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Best Practices for inline content when copying courses

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What are the best practices for linking to inline course content?  I thought using course files would be the best, keeping all content with the course, but this seems to produce issues when copying a course.

I use a lot of images in course pages and question banks and so far have always used the file storage for those images.   I then make a  backup of the master course and copy each course for each semester and section that I need the course.  When I copy the course, all the underlying links for those images are referring back to the original course.

The course looks fine to me as the instructor, but because the students don't have permission to view content in a course for which they are not registered, images are blocked.  This also happens if I include links in pages to other pages:  When a student clicks a link in a page, they get an error that they don't have permission to view this content.

So I would prefer the content be copied AND the links be updated to refer to the files in their current course.   If Canvas is unable to do this then I have two problems to solve:

1) Do I need to move the images off of Canvas to a service like Flickr?   And if after spending hours relinking all the course content to Flickr, will I have permission issues again?  And if this DOES work, are there any recommendations for which image store service works best/easiest?

2) How can I link to page files within a course page that won't be broken when the pages are copied to another course?

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23 Replies, you are correct that as Canvas is currently designed, the Content Selector panel does not appear when one creates questions in a question bank. Having said that, it's possible to create the quiz questions first in quizzes (where the Content Selector does appear wherever the Rich Content Editor is available), find the questions (they will be in an Unfiled Questions question bank), and reorganize them into question banks however you wish.

Requests for this functionality (the Insert Content editor available in question banks) have been put forth on several occasions in the Community, most recently in , but each time the idea has failed to garner enough votes to move forward in the implementation process. Ideas can always be re-submitted for reconsideration, so if creating the quiz questions in quizzes doesn't constitute a sufficient remedy, you may feel to resubmit the idea to be re-evaluated.

Apart from question banks, as far as I know the Insert Content panel is available everywhere else in Canvas that the Rich Content Editor is available.

It really makes no difference if the right-bar Content Selector is available because the same functionality is included in the embed image Content Selector.  The EXACT same functionality.   It links to the course content as well (see my screen cap showing the same link added by both methods above).   The real question here is why my copied courses don't seem to update those links to the new course files instead of linking back to the original course files.    We've really narrowed it down here, so it's time for my campus gurus to try to figure out why.

Yes, that is frustrating in Canvas - tiny little selection windows, and on/off, un-identifiable sorting /not sorting  (il)logic.

Lamplighter II​ and stefaniesanders

It shouldn't matter if you use the picture icon or the right sidebar content browser. Both should work. I tested this in our production with a quiz with images that were inserted using the picture icon and it works just fine in the course where I copied the quiz. I am wondering if you have restricted access to the picture files in the Files area? If the pictures are in a folder that is not published, that might explain why students can't  see them when they take the quiz.

How do I restrict files and folders to students in Canvas?

The last screenshot in my above post shows that the images are linked to a DIFFERENT COURSE.  So it's not that the permissions in the current course affect the issue at all. 

I really appreciate the ideas!

I'm curious because mine always looks like it works fine as well.  But I have permission to view all images in all courses.

If you right-click on that image and copy the image address, then paste the address somewhere you can look at it,  does the address refer to the CURRENT course number or the course from which you COPIED?   Mine refer to the previous course, which students do NOT have permission to view.

It would be just really helpful if you were able to check because this would help me determine if it is just my own problem or if others have the same issue and just don't know it yet.

Community Member

Tech Support is amazing.

So so far there is no solution as to what's going on here, but this problem is only related to question banks.  

For or some reason, links in questions in question banks do not get updated when copying to a new course. The banks will refer to the copied questions but the links within questions still refer back to the original course. They don't think this causes permissions issues, but it could down the road.

They are still working on it. I will post anything new here.



Since you are a programmer I want to suggest a different approach for you. I never copy courses from within Canvas. Instead, I do the vast majority of my authoring in Dreamweaver (DW) and most quizzes in Respondus using the Word formatting. This ends up with all content on my local computer and I upload it to Canvas as needed. My DW images and file navigation are all relative hyperlinks and they work perfectly when uploaded to Canvas. The trick is to mimic the exact same folder structure on Canvas as I have locally and to upload content that way. I keep images distinct to individual modules within that module's folder (in their own images folder) but also maintain a folder for a very few images I may use throughout a course.

When creating modules I follow the steps above and then add files to each module. I can do the same with other content including my syllabus, course schedule, etc.

When I repeat a course I just start with my local copy of the content and repeat the upload process. Yes, this requires repeating steps each semester but I am usually reviewing and editing all of my content anyway. In fact, I will go ahead and edit changes to my local copy as a course progresses when I realize that students need more info or more clarity on something. An advantage of this approach is that it is incredibly easy to share content between courses--I just copy the source files to the site for the new destination course.

