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scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

Need for Permanently Deleting Courses

In the comments on How do I permanently delete my course?,  @dsheryn ​ wrote, "You state that "Administrators can restore deleted courses if they know the Course ID number" -- at what point is the course content *actually* permanently and irrevocably deleted ?  We need to know this for governance constraints associated with some of our courses."

I thought this warranted a more open and permanent discussion so am moving his statements and my response to the Find Answers area.

Do you have a need for this at your institution?  If so, why?  What is the use case or constraint that applies?  Would it be sufficient if nobody at you institution except a system administrator could reconstitute a course?  If you did want to permanently delete a course would it be a once in a while need or would you want to delete more than one course at a time?

To answer David's original question, it is possible for Instructure personnel to delete a course in such a way that nobody (inside the company or without) can bring it back but it is a manual process that takes engineering resources so we prefer to do it sparingly.

8 Replies
abunag
Surveyor

I'm not sure if this is something that really answers the question, but...  Right now several departments have what they call "project sites", which are non-academic sites that they use to store files and exchange information.  These project sites were courses in our previous LMS, so the departments are doing the same now that we're transitioning to Canvas.  In our old LMS, there was no oversight on these project sites, but with Canvas, we're trying to be more diligent, especially with some of the faculty's lax views on Personally Identifiable Information (such as social security numbers).  So I could see a situation where we discover a project site loaded with PII, and we want to permanently eliminate the course, not just remove it from the listing.

The reason I'm unsure if this exactly fits your question is that we'd get the same satisfaction if we could be assured that the documents/materials/etc within the course were permanently eliminated instead.

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

For right now we're doing the never delete anything method of saving courses (been doing this since we started using Canvas in 2012), but I have to say things are getting a bit bulky. You might be interested in checking out this feature idea and it's discussion -

scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

One scenario I thought of would be that the institution hosting the course may not own it and might be contractually obligated to permanently delete it after a given period of time.

dsheryn
Community Member

Scott,

Thanks for picking this up and responding.

Your example of the hosting instituation not 'owning' the course is a good one, but the case I had in mind was more akin to Anthony's one, whereby as part of the course, participants may be asked to share, discuss or comment on 'real world' problems or case-studies from their employer (in fact, their employer may be funding all or part of their course of study).  This will likely involve the exchage of material  which is at the very least 'confidential', and while the employer may be happy that this shared for the duration of the course, may well want assurance that at a well-defined point afterwards, they can be confident that it has been deleted.  Doe that help explain why this is of (considerable) interest ?

Thanks!

scottdennis
Community Team
Community Team

Hey All,

Just to be clear; Canvas is built to be secure and we are confident that normal academic uses will enjoy the levels of protection that the system is designed to deliver.  But that design was never intended to include protecting medical or identity level personal information.  In the event that your users inadvertently end up with social security numbers, etc in a course, our support folks can do the work to make that information go away permanently but we recommend that you do not design any process that involves users regularly adding this kind of information to Canvas and discourage your faculty and staff from using Canvas for this kind of storage.

Thanks,

SD

Thanks, Scott.

That's completely understood and appreciated.  We certainly wouldn't ask people for those sorts of sensitive personal details.

However, as part of a course discussion, somebody might say "companies A, B and C were a pleasure to work with; companies X, Y and Z were a complete nightmare". Clearly that is "confidential" to that discussion, and course sponsors are increasingly asking for evidence that such material will be irrevocably deleted at a known point in the future.  Clearly this requirement only applies to a small fraction of courses, but where it is of concern, a response of "we're not really sure if it's ever actually deleted" doesn't go down very well..

Regards

millerjm
Adventurer

Well, in the past 10 years, we have gone the route of changing LMS every few years so that has been our method of cleaning out content!!!  We are legally bound by state statute to retain attendance data for 3 years, which in an online class would be their Canvas activity logs.

We have a culture of the "digital packrat" and a lot of "digital hoarders" who won't get rid of anything here.  Having a retention policy and being able to get rid of stuff so that it cannot be accessed would be a benefit for these folks.  They get overwhelmed and can't tell the most recent version of something.  They copy the wrong course from 3 years ago instead of the one from last year.  They make changes in the wrong course.  They beg us to take some of them away from them.

However, after not even a year on Canvas, we are getting requests to get stuff out of people's lists.  I've noticed some faculty who conclude courses which they didn't mean to and then they couldn't edit/access certain areas of their course, just to get them to go away!  (Once again, if the button is there they will click it!!!).

In the past, I would move the LMS archives onto another server and if someone really needed something, I would have to go get it from the "archives" which made it sound like it was in a dusty file cabinet in the basement somewhere and would take a while.  This discouraged most frivolous of the requests.

Do you have a need for this at your institution?  If so, why?  What is the use case or constraint that applies?  Would it be sufficient if nobody at you institution except a system administrator could reconstitute a course?  If you did want to permanently delete a course would it be a once in a while need or would you want to delete more than one course at a time?

I think in our use case, giving system admin access only would be OK.

millerjm
Adventurer

 @scottdennis ​ - this opinion article was published on CNN today:  Data is a toxic asset, so why not throw it out? - CNN.com