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Import Course Content should always be non-destructive

Import Course Content should always be non-destructive

When importing content from previous courses, sometimes instructors choose "all content" expecting that this will add their old content to the new site. Instead, it overwrites the existing site's content with the materials from the old site in some circumstances. Importing course content should always be a non-destructive process.

Community Member

It has been my experience that importing only adds, never overwrites. The only exception I've seen is the syllabus. 
Are there other places where content is overwritten?

Surveyor II

A few times per year, we are contacted by instructors who did the following:

  1. Successfully import content from "old" to "new" site
  2. Revise content in "new" site
  3. Repeat the import content process -- either all content or some content

Instructors expect that this will create a duplicate in their new site (seeing their revised content alongside the old imported version), but instead this workflow can result in the revised "new" content being replaced with the "old" content.

It looks like this has come up in the Community before ( ), with some difficulty reproducing the unexpected behavior -- but an instructor commenting in October 2017 that she lost a bit of work in a new course after setting it up and then importing old content.

Community Member

I would like to re-iterate the need to have content imports *not* overwrite existing content. One incident caused an instructor to lose an assignment which already had student submissions and grades. Another incident occurred in a course with almost 500 students -- three of the quizzes were overwritten and the grades somehow were shifted to another set of three quizzes. 

This is can be and has been very disruptive to instructors who experience this issue. If Canvas accepts this as expected behavior, the least that can be done is to have a warning message pop up at the time of import that warns instructors that their content will be overwritten. 

Adventurer‌ - I thought it "added to" as well, but just now tried it with my practice course and it did, in fact, completely overwrite all the content with the second course.

Community Member

Also under the 'non-destructive process' umbrella: 


cholling, does /undelete added to the URL return any of the overwritten content?


No, unfortunately, Ira. 😞


Importing or resetting can also break all the URLs.  The URL to the course and all its items can change.

Community Member

And I just tried it again, and it ADDED and did not wipe out the existing content. WHAT IS HAPPENING???

Do you recall your exact process? In my test, I tried copying a course and also importing a .imscc package, and neither overwrote.


I went into my existing practice course, and chose Settings : Import Course Content. So, I never touched an import package. Perhaps this is our solution -- using Import overwrites. Importing a package retains. ?