Course Archive Process

TL;DR version:

We need to have a way to archive courses (in batch and individually), so that its hidden from everything.


Long version:

At USU we are about to start our 15th semester on Canvas and our instance is starting to remind me of an episode of Hoarders, I'm just hoping no one is killed by a stack of falling courses. I know many of the other institutions may not see a need for it now but in the future this will become a very real problem. With the preservation of student data, these archives would be useful for among other things, grade challenges, letters of recommendation, and accreditation.


Over the past year, as the semesters courses keep stacking up, I have thought of several different scenarios that could facilitate this process.

Out of all of them this would be, I think this scenario would be the easiest route:


The basis of the archiving process would follow a similar process as deleting a course. The course would disappear from all aspects of Canvas but unlike the deletion process it would be non-destructive. In the spirit of Canvas being a Cloud-based system this is not so much of an archival process but a way to just get the courses hidden from everything. For this to work the deletion process will have to be changed to a non-destructive method. So the engineers could copy the deletion process and modify it so you can still delete a course if needed and those that need to be archived or hidden can use a similar process. Currently when a course is deleted the enrollments are removed from the course so restoration is a two step process. If the deletion method were changed to just a simple active/inactive toggle and it disappeared, we could live with having the course still reside on the system.


Control of archiving and restoring should be a task between admins and instructors so we as admins can control this on a term by term basis but the professor has the option on a course by course basis. I recall an archived idea about offline archives but there was a consensus that instructors should not have this ability. Each institution is different and we operate courses on the premise that the course is the instructors IP, so we are more stuarts of course data than having the final say in what they can and cannot have enabled. I think this would best work as a setting that admins can change themselves.


Here are some other scenarios I came up with that give the institution the ability to do offline archives:

Scenario 1: A separate custom course export is created that includes the student interactions and is downloadable. This archive would be something akin to a IMSCC package but somehow include student interaction and assignment submissions so that there is a path for restoration if the need arises.


Scenario 2: Using Amazon Glacier storage a course could be moved to this system in its entirety. I don't know enough about Glacier storage to know if the course could be replicated to a database in Glacier or if it would have to be similar to scenario 1, but the archive file is stored in Glacier. The price of Glacier storage is significantly cheaper than S3 buckets.


Scenario 3: The course export would basically be a static copy of the course as it would appear in Canvas, including student interactions and assignment submissions.  This option would be a non-restorable version but it would be a complete record of the entire course. The ability to export courses as an EPUB file could play into this.

Community Contributor

Thanks for proposing this Tyler - I would like to have more options than delete when managing the accumulating mess before Instructure needs to be sent in because of the smell and missing sysadmins.

Community Champion

Hi John,

This process wouldn't delete courses, I used the deleting and restoring of courses as a basis of an easy way the engineers could modify to not delete the course but simply make it inactive to the point where it doesn't appear anywhere.

Community Explorer

This is a great idea Tyler, and one that will be needed more and more going forward. We have many faculty who would be thrilled by the ability to archive courses, complete with student data, to help un-clutter their accumulated mess of courses.

Community Champion

I agree, this is much needed.   We're only a handful of semesters in for our residential courses and it's already starting to become a mess. I want to hide stuff from 2014 but there's no easy way to hide it, currently.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni


Thank you for your Feature Idea submission,  @tyler_clair . There have been various idea requests related to archiving of courses + student data. We wanted to call your attention to two: ​ and , both were submitted in different voting periods, but archived due to lack of votes or inadequate response. You may want to reference these ideas for any additional insight.

Re-submission of a previously archived idea is accepted. Therefore, this idea will be open for vote in the next voting cycle.

In the meantime, help your idea gain traction by posting a link to this idea in the comments of the other, archived idea (which will notify author and anyone who is following the idea) and share your idea to colleagues and peers who you think would be supporters, as well.

Community Novice

I think some facility to archive individual courses would be an excellent idea. Subject to there being no particular constraints on data storage, I would prefer to have them accessible quite easily for reason that other posters above have expressed.

A scenario I can imagine is as follows:

The current system allows you to have immediate access to courses where the star icon has been clicked.  This is a useful system for me as a programme leader with the need to have some involvement with lots of courses.  This means that I can have immediate access to my own courses, where I am registered as a teacher or ta etc. but with one click I can access all the other courses on which I am also registered as a teacher (but am not actually involved in day to day teaching) to provide guidance or assistance to other members of the teaching team. It also means I have access to courses from a previous semester which I may need to reference.

