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Retain dropped student information

Retain dropped student information


When a student drops a class in Canvas all their user data is removed including assignments they submitted, analytics, etc. If this were a physical course an instructor would still have access to that student's grade thus far in the course. Being able to see a student's attendance and previous work is important for many instructors' records, including my own.

I'm also concerned that all messages to and from the student are also deleted. This kind of correspondence with students who are at-risk of dropping or failing the class is very important to retain and review as needed both for instructors, students, and counselors.

Finally, if a student retakes my class down the line after dropping I would like to have access to their previously submitted assignments so I know they aren't submitting work from their first attempt at the class and plagiarizing themselves. dropped student

record of assignments‌analytics participation‌plagiarism prevention‌attendance reports‌deleted message‌


I agree.   It's a pain to have to manually re-enroll a student (who was dropped via SIS), in order to "salvage" their work, submissions, feedback, grades, etc.

From  one of our teachers:  "LOSING STUDENT DATA: I am still bothered that students who may have been dropped OR switched my course from one period to another, the current grades disappear and there is no way to recover it unless someone reactivates the student's account in the course.  Synergy allows teachers to make a dropped student's info "active" so you can at least see what was their last grade or add a missing assignment so the student receives the most accurate grade possible when transferring. This should not be a difficult feature to add so we always have this option to see "dropped or withdrawn" students in our grade books, so other teachers can receive their most current grade."

Community Contributor

I'm honestly surprised the issue of dropped students' access to their former course's data has not come up more in the Canvas Community. This idea is the only one I've found on the subject. Perhaps there's another out there with keywords I've been ignoring?

This is not an insignificant issue for my institution, and we'd like to hear how others are handling this access in terms of workarounds, if not movement by Instructure on some kind of limited access to content submitted by dropped students.

New Member

That's a good point about retaining messages between staff and students. IIRC, that info is subject to FOIA requests, and I can imagine a school district bumping into trouble if that info goes missing.

Community Champion

Our K-12 district runs into this quite a bit. We have a rule in our SIS that withdraws students from the Canvas course 5 days after the SIS leave date. This is to allow time to download grades reports for transfer paperwork, but sometimes this isn't taken care of in the 5-day window and that data is lost. I then get the request from the schools to re-enroll the student so grades can be pulled. I've thought about changing withdrawn students' statuses from "delete" to "completed" in the enrollment csv. Teachers would than be able to pull up past grades, and the new gradebook lets you hide completed students from your roster so that the interface isn't cluttered with withdrawn students. The "completed" label however, isn't an accurate description of what happened to that student. Has anyone used the completed status with their withdrawn students?

Community Contributor

We solved this by using and defining in our SIS to the active, deleted, and inactive enrollment types. We are not using the "concluded" status.

  • We only send the "delete" if a student drops a course section prior to the first day of classes.
  • After that we mark the student "inactive" if they drop during ad/drop or withdraw for any reason.

You can see what an inactive status does on Canvas Enrollment Status Comparison page.

Community Champion

During drop/add, I have had students drop one section of a course, only to add another section of the same course that meets at a different time.  They expect their grades to carry over from the first week or so, however canvas leaves me no record of what those grades were, or even which section the students were in.  If faculty could see deleted enrollment grades in a state similar to concluded enrollment grades, we would be able to support those drop/add transfers.


This issue is something we have struggled with as well. We have students move from one section to another on a regular basis throughout the year due to scheduling issues. As others have said, students are losing all previous feedback, submissions, and data associated with that enrollment. I'd agree with  @daniel_barkan ‌ that this could easily become an issue with FOIA requests if the request includes messages to a student that was removed from a course. 

Community Champion

In a related issue, the students who add late may be excused from certain missed assignments or offered a make-up.  It would help to know exactly when students who add after the course start date were first added to the canvas class list: 

Community Participant

I literally just have had three teachers come and ask me this question about seeing work form a student that has had a schedule change. They were not able to access the grades entered in Canvas and therefore not able to assign the grades needed for the new class.  Another instance there was a group project where the student moved to another school and was removed from the SIS system and that student submitted all the work for the group. It is now gone. 

Community Contributor

Perhaps dropped student info could be automatically stored in a zip file for a limited time, like course export packages. 

Community Champion

Unfortunately instructors rarely who is going to dropped before it happens.  During drop add students come and go entirely through their own online registration changes.  Keeping dropped student info in a zip file would require us to export the gradebook at least daily, and also more than daily download any submissions and possibly also manually copy any discussion posts.  We would have to copy everything from the entire course from every student, because we don't know which student may be dropped.

