Canvas Course Setup/Design FAQ


This article answers frequently asked questions regarding Canvas Blueprints, Sandbox Courses, Course Components, Lead/Recipient Courses, and Course Copying.


Does MSU Denver provide any content to all Canvas courses? What is the "Blueprint"?

MSU Denver is using the Canvas blueprint process to provide an institutional level “MSU Denver Blueprint” that is the starting point for all courses. Overall, the blueprint has been redesigned to save faculty members course development time, reduce the cost of new course development, provide better opportunities for engagement and interaction, and provide increased flexibility of user-friendly tools for multimedia incorporation. The blueprint is based on solid instructional design models, theories, and best practices that will allow faculty to focus more on their course content without losing a sound instructional foundation.

The MSU Denver Blueprint will be updated regularly, and more details on the MSU Denver Blueprint, including the reasoning behind the design choices, are available in this extensive report: 2020 Institutional Blueprint-Template Update Project Report.

What is a Sandbox Course?

Sandbox courses are empty Canvas courses that serve as your space to experiment with Canvas. Every instructor has access to five separate sandbox courses which they can use them to work through trainings, experiment with new ideas, or build out a course before importing it to a live course. Please check the Course Copy Guide on the Top 10 Self Help Guides page for directions on how to copy content from one Canvas course to another.

What is the difference between a Module, a Page, and a File?

Modules are the main organizational unit in Canvas. They are the building blocks of your course. Modules are often split up by week, unit, or topic, and they contain all of the Pages, Discussions, Assignments, Quizzes, Files, and other resources you would like students to access during the course.

Pages within Canvas create a visually dynamic and editable place to present your lectures, videos, and content. If you currently have documents that direct students on what to do within your course, consider creating a page instead. Pages within Canvas are an ideal alternative to uploading document after document for students to view. Pages can be easily placed within modules to create an efficient and engaging interaction for students from page to page. They can also be assigned as a to-do item for students.

Canvas stores course Files for easy access and deployment within Canvas. Files stored within courses can be linked and attached multiple times in many places throughout Canvas, from assignments to discussions to pages. Using the Files section in your Canvas course will help you keep your files organized and ready to be placed throughout the course.

What is a "lead course"? How do we copy from a "lead course" to a "recipient course" (a.k.a template process)?


Lead Course - A course developed specifically to be distributed to multiple instructors. (Used to be called many names: template, blueprint, master, etc.)

Recipient Course - A course that will receive content from a lead course. (Used to be called many names: child course, templated course, etc.)

Any of the following methods can be used to deploy a lead course to other courses once they are ready. The CTLD's Self-Help Tutorials are referenced a few times below.

1. Send an export (.zip) of the lead course.

Someone sends every "recipient" instructor an export of the lead course, which will take the form of a .zip file (shared via OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.), along with a link to the Self-Help Tutorial explaining how to import that content (look for a title that includes “export and import a Canvas course”). This is the least “invasive” option, since no one has to be added (“enrolled”) in any one else’s course. The course coordinator just emails all the recipient instructors with a few links, the recipient instructors follow some directions and within about 10 minutes they have the content in their student-facing recipient course.

2. Enroll all recipient instructors into the lead course.

The course coordinator copies the lead course into one of their own sandbox courses for sharing. (Canvas hack: You can replace the course image as a way to identify the purpose of that sandbox). The coordinator then “enrolls” all recipient instructors in that course as an Instructor or Internal Guest. Next, the coordinator sends an email to each recipient instructor with instructions on how to copy content from the lead course into their recipient course. There are Self-Help Tutorials on these topics, and the relevant is called “Course Copy Guide.” The process is identical to the process an instructor would use to copy content from one of their own courses.

Downside: Every enrolled instructor in the lead course can, if they aren’t careful, change things in that lead course. That risk can be hedged by having the course coordinator make a “for copying” copy of the lead (keeping the original separate).

3. Recipient instructors enroll the course coordinator in their recipient course.

The chair (or other) emails recipient instructors and asks them to enroll the course coordinator in their course as an Instructor or Internal Guest (easy to do, and there is a Self-Help Tutorial). This gives the course coordinator the ability to go into each recipient course and copy in whatever parts of the lead course are relevant (using the “Course Copy Guide” Self-Help Tutorial). This also increases transparency so that the recipient instructor knows (and agrees) to have the course coordinator in their course. This option puts the burden of the work on the course coordinator.

Downside: This is the most invasive option, but it is transparently invasive.

I need to copy content from another professor's course into mine. How do I make that request?

You no longer need to make a formal request through ITS to copy another instructor's course. Instead, you should speak with the other instructor directly and they can share their content with you as needed. Canvas makes it much easier for colleagues to share content between courses. There are a few options:

  • The professor can add you to their course. Teachers can add users to their Canvas courses with all the permissions necessary to let them copy the course content within. This is straightforward if the professor is currently active, but if you need access to a course managed by someone who no longer works at MSU Denver, contact that person's department chair and have them contact ITS to request you be given access to the course.



  • The professor can send specific course pages to other courses. Teachers can use the Send to... option from the three-dot menu of any course page to share it with other teachers in Canvas.
  • All the above options can be reviewed in the Share Your Lead Course with Other Instructors tutorial


How can I gain access to course content from a faculty member that has left the institution?

You will need to contact your department chair to request the content from the departed faculty member's course. They will export the Canvas course to a "Canvas export file" (i.e. zip file) and share it with you. You can then import that file into one of your Canvas sandbox courses, from which you can copy the content items you wish to use into your student-facing course(s). Please see the Share Your Lead Course with Other Instructors tutorial.



Article ID: 120755
Thu 11/19/20 1:35 PM
Fri 2/18/22 3:39 PM