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How do you get courses ready for Year 2?

This is our first year with Canvas. To start the year we exported courses and enrollments from our SIS then imported them into Canvas using the SIS import.  The teachers then added all the content to their courses.  We are now thinking ahead to Year 2.  I've looked at the MegaChecklist and watched several of the End of Year/Beginning of Year videos.  We do not want to "wipe" our Canvas environment so I'm looking for alternatives. One of the videos suggested creating an "Archive" subaccount for preserving the previous year's courses. That sounds like a promising alternative. Does anyone do that and how do you do that?  I'm guessing we would have to export all our Canvas courses, manipulate the subaccount name and SIS IDs, then reimport.  Does that method preserve the student enrollments?  Our teachers also want to be able to copy over selective content from their Year 1 courses.  Any alternative suggestions, recommendations, lessons learned, etc. would be appreciated!  Thank you!  

18 Replies
Community Member

I'm also curious about this and it seems as though you could export/import all of your content "copy entire course" into the new course for the following year. I'm worried about them disappearing over the summer before our new courses are created. If anyone could follow up with information about transitioning into the next year I would appreciate it.

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @msanders ​, we're not K12, so I'm not sure if it matters or not, but we never archive our previous semester courses but instead because of how we have our terms set up the courses roll over into "Previous" courses for Instructors and automatically conclude at the end of our semester. This allows faculty to freely come and go in their previous semester courses and easily copy content from one semester over into the next. In addition, on the admin side courses don't get mixed up because we can sort by term (for us it's semester, but you could do something like FA15, SP16, FA16, etc). We've been doing this since 2012 and it's worked for us with no problems.

 @afreemont ​, if you're concerned about having access to current course content over the summer you would really need to talk with the Canvas admins at your school. They are the ones in charge of determining how courses are handled after the end of the semester and what you would need to do to copy your content from one semester to the next.

Thanks Kona.  If I'm following, in your environment, a teacher might have multiple "Rocket Science 101" courses, and all but one would have been automatically concluded based on the assigned term.  How so you create the subsequent courses (manually, SIS import)?  If by SIS import, how do you handle the duplicate SIS IDs?  We have a little over 300 courses in our environment. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

SISID.pngWe do all course creation and adding of students automatically via the API, using SIS ID's - side note, I'm not the expert who actually does the programming for this, so I might not have the tech lingo down correctly.

Every course we create has a unique SIS ID, we never repeat. I've included a screen shot to the right showing an example of how our SIS ID's are named/created so that they are unique. In general I'm pretty sure it's best practices to not reuse SIS ID's.

The first part is the semester (fall, spring, summer), second part is year (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), third part is the course prefix (hit in this case), fourth part is the course number (143 in this case), and the last part is the section number (this is what allows us to run 5 English 101's in the same semester and year. Their SIS ID will be the same except for the section number, which will be unique for each of the 5 courses. We also code sections slightly differently so we can tell which courses are traditional, hybrid, and online courses. Numbers only are traditional, anything with a "y" is a hybrid, and anything with a "v" is online).

This is something we came up with that combines a little of how our student information portal names things and a little of our own to make sure everything is unique and easily identifiable.

For more on how other schools do similar things - I think most of the schools I know of have a unique SIS ID naming scheme - you could share this post with the Canvas Admins​ or Canvas Developers​ groups in the Community. Smiley Happy


We learned the hard way that you definitely want a unique sis_id on the course.  We now create new terms for each year.  The old ones conclude but stay available for teachers to use for imports.  We have the school year as the first two digits of the sis-id so that each year will be unique. 

Learner II

Hi Mary,

I wholeheartedly encourage you to follow Kona's advice! You will need to come up with a unique course ID and section # for the SIS ID fields in Canvas. These probably won't be the same as the actual numbers in your SIS but you'll probably want to trace them back to it sometimes.

We are a High School District and here is what we have been doing.

Here is a Biology course SIS ID


006 = School Site identifier

1516 = School Year

109382 = Staff ID of Teacher for the course (This is important to have so each teacher gets their own course)

27L = SIS Course Code for Biology

S = Spring Semester (We use F for Fall)

Within that Biology class we have Sections with the teacher and student enrollments


006 = School Site identifier

1516 = School Year

27L = SIS Course Code for Biology

1121 = SIS Section ID

We use the Terms in Canvas to automatically conclude the courses at the set dates and to date, we have never deleted or cleared out any of our courses. We will keep them around with all the data in them in the archived (concluded) state for at least 3 years.

Once you make your new courses from your SIS import your teachers can still copy all the content 9or select just some of the content) over to their courses by following the How do I import content from another Canvas course? instructions.

If you follow these guidelines you will be set up for success and avoid many of the pitfalls and bumpy starts that others have run into. You will also have no need to turn on multiple grading periods because you will create new courses at your official grading periods and have perfectly pristine & preserved records should you ever need them Smiley Wink

Thanks Chris, I appreciate the reply. Everyone's feedback has been very helpful.  One quick follow-up question:  I set up a quick test with a dummy term, course, teacher, and student. After the end date of the term, the course was still in the Courses pull-down menu for both teacher and student as an active course (not prior enrollment). Is that the expected behavior or did something go wrong in my test?

Community Coach
Community Coach

Are you using terms? At the end of the term the course should automatically "conclude" and be removed from the active list.

Thanks, that is what I want to happen!  Sounds like something in my test went awry.  I will try again in our test environment with fresh terms, courses, etc.  🙂