This thread and your post are both quite helpful as we make our way through the rollout of Canvas at the same time we are forced to begin a semester remotely. Is there a way you can share the video you mentioned creating for your faculty on how to use a template? We did training over the summer, but because most of our faculty are adjunct professors teaching one or two courses, it's difficult to ask them to add on much training for the purposes of teaching one course, so your video might be helpful.

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Hi  @scott_groomes , 

I was also faced with these questions about 4 years ago when my College went through a 3-College consolidation and renaming. This was one thing that really helped us create our "new identity" and has also helped reduce navigation questions from students. Here are my thoughts...

1. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to automate the distribution of a master template (home page in our case) to all new and existing courses? 

In the beginning, our programmer in the IT department wrote a script that would auto process "course copies" every time a new course was created. This seemed to work really well in the beginning but then when instructors would start their next semester and would get the pre-populated template in their course, they would copy content from a previous semester and duplicate the homepage, introductory module, etc. This actually started becoming a major issue because I would update the Homepage template once a year to include new accessibility standards, updated hyperlinks, etc. So, while Blueprint is probably the best solution, it is also not simple when you are deploying to multiple sub-accounts because then you have to maintain multiple copies.

This year, I decided to stop auto-copying the content into the courses and have now placed a copy of the template in our local Commons that is only accessible by our faculty. I used Studio to create a short step-by-step video showing them how to open their blank course and copy the template from the College's Commons. I also created a follow-up video for copying curriculum from a previous course and how to choose what is copied so that they will not disturb the homepage or introductory course module. 

2. What is your opinion of using a standardized home page in a University setting?

I think it is a great idea from a course design and navigation perspective. It helps reduce navigation questions (as long as the process is followed by the faculty). We have actually expanded this process and now have a customized template for each different course (around 300 unique courses...but it has taken 3 years) so that it contains the same Homepage as all of the other courses but the syllabus is specific to the course and there is a customized image/course description/introductory video on the Homepage. These are also copied to our local Commons so that they can be copied by the faculty member into their blank course. I manage the updates to the overall College template and have designated faculty curriculum teams to assist anytime updates are needed for a specific course template.

3. Any best practices advice on creating a master template for mass distribution?

-Determine the navigational flow and create a guide that explains the expectations of the navigation. Our College uses the modules and we expect the instructor to add everything to the module or within a page on the module. We also train on the use of module prerequisites and requirements. No separate access to assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc.

-Create a demonstration video to walk them through how the template will work. This allows them to have a better view of the expected functionality.

-Watch out for the faculty who blindly copy their courses from one semester to the next. They will end up with 3, then 6, then 9 copies of the Homepage and will wonder why the pages have numbers listed at the end of the file name. 


Best of luck to you and I hope this is helpful!

Hi Ann,

This is very helpful. I use blueprint course for a few accounts that have about 30 courses in each account and that feature is very useful, but I was reluctant to try and use it for all accounts that includes more than a hundred courses. I also was wondering about the issue with faculty copying content from one semester to the next and your info is what I was looking for.  I think sharing the home page via the commons is a great solution and think we will go this direction once we institute the home page.  The info that you provided for question 2 and 3 was awesome. Thank you again!

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We went through this last year. My institution wanted to roll out a template for new canvas courses.

1 & 3. Our CSM presented a bunch of templates and we reviewed them and imported a few template courses that we liked. I made a copy of the template courses and added a team of staff responsible for customizing the template or those that wanted oversight. To assist your designers, your IT department may be able to collect data about your end-users, devices etc using Google Analytics if you have that enabled or you may be able to acquire this information from Tableau instance run by Instructure. You may want to discuss this with your CSM and working groups. Depending on your institution's culture this process might vary.  However, once a template was confirmed, using the canvas content migration API I was able to push the template to our existing and new courses. You are able to verify this process on your beta or test instances prior to production.

Content Migrations - Canvas LMS REST API Documentation 

2. This was largely successful and provided users a consistent experience across canvas courses, where they were enrolled into multiple courses. Through the template we were also able to create simple icons on our canvas courses to point to external resources on Google sites in our transition phase.

Hi Raj,

Thank you for responding and sharing Content Migration API info. I am not familiar with Tableau and will have to look into that feature.  Thank you so much!

Hi Scott,

No worries, here's a link to a script that uses the content migration API, which you might be able to leverage.

Use the Content Migration API to copy courses but without their calendar events (or remove them afte... 

Community Member

Hi @raj_veeravalli, I am currently researching universities who have used default templates and would love to connect to talk about this. Not so much about the technical details, moreso about finding a design that suits all and what kind of feedback you have gotten from teachers. If you, or any learning designers, in your department would be available to chat, my email is Many thanks, Sophie