Provide a real "Copy & Disassociate" feature


I want a real "copy" & Disassociate feature.  What I mean is I want to have a copy process where I can make a copy of a page, assignment, or quiz and make sure the copy is completely and irrevocably disassociated from the original source.  The reason I want to do this is I want to have a set of Page, Assignment, Quiz templates, that I use as starting point to create new content... and I want to be able to copy this original source template many times and not have the first copy be associated with the source... because if I think to make a second copy, I'm actually overwriting the first copy... not what I want. 

I kinda understand the current copy behavior and do like it as a source management feature, so I can update my source and then copy it to where ever I'm using it and it updates all the copies when I import or copy.... but that is not what I want in this case...

Here is what I want:

1) Keep the current "Copy to" / import functionality

  • I would suggest that when you copy to the same class, that you still name it "copy"  so if I copy "coolPageTemplate" the copy is "coolPageTemplate-copy" , because right now if I make a copy, it's really hard to tell which is the original and which is the copy... and If I'm coping to the same class, then I'm probably going to edit and rename it any way...
  • When I export or import, you could keep the same overwrite with not name change

2) Add a "copy&disassociate " option in right hand side ... have the "Copy to" and under it have a "Copy&Disassociate" that works the same way, but makes a real copy... so if I copy to the same class I have "coolPageTemplate" and then "coolPageTemplate-disassociated-copy" 


See my current pain here How do I really "Copy" a quiz? 

-- Jim

Community Champion

This a pain with quizzes especially. Being able to make a true copy of a quiz would make such a big difference and save so much time. Having to recreate quizzes can be really frustrating.

Community Champion

It is a recurring problem, teachers don't know that when you copy or import a resource more than once it will overwrite.  Yes it is at the top of appropriate documentation like How do I select specific content as part of a course import? and But teachers either do it by mistake (especially importing a course more than once) or by not having read those notes.

Maybe this new feature could be called "replicate" to differentiate from "copy".

Community Participant

Please prioritize a "duplicate" option to go with the "copy" option -- the same as modules has! -- with a WARNING on the copy option when it has been used before, about overwriting materials.

Someone is not going to go to the guides for a function they can guess the purpose of directly in their course, so for something as important as catastrophic quiz overwrites, the warning needs to be where the deed is done.

Especially as instructors realize they can 'copy to' the same course site they're in, they will want to use this feature for templates.

Community Champion

I have to comment again - there are so many more occurrences of this problem, with the large number of new users due to classrooms being Covid-closed.  Teachers whose hard work is lost when a quiz or other resource is overwritten.  Depending on timing, it is sometimes possible to export or copy the original item from Beta, but sometimes if the work is done after the Beta image is copied, it's not there. "Do you want to overwrite or create a new copy?"  Something like that.

Community Novice

I'm one of those new teachers reluctantly teaching everything remotely on Canvas.   I had been using Canvas for sharing course documents with students for years, though, and had received instructions on how to copy a Canvas course from one semester to another.   There was nothing in the instructions telling me that I cannot copy exams, but this was a non-issue until now, because I never gave online exams.  Long story short, I spent the better of a day yesterday undoing the mess I inadvertently created in an exam that students had already taken, when I uploaded the same exam twice.    Why there is no warning, as Nancy has suggested above, is beyond me.   Heck, a warning shows up anytime we even try to make minor edits to a homework assignment if students have already submitted them.   But Canvas will overwrite an exam that students have already taken, even if the exam has a different name?   It's nuts.

Community Member

Thanks for the write-up Jim. Helpful AND painful. I have made similar tests and had to tell faculty the bad news on many occasions over the years. We have also discovered that question banks overwrite any changes the hard way.

As pkamatan noted, this can be quite disruptive if you import content a second time and overwrite a quiz that has already been taken by students. Thankfully, student responses are still available alongside the original questions within SpeedGrader. However, point totals can change and the quiz will have to be edited yet again to match up with the original to make sense of the situation. Said a different way, the student score (numerator) will stay the same, but the total points (denominator) can change when the quiz is overwritten on second import/copy.

Since this is designed behavior, has anyone seen a good write-up as to why it is beneficial to instructors? Obviously, this is not a bug, but I struggle to understand the rationale for it. It certainly can be a mess to have new copies accidentally added to a course. However, it is better to have accidental duplicates than to have accidental data loss. 

Lots of folks don't read the guides, and it can be confusing even if you do. On this page there is an overly-broad warning that is true for some (but not all) content:

However, on the question bank import guide there is no such warning:

Not to dilute your suggestion, but to add to the conversation... having two different types of copy is fine as long as folks understand it. Personally, I would prefer a single, "copy/import and please don't destroy all of my hard work" function. The workflow needs to be intuitive and non-destructive. I can see three options, in order of preference:

1. Implement Jim's idea... it is a good one.
2. Change the copy/import so that additional copies are made instead of overwriting data.
3. Throw a warning whenever import/copy is about to overwrite data.

As you debate the relative merits of this idea it should also be noted that there is no suitable backup for lost data in these instances. Looking for content in Beta only works some of the time. Our team has seen MANY instances where content is created and then lost since the weekend "backup".

Community Member

I second jkulstad's comment: it is better to have accidental duplicates than to have accidental data loss.

This "feature" has been reported many times and is a major usability concern. Why is Canvas not taking this seriously?

Is it that difficult to separate "Copy and link" from "Copy and dissociate"? Or at the very least, to check if the source document has already been copied before, and to issue a warning if it does?

Community Member

I've just had this same issue - lost a morning of work thanks to quiz A overwriting quiz B which I didn't know was a linked copy of Quiz A. It's maddening and labelleing 'copy to' is (I think) misleading when it is not a dissociated copy. so, erm, yes, upvote this idea everyone please!

Community Explorer

Upvoting...thankfully, I learned that this was an issue BEFORE I made the fatal mistake.  Please create the ability to disassociate QB's from the quizzes?  Pretty please?

Status changed to: Archived
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