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Add Clarifying Language to "Copy To"

Add Clarifying Language to "Copy To"

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One of the big user error issues that comes to me as an admin is misuse due to misunderstanding of the Copy To feature. Too often we have teachers who use Copy To in order to duplicate materials in the same Canvas course (I spent nearly 2 hours today helping just 1 teacher fix modules in 6 courses). I think part of the confusion stems from the fact that duplicate doesn't always show up in the menu, you can't duplicate a module, and external tool assignment, etc, so teachers select the next logical thing in that menu, Copy To. The next problem in the workflow arises from the fact that you can select the current course from the list of course. Teachers then go on to copy Assignment 1 from Module 1 into Module 2. They edit the assignment, thinking it is Assignment 2 and a unique copy, only to discover at some later point that Assignment 1 and Assignment 2 both show the same updated content. Teachers panic, if it's a page we can restore via the page history, if it's an assignment and past the last beta reset, we've lost that prior work, and they need to redo.  I can only assume this is also a somewhat frequent issue the comes to Canvas Support as well.

Yes, this is all in the guides, but there are a million guides to go through and teachers are already overwhelmed with information right now. A simple, quick-to-implement solution would be to add a warning statement in the Copy To panel. Ex. something telling teachers not to copy into the current course, or that copying into the current course will not create a second resource. Alternatively, a less simple solution would be to update the the logic that populates the drop-down list of courses so the the current course cannot be selected. 

Community Team
Community Team
Status changed to: Open for Conversation
Community Participant

@audra_agnelly Instead of clarifying language, they just need to change the code. Here was my suggestion that got archived. 

They either need to update the "copy to" function to address the problems below or create a new duplicate function.


The "copy to" or duplicate function in Canvas needs to be fixed. Let me share an email that I sent to my IT person (because Canvas doesn't let it's users have direct access to their help line) so that I can better explain the problem.

""Last year, I uploaded a quiz in Canvas that is 100 questions long. Due to the online learning environment, I needed to split this test into two parts. So I duplicated the test using the "copy to" tool in Canvas. This created ONE copy of the 100 question test. I then spent about two hours deleting half of the questions and rewriting [the rest] so that the kids couldn't find the answers (as quickly) using Google. I also renamed this test to "Practice Test 1: Part A." I then went to the original 100 question test and attempted to duplicated it again so that I could make "Practice Test 1: Part B" for the second set of questions. However, when I tried to duplicate the original 100 question test for the SECOND time, it REPLACED ALL OF THE WORK that I did for "Practice Test 1: Part A. "Yes, the file is still named" Practice Test 1: Part A," BUT all of my changes are GONE! In other words, when Canvas try to duplicate the original 100 question test for the second time, it tried to duplicated it to the SAME LOCATION as before. Consequently, "Practice Test 1: Part A" once again has 100 questions (even though I had already deleted 50 of them and rewrote most of the others) without any of the changes that I've made."

So my suggestion is that the "copy to" function shouldn't duplicate to the same file location. Instead it should make an ADDITIONAL copy of whatever you're trying to duplicate. For example, if I want to duplicate a file on my mac, it would look like this...

Original File Name
Original File Name 1    <----- This is the duplicated file....


Now, if I wanted to duplicate the original file AGAIN, this is what would happen.

Original File Name

Original File Name 1

Original File Name 2


In other words, it makes a second ADDITIONAL copy of the original file. This is what the Canvas "Copy to" function should do. It should NOT "copy to" the same exact location as the first duplicate file. I lost hours of time (and so did my IT person) trying to get the changes that I made back because the "copy to" function is broken. (BTW - Canvas wasn't able to recover any of the changes that I made...)


Community Member

If a teacher copies a module to a course two times. It will replace the existing files with what is imported if they have the same names. This is an issue if you are making a template to work from. 

*suggestion: add a warning pop up like a computer has that says "are you sure you want to replace___ with the same file name?"

*suggestion: make an actual COPY that gets sent to the course the way it works when you click duplicate so that you do not have an issue with the files having the same name and getting wiped out

Community Member

The issue of creating a 2nd copy that @richard_ireland brings up caused a problem for one of our instructors recently too.  Our instructor made a 1st copy of a quiz, made some changes to it, then made a 2nd copy from the original quiz.  The 2nd copy overwrote the changes he made in the 1st copy, so he lost an hour of work without warning. 

I tested this and discovered it doesn't matter whether the title was changed of the 1st copy (or of the original quiz) before making subsequent copies:

  1. Created My Test Quiz and noted the URL/quiz ID.
  2. Copied My Test Quiz by choosing the "Copy To" then selecting the current course.
  3. Canvas creates a copy, so now I have two: 
    • My Test Quiz
    • My Test Quiz
  4. Renamed the original My Test Quiz to My Test Quiz (Original) then made a copy by choosing "Copy To" then selecting the current course
  5. I ended up with only two copies, instead of three:
    • My Test Quiz (Original)
    • My Test Quiz (Original)

It overwrote the 1st copy "My Test Quiz" and replaced it with a copy of "My Test Quiz (Original)" without any warning.

So, it would seem it doesn't matter if the Canvas code is changed to append the numeric sequence (i.e., My Test Quiz Copy, My Test Quiz Copy 1, My Test Quiz Copy 2..., etc.).  The code would need to be changed so that creating 2nd and subsequent copies actually creates a new Canvas Quiz ID instead of reusing and overwriting the 1st copy quiz ID. 

