Groups in Canvas

Faculty will be pleased to know that Canvas has a Groups function, just as Blackboard did, and is more functional and flexible. 

Faculty can create a variety of groups (e.g. a working group, study group, or project group), and can even allow students to self-sign up, as they could in Blackboard. Groups can be created manually (with the teacher choosing members) or automatically (where group memberships are randomly created based on the number of groups specified). 

Group management 

Faculty can move students from one group with a simple drag and drop movement over their name on the screen. Leaders can also be assigned to each group and are easily managed on-screen. 

Once the groups are created, assignments are designated as group assignments in a different area of Canvas. Grades for those assignments can be assigned to everyone in a group (protecting individual integrity of work), or the “same grade” for all students in a group. A simple checkbox toggles that function.  

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 6 “Structuring the Course”


Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight the Discussions in Canvasvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

The Syllabus Tool in Canvas

The syllabus tool in Canvas is powerfully integrated with a course’s Assignments, Grades, and Calendar tools. When you select the Syllabus in the left menu of your Canvas course, the Syllabus tool will display.

Syllabus tool link in Canvas Course Menu

The text in the top section [1] can be edited by clicking Edit, then working with the text in the Rich Content Editor (RCE). Below the text area [1] is an auto-generated list [2] of assignment due dates based on due dates set for your assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc. Events will be displayed in a calendar view on the right [3].

Canvas Course Syllabus, Summary and Events

Instructors can disable the Summary of assignments and due dates displayed if they choose “Edit” and uncheck the box for “Show Course Summary.”

Show course summary button

If you are using a course template rather than building your course from scratch, you will see pre-populated information in the content area of the Syllabus. Some of the information on the page is linked to a Course Information Module that already contains academic resources and institutional policies referenced in the WCU Syllabus template document and in what was formally known as the “Academic Toolbox” in Blackboard. There is also supportive guidance in the content area of the syllabus tool  that explains best practice for using the Syllabus tool and chunking out the information to the student from the Syllabus to a module, creating an improved user experience that is easy for students to navigate.

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 6 “Structuring the Course”


Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight the Groups in Canvasvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Copying and Importing Content and Canvas Commons

As you design your course based on your desired learning outcomes, it is important to think through what parts of your content are critical to support student achievement of those outcomes and what parts are less critical. By continuing the process of backward design, the foundational content should directly support students as they complete activities and assessments. Content that doesn’t directly support activities and assessments (which were developed to provide practice and show mastery of learning outcomes) is supplemental content and would be prioritized behind foundational content. Supplemental content can include additional in-depth materials for advanced students, related inter-disciplinary content, or review of basic knowledge and skills for students without the prerequisite abilities for the course.

When migrating course content, many faculty have opted to start from scratch and only use the course components from their migrated course that support the learning outcomes and course design.  To start from scratch, use one of your DEV shells to build the course.  Once the DEV course is finished, you will import it into the official Banner created course.


Migrated courses, DEV shells, and Official Courses, oh my!

When you log into Canvas, you may be confused or overwhelmed with the different ‘course shells’ appearing on your Dashboard.  Here is an explanation about each type of shell, and a process to follow when working with your migrated content.

On your Canvas Dashboard, under Unpublished Courses, you may see these different types of shells.  BB-migrated, DEV, and Course ID.unpublished courses on the Canvas DashboardCourses on the Canvas Dashboard

The shell with BB-xxxxx (Migrated) contains the migrated content from your Blackboard course. Your first step is to organize your course components in this shell.

The shell with DEV-yourname is an empty shell. You will import your BB-xxxx (Migrated) course into this DEV shell.

The shell with the Publish button and the course ID and name is the official banner created course for the indicated semester. You will import from your DEV shell into this course each semester.

Steps for courses on the Canvas Dashboard

For step-by-step instructions on how to import content from one course to another, see How to use the Course Import Tool Canvas Guide


A New Place for Finding Content

Canvas Commons in the global menu

One of the great resources that Canvas provides is the Canvas Commons.

What is Canvas Commons?  How can you use it? 


The Canvas Commons is a learning object repository that allows you to find and import shared content from other Canvas users and institutions. You can also share publish your content to the Commons.

Commons also allows an institution to share content just with users at the institution. For example, the Academic Toolbox that was automatically added to each course in Blackboard can be found in the WCU Commons repository for instructors to import into their course.

You can also create a personal repository for your content that you want to reuse in other courses or subsequent terms.

To get started, click on the Commons icon in the left navigation bar in Canvas.

