Importing content from a previous course

If you have content from a previous semester that you would like to use, you can import it into your new course site. You can import the entire course or only specific parts. You can also import content from one section of a class into another section of the same class in the current semester to save time setting up multiple sections.

button list in Canvas settings with Copy this Course and Export Course content marked out and Import Course Content circled

To import content from another course, you always start in the new (destination) course site and pull the content in from the original course using the Import Course Content tool. You do not want to copy the other course or export content from it.

See the following Canvas Guides for detailed instructions and pictures.

If you are importing assignments with due dates and you need to adjust those due dates, make sure to do it as part of the import process to save time. (See How do I adjust events and due dates in a course import?). You can easily change due dates from one day of the week to another. If you’re importing content from a spring semester to a fall semester, or vice-versa, they won’t be exactly right because of breaks and holidays. However, they’ll be close enough that you can adjust them by dragging them on the Calendar. (See about 2/3rds of the way down the “How do I edit an event or assignment in the Calendar?” Canvas Guide for an example).

IMPORTANT: Never copy and paste content from another course site, especially when there are images, videos, or links to other parts of the Canvas site involved. They won’t look to you like they are broken, however, your students in the new site will not be able to see the image, watch the video, or use the link. When you copy and paste, the links, images, etc. will refer back to your original course, to which your new students do not have access.

Incorporating the IU Template

This information is only for the IU Template. The IU Template begins with a flag icon and the words “Welcome to the IU Canvas Course Homepage!” If your school or department has its own course template, please do not use the following instructions and contact your school or department if you have questions.

When you look at your new course you will see that there is a template on the home page of your course. The first line will read “Welcome to the IU Canvas Course Homepage!” We strongly encourage you to complete and use this homepage template if you have previously set your homepage to the syllabus or modules – at least for the first week or two of the course.

IMPORTANT: This template is not complete. You must fill in the information specific to your class and delete the instructions that are provided to assist you in doing so.

As you read down the home page template, you will see instructions for using the “full Canvas course template for your course.” If you are teaching fully or partially online, the full template includes useful items we encourage you to read through. If you’re planning to incorporate short video lectures into your course, the “Interactive Lecture” discussion is a nice way to allow students to ask questions about what they are watching. The assignment template features the Transparency in Learning and Teaching format, which is very helpful to clarify the purpose, task, and criteria of each of your assignments for students who may not be able to communicate with you as easily as they would in an in-person course.

Things to do after you import course content

There are a couple of things you want to do every semester when you import content from a previous course: check for broken links, and check for any typed-in dates that need to be changed by hand. You may also need to combine course sections.

Check Links

Use the Canvas link-checker to automatically check for broken links. The link checker is in the course Settings. Look for the button labeled Validate Links in Content on the right side of the page (or at the bottom of the page, if your screen is small).

Note that occasionally the link checker will return false positives, if the link is to a site that requires authentication or requires the user to click something before accessing the site. These will not necessarily need to be fixed.

See the Canvas Guide “How do I validate links in a course?” for full instructions.

Check for Typed-in Dates

Always check imported content to see if there are type-in dates from the previous semester that need to be updated. Updating due dates in the import process will not change dates typed directly into assignment text, assignment names, announcements, or module names.

Combine Sections if Needed

If you need to combine (cross-list) multiple sections of the same course into one Canvas site, make sure you do that from the site that has your content. This will pull the other section(s) into that site. If you start from a different site that does not have content, you will lose all the content in any other cross-listed sections. For instructions on using the Cross-listing Assistant, see the KB article “Cross-list Canvas Classes.


Questions? Talk to your campus teaching and learning center!

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