The quiz images are not as elegantly handled by my approach. But with my courses I either need very few images in quizzes (some courses) or use a strategy where I create a .pdf file called a Quiz Resource Sheet that I create locally and upload to Canvas and then link from within the quiz instructions. Students do get access to these sheets before time on the quiz starts but that is fine with me. Every once in a blue moon I will edit a quiz question to add an image directly to the question.

Thanks for your reply.   This approach opens a whole new way of creating courses!  But I have a couple of questions:

Do you have ftp access to Canvas? 

If so, Do you use a different ftp address for each course?

If not, what protocol do you use?   I've only quickly looked at the API for uploading, but it must be easy to do in DW.

Do you mean to say that you don't have to do any editing in Canvas? 

This doesn't work for quizzes, I assume--because you need to edit the possible and correct answers, question types, etc. . .

And have you tried this with question banks?   I have to use a lot of banks with a lot of questions.

Yes, this is a pretty different approach from what anyone around our campus is doing and from what seems to be the major intent built into Canvas. But it works really, really well for me.

The best news is that I don't need any external file transfer capabilities. I just use the Create Folders and Upload capabilities in the Canvas Files tab for each course. It is a little less efficient than it could be because you can't upload a whole populated folder. You have to create the destination folder(s) on Canvas then upload the file(s) for each folder one folder at a time. You can, however, multi-select all of the files for the folder you are currently populating and bring them all up at once.

In the attachment to my first message you can see some of the content for Module 2 (02_Relationships) in both my Dreamweaver and Canvas file structure. I keep all content-specific images (in this case images only used for Module 2's content) in their own folders so as not to be cluttering up the content files and you can see that this lesson has images for a SQL lesson as well. After having created my local DW content I would do the following in Canvas:

  1. Create the folder 02_Relationships under the Modules folder
  2. Create the folders Images and SQL_Images under this folder
  3. Select each folder in turn and use the Upload button in Canvas to import the files
  4. Create my module in Canvas
  5. Use the Add option and select Files to add the main content files to the module
  6. Reorder the files in the module by dragging
  7. Edit each content file's name to give it a more meaningful name to display to students. (In our old Blackboard system Blackboard would use the content of a <title> tag of an html page as the display name but in Canvas I have to rename the files.)

This is definitely a lot of steps but it takes me about five minutes. All hyperlinks to images, internal pages, or external sites remain intact each time. In fact I use two cascading style sheets for most pages to control formatting and they work properly as well. (One of these controls all formatting within the page and is used for every content page in every course I teach. The other is a fun capability that controls the "masthead" image at the tops of pages. I create holiday and special event versions of my masthead and use this course-specific .css to control which one is active. Changing the masthead file in this css cascades across all content pages in the course.)

Quizzes and exams: Our University subscribes to Respondus which lets you edit questions locally and then upload to Canvas. Respondus has a built in Canvas "personality" and is pretty good at uploading directly into Canvas where content shows up in a qti imports folder and creates a quiz in the Quizzes tab. Now, the best news about Respondus is that there is a pretty useful import capability from Word (and other sources as well). By following some pretty easy to learn formatting in Word Respondus imports and then exports questions exactly as you would want them to be. This includes setting the question type, correct answer, and feedback. There are some really clever tricks you can do with Respondus but they are going beyond the point of this discussion. What is relevant is that, as with my course content files, I have my quiz content maintained locally in easy to edit Word files. Respondus also manages question banks but I have never used this capability. I also think that it can deal with embedded images but, again, I use a different strategy for these.

Editing in Canvas: About the only editing I do directly in Canvas is in two areas:

  1. My course home page contains my masthead and links to certain resources in the course and I create this in the Canvas editor. (Once I got the layout settled for this page in one course I open the old course, copy the content, and paste it into a new page in a new course and make that page my home page. This is a once per semester activity.)
  2. For assignments and sometimes quizzes I use the editor to create a link to the html file containing instructions or for quizzes the .pdf quiz resource sheet.

One final note on content type. I use Dreamweaver and .html files for my content because I know how to use it. You could take this edit locally then upload approach with almost any kind of content as long as Canvas can display it. I have advised colleagues who don't know html (most of them) to just use Word, save as .pdf files, and then upload using the same basic strategy. Images are already saved in the .pdf so there is no trouble there and I am pretty sure that hyperlinks in Word are saved as hyperlinks in the .pdf file. This would definitely work for external (to Canvas) hyperlinks but probably not so well for internal links.

Wow, this is a lot. But I firmly believe in the approach of maintaining and editing as much content as I can locally and uploading to each instance of a course in Canvas. I have complete control over content each semester.

One last thought for multiple sections of the same course: Our campus lets me combine sections into one Canvas course so all of my content is only being uploaded one time per semester. I still have the option of making assignments, quizzes, and due dates unique to each section.