Would it not be possible to simply have another layer to this heirarchy so any course can be 'archived' which will hide it from the 'all courses' list but provide a link at the bottom of the list to 'view archived courses' rather like the 'view all courses' link works in the existing implementation.  As I say, this would be subject to data storage constraints but perhaps this could be mitigated by removing larger files, such as multimedia etc., permanantly from archived courses.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

This idea has moved to the next stage and will be open for voting among the Canvas Community, from Wed. February 3, 2016 - Wed. May 4, 2016.

Check out this doc for additional details about how the voting process works! Smiley Wink

Community Champion

I love  @richard_trebilc 's idea. This would be super helpful. It would be nice to have a more simplified way of managing courses in the admin GUI. Currently we retain courses for one year. After the year is over the courses are removed user's ID. For example the fall 2015 semester ended and we deleted fall 2014 semester courses at the end of the 2015 fall semester (via SIS import). This clears up the faculty list of courses so they aren't so long. Faculty are warned and encouraged to make backups of course content before this process happens. This is also what we did in the previous LMS but that was more due to us hosting the LMS server locally.

In our experience this delete process has been a soft delete because we have brought courses back for faculty. Just this semester we brought back a course from the first semester we used Canvas in 2013. All the data still exists in the course so long as nobody hits the scary reset button.

Community Novice

Such a great idea, Tyler. We are a small school and it has already become unmanageable, I can't image what it is like for an institution the size of USU. We do so many course copies, that the delete would really mess everything up.

Community Novice

Thanks for posting this feature request!  We are very interested in this development at Northwestern.  Please feel free to contact me if you are looking for feedback/testing during the development phase.

Community Participant

This is definitely a feature whose time has come. It has obvious benefits for admins and support personnel, but faculty and students would also benefit a great deal, as we are now seeing instructors with 50 to 100 or more courses in their course lists, leading to confusion and system slowdowns in areas. I would definitely put my vote in favor of any alternatives that are cloud-based and don't require external hosting or storage by institutions.

Community Champion


I think that when a couple college kids and a savvy investor first started Canvas, they did not count on its phenomenal growth and the extent of its use. Archive? Why would anybody need to archive courses?

Well, four years later, and we have teachers with hundreds of courses, and archiving would be a huge blessing. Simply huge - for admins, teachers and students!

I will be voting up!

Community Champion

I love scenario 3 with the offline archive, but it needs to be importable.  Otherwise, what good would it be?

Community Member

I'm so very excited that this has been proposed. It would help us tremendously to have a separate archival space for courses.

Community Contributor

I think this would be great as well. Currently, we're backing up everything with S3, but having the student generated data included with the course would be really helpful.

Community Explorer

Just a straight up archive space that is not part of our active course area.

Community Novice

This is EXACTLY the simple way I would like to see this done: "Simply have another layer to this hierarchy so any course can be 'archived' which will hide it from the 'all courses' list but provide a link at the bottom of the list to 'view archived courses' rather like the 'view all courses' link works in the existing implementation. "  We use Edgenuity curriculum, and in their LMS, we can archive a course, and if we need to bring it back for some reason, we simply go to the Archived Courses section and re-activate it until we do what needs to be done to it, then archive it again.  It should be this simple in Canvas.

Community Contributor

Please forgive me if I am missing something here, but, the only issue I have is trying to figure out how to reduce the sheer number of past terms... I don't see a problem with past courses still being active, etc.    

When I speak of lots of past terms, we are only on our 3rd Canvas "term" but we already have 60-70 terms built up, which seem to cascade downward from old to new...

Community Novice

Though scenario 3 seems to be the conversion of a course to a static format like epub, so importability is excluded by definition, yes? Depending on specs for an exported content markup standard and data formatting, it could be accessed by any web browser and also addressed computationally for institutional analysis. My apologies if I'm missing something in the original or your response; I'm new around here.

Community Champion

Jared, please describe how you are using terms, and maybe myself or others can help you find a better solution within the existing Canvas functionality.

We have been in Canvas since Summer '12 and only have 26 Terms.

Agent K