Canvas Release: Blueprint Courses (2017-06-24)

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Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

This document introduces Blueprint Courses as noted in the Canvas Production Release Notes (2017-06-24).


Feature enforcement for all accounts: Canvas Release Notes (2018-12-08)

Blueprint Courses makes it easy for administrators or designers to deploy, update, and maintain course design templates or components across any number of courses or instructors. For an individual institution, Blueprint Courses allows Canvas admins to create content and learning objects, lock specific settings or content items, and push updates to all associated courses through course syncing.


Any items that are not locked can be managed individually by a course instructor. Content that can be managed by an instructor is not overwritten when the Blueprint Course is synced to associated courses, and new content created in any associated course is also not affected.



Account Course Management

Blueprint Course Feature Option

Blueprint Courses are managed by the Blueprint Course feature option, which applies to the entire account. Admins can enable Blueprint Courses in Account Settings.


Blueprint Course Permissions

When Blueprint Courses are enabled as a feature option, the Permissions page displays the Blueprint Courses (create / edit / associate / delete) permission, which allows users at the account level to manage any courses set as a blueprint course.

  • Allows user to designate a course as a Blueprint Course.
  • Allows user to manage Blueprint Course settings in Course Settings.
  • Allows user to add associated courses.


At the course level, any user with an instructor role can be added to a blueprint course. Instructors can lock and unlock blueprint course objects and sync updates, but they cannot perform any tasks required by the Blueprint Course permission.


In addition to managing a blueprint course within the Canvas interface, courses can also be managed via the Blueprint Courses API.


Account Courses Page Filter

Once Blueprint Courses are enabled, admins can use the account-level Courses page sidebar to filter their account by blueprint courses. This feature helps admins easily locate all blueprint courses in their account.


Blueprint Course Setup

Any course can be enabled as a blueprint course in the Course Details page in Course Settings. However, a blueprint course cannot include any enrollments. Blueprint courses do not have to be published to sync content to associated courses.


Note: Blueprint Courses are not supported for courses across trust accounts. A course in one account cannot be a blueprint course for another account.


Blueprint Course checkbox in the Course Settings page


Course Settings

Course objects in blueprint courses are always locked individually within their appropriate Canvas pages, but the Course Settings page sets the specific definition for how locked objects should be treated for the entire course.


Attributes that can be locked include content, points, due dates, and availability dates and apply within assignments, discussions, pages, files, and quizzes. Locked objects can be defined generally or specifically by type.


General Locked Objects

By default, the course is defined for General Locked Objects, meaning that any objects locked in the blueprint course are subject to general attributes that cannot be edited in associated courses. For instance, when Content is selected as a locked object attribute, instructors in associated courses are not able to edit any content for any locked objects. The option to lock content is selected by default, though it can be deselected as a lock option.


Blueprint Course Details page general settings option


Locked Objects by Type

Blueprint courses can also be defined for Locked Objects by Type, meaning that any objects locked in the course are subject to specific settings set by type that cannot be edited in associated courses. Blueprint courses support and sync five object types: assignments, discussions, pages, files, and quizzes.

By default, each object type contains no locked attributes. To select an attribute, admins can expand the attribute type menu and select individual attributes that apply to each locked object for that type. When an attribute is selected, the attribute name displays next to the object type.


  • Attributes do not need to be the same for each object type. Additionally, depending on the object type, not all attributes may be available.
  • Rubrics can be updated and synced as part of blueprint courses. However, if points have been locked for an assignment, updating the rubric’s point value does not affect the assignment point value.


Blueprint Course Details page locked settings by type option


Object Locking

Within an individual blueprint course, any user with the Blueprint Course permission can lock and unlock course objects and sync content for the blueprint course.


Once the Course Settings page is saved with a Blueprint Course definition, each object in the Canvas index pages includes a Blueprint Course icon. By default, objects are unlocked. Objects can be locked individually from the index page.


Note: The Blueprint Course icon only displays for published objects. 


Assignments Index page with the Blueprint course sync icon


In the object’s individual page, the page displays the locked attributes selected in Course Settings, if any. Objects may be locked or unlocked from the individual page as well.


Assignment details page showing locked content but being able to unlock the content item


Any items that are not locked can be managed individually by a course instructor. Content that can be managed by an instructor is not overwritten when the Blueprint Course is synced to associated courses, and new content that is added to any associated course is also not affected.


Instructor View: Associated Courses

Course instructors in associated blueprint courses can view the status of each object and manage any objects in the course that have not been locked by an admin or designer.


Each object in the Canvas index pages includes a Blueprint Course icon. Instructors can view which objects have been locked. Any object without the locked icon is unlocked. However, in the object’s individual page, the page displays the locked attributes selected in Course Settings, if any. Instructors cannot modify locked objects, so any attributes that are locked cannot be edited.


  • Users with the Blueprint Course permission cannot manage any locked content directly in an associated course. Any changes that need to be made to the course must be managed from the blueprint course and re-synced.
  • Objects that are unlocked can be managed like any other Canvas object in the course; the only difference is that the page designates that the object is part of a blueprint course.