Community Contributor

steven When you say, "We," I am assuming you mean teachers?

My comment was not directed to dream up more busywork for teachers, but rather to a software solution that could minimize human effort or meet a need--since that is my primary interest in software.

Your administrator has access to a backup "copy" of the entire Canvas instance for your institution for about two weeks or so at any point in time after a change, to the best of my knowledge.  The request in the original post may be a matter of an administrator action or a school record-keeping policy. 

BTW, at my institution, once a student has logged on to Canvas, they are only "inactivated" from the gradebook, not "dropped" simply because we are required to keep all info from the point of login. 

Community Champion

I do mean teachers, and I'm glad you were not looking to create busy work for teachers..  It is teachers that would need access to the backed-up data throughout drop-add. There is nothing intuitive about getting that data from an admin.  As the students come and go without warning while we are just getting to know them, recalling which section a dropped student was in previously is not common once all records have been removed from canvas.


While an admin may have a 2 week back-up, that is news to me as a teacher.  How are teachers to know that they should ask their admin for daily updates reloading the missing grades and submissions of any students who have transferred between various sections of the same course?  How are admins to know which sections to check the back-up for, when the teachers themselves are unsure?  This sounds like busy work for the admins, except that the alternative is either excusing students from work they have already submitted or requiring a make-up for work that was already completed once.  It would be so much simpler if the records were still available to me directly within canvas, so I could search through my own sections, find the student's prior enrollment and transfer the grades myself.

Inactivating students might be a reasonable solution for your school, but ours drops students who change their schedule during drop add, and inactivates students who withdraw later.  This is linked to our treatment of the course in the students' records.  Withdrawn courses show up on their record, but during drop-add any schedule changes are completely removed from their record.  Since I am not an admin, I do not know how simple or complicated it may be to change the programming to inactivate students in canvas while eliminating the record of their enrollment from our system.  I do know that it is outside my control, however.

New Member

We have students that will move from one course to another mid term.  Once the student is exited from the course in Canvas, the teacher no longer has any options to see their grades in the gradebook.  They also can go to the "gradebook history" but the filter does not work, as the student is no longer in their course, so then you have to manually scroll page by page looking for the student's work.

It seems a simple filter on the Grades for inactive students would help, as well as the ability to filter by things that are able to be displayed on the screen, regardless of whether they are current students or not.  How odd is it that we can display the data on the screen, but can't filter by that same criteria???

The current solution seems to be that we have to add the student back into the course, so then they can be displayed and filtered, however this is very inconvenient for our district as we are SIS integrated and automated, so changes can happen really before a teacher is even aware that the student is going to move out of their class...  And if we manually put the student back into the course, and new assignments are generated by the teachers, now these assignments are going to show as incomplete for the student that really wasn't in the teachers class any longer.

Community Member

@JamesAvery If an institution is SIS integrated, I think it really does come down to how the integration is programmed to pass drops and different kinds of drops over to Canvas.  We use Ellucian Colleague and it has different "drop codes." In our integration, we can program how Canvas handles different drop codes. It's not perfect, but it does handle a good portion of the drop cases. 

It sounds like we've programmed our integration similar to the way @cms_hickss describes in the comment above:

For example:

An "X" coded drop is a student that drops before our census date of the first 10 days - so it's like they never registered for the class - we have our integration programmed to treat "X" drops as a hard drop or "delete" which deletes the student's enrollment in Canvas.

Drops that should transcript (like a withdrawal or "W" drop) are sent to Canvas as a soft drop - which inactivates the student's enrollment in Canvas (so they are set as "inactive" in Canvas and their enrollment information remains.

So what you'd need to figure out is how those "drops" when a student switches sections/courses are coded in your SIS and then program that drop code into your SIS integration with Canvas.  Unfortunately for us, our SIS treats a drop due to a section/course change with a "X" code automatically (as that original section/course should NOT transcript but the new one should) this results in the student's enrollment in the original section/course being hard dropped ("deleted") and there is no way for us to tell our SIS to code/treat these types of drops as different processes (at least that we've found so far).  I guess "fortunately" for us, our institution is "small enough" that these types of schedule changes are processed by actual live people in our Registrar's office and not automatically by the SIS - so we have a process in place that before anyone in the Registrar's office processes this kind of schedule change, they reach out to a Canvas admin (me) to preserve the student records before the switch is processed so that I can manually restore/move the student's work and/or grades to the new section/course (depending upon how well they match up as this gets more complicated if the new section/course is taught by another instructor with different assignments). When that happens, I have to work with the instructor of the new section/course to "translate" the student's grade from one instructor's course to the new instructor's course.