Back to @richard_ireland comment... it would still be quite helpful if Canvas appended the numeric sequence to the name of the additional copies.  This is how it works if you duplicate a Page, so it would be nice if things were consistent in this situation.

Community Participant

Please fix this!!  I have two teachers, doing course development work for our district, who were affected by this bug.  It seems like a very logical way to design.  In fact, I recommended it before I realized it would cause this problem.  They lost a significant amount of work trying to duplicate a module (for the pattern).  

Some possible solutions:

Remove the option to "Copy To" from a course to the same course, please.

Rename the "Copy To" to "Copy To Another Course" or something like that.

Ensure "Duplicate" will be an option everywhere.


Community Contributor

At my current university we have hidden the Import function for our instructors with JavaScript. We have recently moved a giant portion of our campus to Canvas from (the LMS that shall not be named) and we want to avoid faculty importing all kinds of things from the old LMS to the new requiring cleanup. Becasue of this we have had an increase in the use of the "Copy To" function where faculty can copy individual items from one course to another. 


Recently we have had an issue where faculty will copy a Quiz (or assignment) from Course A to Course B. Then they will make changes to the quiz in Course B. Then they will make another copy from Course A to Course B of the same quiz. This will cause Canvas to overwrite the Quiz in B. 

While the functionality is understandable. I believe it would be beneficial when this Copy To process happens that there is warning text letting people know that an overwrite will happen. I am aware there is documentation for this on the Community site but faculty are not likely to search before doing this. 

I don't think it has to be much text other than "Note: Repeat copying of an item in Canvas will cause an overwrite in the destination course"

Community Member

I'll add a similar scenario is occurring when a faculty performs the same copy to function with an assignment.  The warning text you are suggesting would be very helpful.  Like you said, users aren't going to search for this issue and if they do it wouldn't be until after their materials have already been overwritten.  Thanks! 

Community Member

This happened to me. I did my dissertation on VLE and UX dual platforms, but I am at a point where my attitude of "this will get more User Friendly the more I play around" is fading fast....simple logistical issues takes up so much time to try sort out, that I am having less and less sleep, and more and more need for actual practical solutions that are UX for both lecturer, MC and students. Engagement from students are wavering as they do not feel confident on this VLE, I have been playing around daily for 4 5 months now, had a whole year course collapse, when I needed to just simply sync and publish...I cant figure out how it could possibly have gone unnoticed that there is no option to add criteria or in between an existing rubric (I clicked on the pop-up of criteria as it said "collapse" (meaning collapse the pop up? No the whole rubric lol was a deleted by my fabulous practical brain too lol), but at least a solution was developed after...please help? I just need to add two times criteria in a Part B of  rubric? feels like logistically I have lost my sensibility to time manage....

Community Member

This just happened to me.

Situation is that I copied a Quiz (Quiz 1, Questions 1-10) from Course X to Course Y. However, in Course Y I wanted to break the Quiz1 into 2 parts Quiz1A (Questions 1-5) and Quiz1B (Questions 6-10), plus change a few things to make it more clear.

In Course Y, I renamed Quiz1 to Quiz1A and deleted Questions 6-10. I made other modifications to Questions 1-5. The students took Quiz1A and it worked fine.

Now, it's time for Quiz1B 2 weeks later. My logical solution is to copy over Quiz1 from Course X again into Course Y (same Module). Since it has a different name, my assumption is that it will show up as a new Quiz (i.e. I should see Quiz1A with Questions 1-5 and also the new Quiz1 with Questions 1-10). I could then rename the recently copied Quiz1 as Quiz1B, and delete questions 1-5.

What actually happened is that that the copied Quiz 1 OVERWRITES the existing Quiz1A. It's still unclear what is new and what is old. The grades seem to be intact but the Questions are the original from Course X. But now students are unable to see what the got wrong and why since the Quiz is different.

My reading of the Canvas Q&A has been no help. Others have had this problem and it says "Solved". But there is no explanation on how to undo the Copy. So my assumption is that Canvas support doesn't have a solution and that no one wants to actually fess up and admit that there is no way to correct this error.

Just a commentary here. This is REALLY PROBLEMATIC.

First - it's clear that the name/identity of a Quiz (i.e. Quiz1A) is not it's TRUE name/identity (which is actually Quiz1). The TRUE name is the original name when it was created. Changing the presented name in Course Y does not actually change the TRUE name, which is secretly remembered by Canvas. This is really confusing, non-obvious, and leads to confusion and extra work for instructors and students alike.

Second - if the instructor believes Quiz1A is a separate quiz from Quiz1, it is really easy to overwrite and lose data. This is not the typical logic in computer file management (i.e. If I copy and rename a file, there are always two files, the original and modified copy).

Third - I'm not sure why Canvas feels it's so important to preserve the "identity" of the Quiz when it gets copied. It seems easier for it to just create a new quiz that is identical (similar to "save as" function in so many applications). But, if this is important for whatever reason, then the instructor should NOT be able to change the Quiz name and there should be lots of Red Flags popping up when it gets copied.

Right now, I'm venting a bit and I'm not counting on a solution. But, if someone has one, I would love to hear it.