Assignment details page showing locked content and not being able to unlock the content item


Blueprint Course Management

Each page in Canvas displays a sidebar for the blueprint course. The sidebar can be access to view and set course associations, sync course content to associated courses (when content is changed), and view sync history.


Note: Any users enrolled as instructors in the blueprint course can lock and unlock course objects and sync content. However, these users cannot manage associations for the blueprint course.


Blueprint icon located in the sidebar of an index page that opens the sidebar


Course Associations

The Associations page is accessed through the Association link and displays any courses that are associated with the blueprint course. Once a course is associated with a blueprint course, it cannot be associated with any other blueprint course.


After a course is associated with a blueprint course, the blueprint course will create an initial sync that included all course content.


Course Search

The search field supports searching by title, short name (course code), or SIS ID. Courses cannot be searched by course nickname since nicknames only apply to a course on a user level.


Courses can also be filtered by term or subaccount, and the Courses list can also be expanded and searched manually. Any applicable courses that display in the search results or as part of a single filter can be selected and associated with the blueprint course at the same time.


Changes to the Associations page can be saved by clicking the Done button at the bottom of the window. (In the Beta environment, this button is behind the Test Installation banner.)


Concluded Courses

Courses that are associated with a blueprint course and have been concluded will continue to receive any synced changes from the blueprint course. The status of a course does not affect the blueprint sync.


If a concluded course should not receive synced changes from the blueprint course, the concluded courses should be removed in the Associations page.


Blueprint course associations page


Course Sync

After a change is made to an attribute as defined in Course Settings, the blueprint course sidebar display a sync option indicating that unsynced changes have been made in the course. Content can be synced at any time.

All course content will be included in a blueprint sync, regardless of whether content is locked. Changed content will always overwrite the existing content in the associated courses for all locked objects. Again, content that can be managed by an instructor or new content created in an associated course by the instructor is not affected.

The sync will include the state of each object as it exists in the blueprint course. For instance, if an assignment is unpublished in the blueprint course, it will also be unpublished in the associated course. However, once the state is changed in the associated course, the state within the blueprint course will no longer apply.

If the blueprint course includes Modules, associated courses match the modules structure initially created in the blueprint courses. However, any additional modules and their content added to the blueprint course will always be added to the bottom of the Modules page in the associated courses.


Sync Options

In addition to the changes made to content objects as defined in Course Settings, all other course content will be included in a Blueprint sync. The only exception is Course Settings, which must be selected on a per-sync basis. Course Settings include all settings options in the course, including the Course Navigation. If this option is not selected, Course Settings are not included in the sync.

A notification can also be sent about the Blueprint sync, which is sent to users who have enabled the Blueprint Sync notification in the User Settings, As part of the notification, a message can be added as a reference to note what changes were made in the sync.


Sync Status

Once a sync has started, the sidebar shows the sync status as long as the user who synced the blueprint courses is viewing the page. The user can leave the page, but if the user views an associated course and notices no updates, the sync may still be in process.


Blueprint sidebar with unsynced changes showing sync progress


Sync History

The Sync History page shows information about any previous course syncs. If a message was included as part of the notification, the message is displayed first.


Blueprint course sync history page


User-Level Features

Admins and instructors can receive notifications about synced updates from blueprint courses by enabling the Blueprint Sync notification under Course Activities.


Depending on the amount of content in the blueprint course and the number of associated courses, synced content may take some time to display in associated courses. The Blueprint Sync notification will indicate when a sync is complete.


Community Resources

Future Enhancements

Blueprint Courses will continue to receive additional feature enhancements over future releases as indicated in Release Notes‌.


Customer Feedback

Community feedback for Blueprint Courses is welcome per Canvas Community Feedback Guidelines, which outlines general feedback, broken functionality, and feature enhancements.


For Blueprint Courses, feature enhancements should include the blueprint courses tag. Before submitting a new idea, please review all existing Blueprint Courses feature ideas.


Feature Documentation

All current feature functionality is noted in Canvas Guides Blueprint Courses documentation. Comments are also welcome for functionality clarification. Lessons will also be updated with all future enhancements as indicated in release notes.

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3 Solutions
Community Contributor

Very happy with this - it will make my planning for next year much easier.

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Community Contributor

This is an awesome feature! Can't wait to delve into the details. I can see this being useful for pushing out standard resources for disability services, etc. 

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Community Champion

We generate development courses for instructors to create content for any non-sis-generated course shell. If I'm an instructor it should be easier to find and set my own courses that I'm enrolled via the teacher role in rather than have to search through an entire term. It appears that only admins can do this, but with good reason I suspect. As an instructor you sometimes have to work with admins for other support issues on this level and you wouldn't want to set yourself up to break a course in production. Does the product team have any user stories which mention letting course designers set this Blueprint relationship up?

Also the associated course functionality on the admin side seems a bit lacking. If I try to find the course by its full or short name it doesn't come up in the list. If I use the SIS ID it doesn't come up in the list even with the associated term. 

So far it's a bit of a disappointment to play with, but I also realize it's a beta feature. I'm wondering if anyone else can repeat this issue. 

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