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 5 “Content” 

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight the Syllabus tool in Canvasvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Cross-listing Canvas Courses

Cross-Listing in Canvas is the process of combining the enrollment from two or more courses in Canvas. Before requesting courses be cross-listed in Canvas, instructors will need to determine which course will serve as the primary course and which course(s) will be cross-listed (moved to primary course).


Before requesting courses are cross-listed (or de-cross-listed) in Canvas:

Cross-Listing must occur before courses are published and students submit work. If you Cross-List after students have already submitted work, all Cross-Listed enrollments will lose any associated assignment submissions and grades which is why courses cannot be Cross-Listed if student submissions exist.

Cross-Listing must occur to courses before adding content. Content in any of the secondary courses is lost once cross-listed. We recommend that you copy the content from a Development Course into the new Primary Course after Cross-Listing. When the Cross-Listing is complete, you will no longer have access to the secondary course spaces and all data will be gone.

De-Cross-Listing must occur before courses are published. All student submissions, grades, etc. will be inaccessible after De-Cross-Listing.

Other things to consider?


    • One place to create content with less updating. Any content added or content updated in the cross-listed course will pass to other course sections.
    • Complete course roster in one place. All Students in the cross-listed course sections will show up in the course Gradebook and under People. (Note: By default, the Gradebook shows students from all sections. To view just one section, click “View” then “Filters” then “Sections” and that will show a drop-down menu. Click “All Sections” and then choose a specific section to view the grades just from that one section.) 
    • Section-specific assignments, eventsgraded discussions, and quizzes can be assigned or common activities can be assigned to all sections.


    • No reversing if courses are published. Once the course is cross-listed, the courses/sections cannot be separated without losing all student submissions and grades. 
    • Creating section-specific content may be more time consuming. Files, pages, and discussions can be set up with student groups for each section then content added within the group pages, similar to Groups in Blackboard. (All sections will see the content you add to course content areas if student groups are not being used.) 
    • All sections will be exported if you export the Gradebook into Excel. (However, section views can be filtered under People and in the Gradebook in Canvas.) 

What is displayed on your Canvas Dashboard after courses are Cross-Listed?

When you Cross-List courses, all of the other associated courses will disappear from Courses/Dashboard in Canvas. However, you can modify which courses show up in Canvas manually.

    1. Login to Canvas.
    2. Click on Courses on the left. A menu should extend out to the right.
    3. Click on the All Courses link at the bottom- you may need to scroll down.

The first time you access this page, no courses will be starred. By default, all are displayed. Once the star icon is selected next to at least one course, Canvas will only display starred courses on the dashboard going forward. (NOTE: There is no save button to click. When you are done starring courses, click on the Dashboard button on the left and you will see your preferred courses and dev shells.)

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logo“Priming the Canvas”

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight the Canvas Commons and Importing Contentvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Downloading Student Content from Blackboard before the Canvas migration is complete

We know that there are many reasons why you might want to save some of your Blackboard courses, student content, grades, etc., before Blackboard is retired on June 30, 2021. We have created some “How To” articles that focus on the most common content: the entire course (which does not include student content), student submissions, grade center, and rubrics.

Student content and grades should not be stored on your local hard drive or personal device. To meet legal, security, and privacy compliance, OneDrive, Mercury, or Panopto (for video storage) should be used to store downloaded student content and grades.

We are migrating the course content for all the active 2020 courses and the spring 2021 courses. To learn about when these will be available visit our Canvas migration page.  However, you will need to migrate your own content into a course development shell for any course not taught in 2020; guides on how to do this are below.

When retrieving student content, please be aware that for specific student submission types and Blackboard student submissions, there may be limited results depending on the data you are looking for. Please see the additional links for the specifics and how to download the content. 

How-to Articles: 

The following articles focus on the exporting the most common content related to student submissions, grade center, and rubrics.


Student Submissions

In regards to the student submissions themselves, it is possible to download all of the student submissions for an assignment, as detailed in the attachment “Bulk Download of Student Submissions”, however this export does not include their rating or comments on the associated rubric.


Blackboard is somewhat limited when it comes to pulling data from rubrics. It does offer a report you can run on a rubric, which I’ve detailed in the attachment “Blackboard Rubric Report Overview”, but that does only provide a global overview of the rubric without providing a breakdown to the student level.

Grade Center

While it is possible to download the grade center to capture student’s total score on an assignment, that information does not include a breakdown for their scores on the associated rubric nor the feedback given on the assignment.

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoLearn more about Canvas starting with the self-paced training course “Priming the Canvas”

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight Cross-listing Canvas Coursesvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles.