Print this page

 

The phrase "Eliminating Busywork" has always had a place in the hearts of teachers, and one of the best parts of adopting an LMS (Learning Management System) like Canvas or Google Classroom is the ability to easily create and share course content. Canvas has lots of ways to do this, and this article will introduce two of them: The Import and Export Tools, and Canvas Commons. We'll start with the Import/Export tools. 

 

The Import Tool

 

The Import Tool is an easy way to extract course content -- including assignments, info pages, quizzes, modules, and even entire courses -- from previous terms. You can also use this tool to import content from other LMSs. The great thing about it is that once you have created your course content in an LMS like Canvas, you can easily copy, reuse, and revise all of it with the click of a button, on nearly any device with a browser and an Internet connection. 

When you first look at your (blank) Canvas course, you'll see this in the center of your home screen:

 

 

Picture of Import Content graphic in a blank Canvas course

 

Clicking on "Create a new Module" will get you started on creating content from scratch. To import content, click on "Add Existing Content" to access the Import tool. 

 

 

Picture of

 

If you already have content (in this case, a Home Page) created, you can access the import tool by clicking on "Settings" at the bottom of the sidebar menu, then "Import Course Content" from the Course Settings sidebar.

 

Picture of Import Content options

 

You'll get the following choices:

  • "Copy a Canvas Course" -- Import all content or choose specific content to copy from another Canvas course (This is the option to choose if you're copying from another of your Canvas courses, including old courses from previous terms.)
  • "Canvas Course Export Package" -- Import a Canvas Course Export Package (courses that were previously exported from Canvas as .imscc files)
  • "Unzip .zip file into folder" -- Import a ZIP file of assignments, files, course content, etc. into an existing folder
  • Import an Angel export ZIP format
  • Import a Blackboard 6/7/8/9 export ZIP file
  • Import a Blackboard Vista/CE, Web CT 6+ Course
  • Import a Common Cartridge 1.0/1.1/1.2 package
  • Import a Desire2Learn (D2L) export ZIP format
  • Import a Moodle 1.9/2.x ZIP file (This is the option to choose if you have old Moodle course content)
  • Import a QTI ZIP file

 

Remember, the Import Tool copies course content only, not student work nor submissions. 

 

Picture showing Import Content options in Canvas, including selections for all content or specific content, and the option to adjust course dates

 

You can choose to import all content or to select specific content (you'll select which specific content after you click "Import"). You can also adjust the due dates of assignments in bulk with "shift dates," and you can set the beginning and ending dates of the course as well. 

Once you hit the "Import" button, you'll get a fun progress bar (not actually fun), and once the import process completes, you'll get a confirmation screen like so:

 

Picture of Import Course job status screen, showing jobs completed and any issues reported with the import

 

"Completed" in green is a good thing, as it means everything went swell. "Completed" in yellow means that there was a non-world-ending issue with your import, and you can click on the "__ issues" text to see any problems with the import.

(FYI for advanced users: Not all MasteryPaths conditions survive a course import, and paths must be recreated after importing a course.)

 

The Export Tool

Nothing says caring like "sharing," and sharing is easy in Canvas. To access the Course Export Tool, click on "Settings" in the sidebar menu, then "Export Course Content" (it's right below "Import Course Content").

 

Picture of Canvas Course Export selection screen, including options for whole course export or selection of quizzes

 

You can select to export the entire course or one, several, or all quizzes. Once you click on "Create Export," you'll see another fun progress bar. Depending on the size of your course, you may be waiting a bit. Go ahead and grab a bagel, or work on some other stuff -- you don't have to keep the browser on that window for the export to process. Once it's done, you'll see a link on the Course Export screen with the date and time (e.g. "Course Export from Oct 24, 2025 1:23pm). Click on that, and you'll download an .imscc file with all your course content in it. You can import that into another course, or you can keep it safe somewhere. Your call! Just be aware that if you have a lot of media files in your course, that file may be a bit hefty. 

 

Canvas Commons

Remember when course content collaboration wasn't easy? Dark, dark times. Now it's cake, thanks to resources like Canvas Commons. Commons is a free, massive library of course content that you can freely share to and import from. You can access it via the Global Navigation menu on the left side of any Canvas page.

 

Picture of the Canvas Global Menu with the Canvas Commons icon highlighted

 

Clicking "Commons" will bring you to the Commons home page, which is searchable and constantly updated.

 

Picture of the Canvas Commons landing page

 

Click the "Filter" icon on the right side of the search bar to narrow your search to include entire courses, or drill down to modules, assignments, quizzes, discussions, pages, documents, and more. You can also search by grade level and source.

 

Picture of Canvas Commons search bar with filter option highlighted

Picture of Canvas Commons search filter options

 

When you find an item you'd like to snag, click on it for more information. You can see a preview as well as more detail information under the "Details" tab, including grade level and tags. Clicking on the "Import/Download" button will prompt you to either import that content into your course or to download a file. 

 

Picture of Course Import detail options from Canvas Commons

 

That's it for the basics -- have a fun checking out all the content available, and if you've got something you love, don't be afraid to share it!

For more information about importing and exporting in Canvas, as well as Canvas Commons, check out the links below:

 

Importing and Exporting
Canvas Commons