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Community Member

Multiple Sections Under Same Individual Course

Can somebody explain how you create multiple sections under the same individual course? Specifically, having the course with sections for each new semester without having to republish the course each time and save on our account's storage space?

13 Replies
Community Team
Community Team

Hi,  @lindsay1  Welcome  to the Canvas Community! I'm sharing your question with the canvas-admins and‌ groups: the admins, because of their familiarity with managing terms, and K12, because of their expertise with multiple grading periods. I've also changed the question to a discussion, because it may well prompt recommendations, none of which will be uniquely "correct."

Speaking from personal experience, I don't think space issues should be your primary concern when making these structural decisions. Of more importance will be how courses with multiple sections using the same content over different time periods will work for your teachers. I think structuring courses in this fashion--trying to re-use the same content in the same course but with multiple sections, and over time--invites a world of trouble and will create an enormous amount of work for your teachers. I would not recommend this approach.

But getting back to storage space for a moment, media is the biggest usurper of storage. If your courses are media-heavy, you might want to investigate ways to keep that content out of Canvas and design your courses so that they link out to media that is stored elsewhere (YouTube comes to mind). This will help you mitigate storage issues.

However, I look forward to hearing some of our experts weigh in on this.

Hi Stephanie,

You raise an important point I hadn't considered, mainly because ArtistWorks Music is new to Canvas.  All of our courses consist of about 20-30 hours of music instruction on video.  Right now, we only have about 6 sample courses posted for the sales team to use in customer demonstrations.  But if a school licenses, for instance, 10 of our schools, there will be about 300 hours of video.  If the student is taken to our instance to consume the content, then there should not be a storage issue correct?  Just to understand this more thoroughly, where would I advise a new customer to go to find storage usage?

Thanks for your help.

By new customer do you mean individual or school? If school and they use Canvas then they could check either at the course level under course statistics or for all of their courses at the Admin level - can't remember the exact name of the page, but it has total data usage for all courses. 

Community Team
Community Team

artistworksonlinemusiclessons‌, following on what  @kona ‌ has said, an admin for a school can run a Course Storage Report from the Reports tab in Account Settings. You can direct your customers to for guidance.

Navigator II

 @lindsay1  , here are my first thoughts.

If there are any dates used in the course at all, you may not want to re-use a course with different sections (rethink it if you think you do). If everything is open-enrollment and proceed at your own pace, you might be able to get by with it. But even then, content hopefully changes over time and modifying quizzes can impact those who have already completed the course. If you continue to dump people into the same course, then the gradebook and speedgrader become more cumbersome to use (I know you can filter by section, but that's still more cumbersome).

One place it is helpful for us is in our student resource course. Every student has access to it but by having them placed into sections based on when they last took a course, we can send a message to all of the current students without bothering those who have moved on.

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @lindsay1 , the number one thing you would want to understand is that if you create a course and then copy it into a blank shell the data only counts for the initial course, not the copy of the course. So if you build the course in semester 1 and then copy it into semester 2, 3, 4, 5, etc... Instructure still only counts the data used from the original course (Semester 1), not any of the copies (Semester 2, 3, 4, 5, etc).

A great example of this is that I just looked at the file storage for one of my courses for this semester. It is a fully developed online course with a LOT of files, assignments, resources, etc. Below is the file storage for that course (so total data used for the course). As you can see below the only data that is counting against this course is one file (which I uploaded this semester after the course copy). Why is it so low? Because I copied this content over from the Fall 2016 semester.


Here's the data usage from my Fall 2016 course; what I copied over into Spring 2017. This might seem more in line with a fully developed course, but I actually copied a lot of content over (which isn't counting against my file storage) and the 69 files are all new just for the Fall semester.


I started tracking where the original course data came from and worked my way backwards until I got to a course created Spring 2013! This means that while yes, I've added things (files, assignments, etc) to the original course content, my data/file usage hasn't been charged for that original content from FOUR years ago and countless copies (two of us use similar course content).

In addition, I would also strongly recommend against reusing the same course because it will be really hard to tweak/edit/change the course in ANY way without messing with the integrity of the course from when previous students went through the material. In addition, unless you are going to delete the students from the course as soon as they are finished you are going to end up with previous student's work in all of your assignments, discussions (which I'm pretty sure you can't clear by deleting the students out of the course), and quizzes. Pretty much this is going to get big and ugly fast.

I hope this helps!

Just to see if I am understanding the responses: It's okay to create a course with multiple sections, but it is recommended to copy the course for the following year (or semester, if a semester class) and then conclude the current year's course. Is this correct? 

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @amunoz1 ‌, combining sections into one course for the same semester normally works fine. There can be some slight hiccups depending on how the Instructor wants to manage the different sections, but that's more on the teachers pedagogy than a technical reason. Yet, from semester to semester, yes, I would strongly recommend copying the course content into a new course for the new semester and then concluding the previous semester course. 

Makes sense. Thank you so much for your help!