Coming Soon: Bulk Publish and Unpublish Modules!

The content in this blog is over six months old, and the comments are closed. For the most recent product updates and discussions, you're encouraged to explore newer posts from Instructure's Product Managers.


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I’m thrilled to share that we are releasing the ability to bulk publish and unpublish modules and module items, saving you precious time and helping to streamline course creation year after year. 

What problem does this solve? 

You’ve been asking us to continue making improvements to Canvas that reduce clicks and save you time so that you can spend more time on the things that matter to you. Here are a few of the common issues we heard from you and how this release will solve them:

The problem:  You want to publish one item in a module, but when you publish the module so that students can see that item, every item in the module is published.

How this solves it: The new release allows you to choose between publishing the module and items, the module only, or unpublish the module and all items. 


The problem: You import your course from last year into this year’s course and every module and module item is published. You have to unpublish each module and module item one-by-one so that students don’t see content they’re not supposed to see. 

How this solves it: This release allows you to unpublish all modules and items at once. 


The problem: You like to keep all your content unpublished while working to update it and then publish everything at the same time, but you have to publish each module one-by-one. 

How this solves it: With this release, you can choose to publish all modules and items at the same time. Note: If you want to publish a selection of modules or module items, you will still publish modules individually. 


One thing that won’t change is that we will not unpublish items that already have student submissions.


What about Files?

We are confident that you’ll love this new functionality, but we are also firm believers that we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Due to the additional availability options for Files, there are a few nuances you should be aware of. 

  • If you have the “File Copyright” setting enabled for your course, the following is true: 
    • Bulk publish will NOT unpublish any file
    • Bulk publish will NOT publish if usage rights have not been set on the file
    • Bulk publish WILL publish if usage rights have been set on the file
  • If the “File Copyright” setting is not enabled and you want to use bulk publish, the following is true:
    • Bulk publish will NOT unpublish any file
    • Bulk publish WILL publish files
  • If you are using either of the file availability options (only available with link or schedule availability), we will not update the files via bulk publish. 

We do plan to address this in the future, but want to give the Files behavior the time and consideration it deserves. 

What do you think?

This has been a longstanding pain point expressed by this community and we are looking forward to hearing how this update saves you time and makes your life just a little bit easier. I encourage you to play around with this new functionality in beta and let us know what you think in the comments below! 

*Note: This post was updated to make the behavior around Files more clear. 

The content in this blog is over six months old, and the comments are closed. For the most recent product updates and discussions, you're encouraged to explore newer posts from Instructure's Product Managers.

Community Contributor

To add clarity, I suggest that the documentation include the following:

  • If a quiz, discussion, or assignment has already been submitted by at least one student, then these items cannot be unpublished. (Does this include any submissions by “Test Student”?)
  • When selecting “Unpublish all modules and items” the “Modules” course link will be disabled.

Also, I suggest including information about refreshing the page immediately after you change the publish state.

  • For example, when I unpublish all the modules, “Module” in the course links menu changes to disabled, but I don’t see the disabled icon until I refresh the page.
  • Similar issue when publishing all modules. The Module course link is enabled, but you must refresh the page in order for the disabled icon to go away.
Community Contributor

I like the warning/explanation that appears when selecting the option to publish or unpublish all modules/items. It’s clear to me that if I stop the process before it’s completed, some items might still be published or unpublished.

Suggestion: use the exact name of the button. So instead of “Stop button” it should be “Stop Publishing button” (see screenshot below).

Stop Publishing buttonStop Publishing button


Community Contributor

Great improvement!  Love it.  Sometimes you want to bring in content from somewhere else, and but might not want the whole module published.  Usually when you import, everything is published.  Can we also make sure that when a module is copied from another course, or imported from commons, there is a way for it to be unpublished by default?

Another solution might be to have an extra checkbox when copying/importing that clearly defines the publish/unpublish state.

Community Member

Hi there, I would find this feature much more helpful if it didn't automatically UNpublish things that were already published. Two situations in which I've seen this occur: simply changing a module's unlock date unpublishes it entirely and requires me to re-select "Publish module and all items." This also happened to every single module when I imported a previous iteration of a course into a new shell. Is there a way to fix it so that the publish status defaults to however it was previously set up? In its current form, it's creating more work for me, not less -- and an inexperienced user is likely to not notice the unpublishing at all which will create access issues for their students.

Community Participant

This is potentially a useful function but there is a serious bug that I think many people would not pick up on until students complain that modules are not available.

Every time you edit something in the module - for instance change the title of the module, or change the 'Requirements' that enable students to track their progress - the module is automatically unpublished. 

Every time.

Any edit.

Updated! See below - although it looks like it has unpublished the module - it hasn't unpublished it ... phew!

Community Champion


@RaeJobst-GU I just tested and found that the module doesn't actually get unpublished:

I renamed a published module and saw the icon changed from published to unpublished, but when I refreshed the page the published icon returned and when I used student view I was able to see my updated module. I saw the same behavior when I added a prerequisite. The icon changing to unpublished when the module is published is definitely a bug and anyone seeing that unpublished icon is going to think they need to republish not just refresh their page.

Community Coach
Community Coach

I turned in a ticket about this issue. Canvas is aware that if you edit anything including release conditions, it seems that the module unpublishes itself. They are working on it, but just note that it doesn't actually unpublish the module. If you refresh your screen, it goes right back to being published.  


Community Participant

Thank you @lgarmire and @audra_agnelly ! I hadn't realised this! 

it is good to know that even though it looks like it has unpublished the module, it actually hasn't! Good to know also that Canvas are working on this.

Thanks for making the time to reply and let me know - appreciate it!


Thank you @RaeJobst-GU for initially raising the issue and @lgarmire for reporting it via support! Unfortunately I missed your comment but this did make it to our team via support and we were able to fix the issue. It will be on production August 2. Apologies for the confusion this caused! 

Community Contributor

I just ran into the same issue where the module gets unpublished after editing. Good to know that the Canvas team is aware of the issue and actively working on a solution.

Pallavi Jalakam

Community Coach
Community Coach
Community Participant

@PallaviJalakam Same issue here - publish module, edit module -> module is unpublished again.