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Canvas - Comparison of Canvas Commons, Ongoing Courses, and Blueprint Courses

This article provides a comparison between Canvas Commons, Ongoing Courses, and Blueprint Courses in terms of their features and capabilities. It highlights the benefits and limitations of each option for managing course content and sharing resources. Canvas Commons allows sharing of course material among instructors and departments with controlled access and editing permissions. Ongoing Courses are standard Canvas courses that exist outside of a semester and require instructors to be added for content download. Blueprint Courses are master courses that automatically copy content to associated courses, allowing customization while preserving locked content. The article outlines how each option works, who can use it, and how content updates are managed.


Comparison Chart
Task Canvas Commons Ongoing Course Blueprint
Back up course material Yes Yes Yes
All content types allowed Yes Yes Yes
Course Size Limitations 500 MB 2GB 2GB
Automatically broadcast/import course content to another course without action from owner of the destination course. No No Yes
Lock some or all course content so that it cannot be changed once it is in the destination course. No No Yes
Allow users to select what they want to copy rather than having to accept the whole class. Yes Yes Yes
Users cannot select portions of fownload. The downlad to users is "all or nothing." Yes No Yes
Share content with your department without having to ass people to a class as an instructor Yes No Yes
Person who wants to download the content must first be added as an instructor in the course with the original content. (Note: user can edit/delete content) No Yes No
To receive course content, destination courses must exist in the same or lower subaccount as the course. No No Yes
Course content is automatically pushed to associated classes. No No Yes
Course content must be manually pulled into classes when the person with the blank course downloads content into the class. Yes Yes No
Content is overwritten when courses are synced. Yes No Yes
Person can search for content in content library. Yes No No

Canvas Commons

Canvas Commons is a cloud storage area that comes with Canvas. From Canvas, instructors can share an entire class or portions of a class to Commons for easy download by colleagues. The sharing of content in Commons can be private, public, or shared just with your department. Therefore, you can keep some material in Commons private, to use Commons as a personal learning object repository, or you can share learning objects with your department or with other educators. 
  • When you upload content to Commons, no one can change your original material. People can only edit the content for their own use after they have downloaded it to their own courses.  
  • With Canvas Commons, there is no need to add people to courses as teachers, etc. Instructors can access your shared material by selecting Import from Commons in their classes and then searching for the content you uploaded. 
  • You can request a Canvas Commons folder for your department that allows people in your department to share course content with each other without sharing it to the public. 
  • You can upload a single module, file, assignment, quiz, etc., or you can upload a whole Canvas class to Commons. 
  • People who download your work cannot download parts of your content. The download is “all or nothing.” 
  • After people download your content to their class, they can delete or modify elements of the content.    

How do people receive Commons content?

To copy content from Commons, a person must go to their Canvas course and select "Import from Commons." Copying information from Canvas Commons into a course will not overwrite the content already in the course.  

Upload a Module, Resource, or Assignment/Quiz to Canvas Commons

image shows the kebab that allows material to be shared to canvas commons

Upload an entire class to Canvas Commons

image shows how to navigate to a course's settings and share an entire course to canvas commons

Download material to a course from Canvas Commons

image shows how to import a canvas commons course into a Canvas course

Who can upload and download to/from Canvas Commons?

All users with an instructor role in a course can upload to Canvas Commons. All users with an instructor role in a course can download from Canvas Commons. If an instructor from a department has shared something to the rest of the department, the learning object can be searched and downloaded into a class. Content shared to Canvas Commons can have restricted or public access.

Ongoing Course

Ongoing courses are courses that are standard Canvas courses that exist outside of a semester term or category.
  • People must be added to the course as instructors in order for them to be able to download content from the ongoing course to their destination course.
  • Downloads can be selective, meaning the instructor can choose what (and what not) to download from the course.
  • Anyone added to the ongoing course as an instructor could inadvertently edit or delete content of the original course.

Who can create an ongoing course?

Contact the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to create an ongoing course shell. You can add people to the class in the Teacher role to grant them the permissions to download content from the course. 

How do people receive the content?

People must be added to the course as instructors in order to download content from the course.

How do content updates work?

Once content from an ongoing course has been imported to a destination course, updates you make to the original ongoing course will not be sent to the destination course.

Blueprint Course

Blueprint courses are master courses that can be set up to automatically copy their contents to courses a Canvas administrator associates with the blueprint course. A blueprint course is simply a Canvas course that has been marked as a blueprint by a Canvas administrator. Once the administrator associates courses with the blueprint, the person who is listed as the instructor of the blueprint can add course resources, assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc., that can be copied to the associated courses. While an instructor is typically added to the blueprint to create/update content, etc. the blueprint does not have any enrolled students. Instructors whose courses receive a copy of the blueprint can then customize their courses with additional content, etc. 

Who can create a Blueprint course?

Any instructor can work with CETL or their school/college support staff (Canvas administrators) to create a blueprint course. The Canvas administrator will create a course shell that the instructor will populate. When the instructor has finished the course content, the administrator will mark the course as a blueprint course and will ask you what associated destination classes should be mapped to the course in order to automatically receive the content of the blueprint course.
Note: An instructor will have to work with a Canvas administrator to re-map blueprint courses with destination courses each semester. If an instructor of a destination course clicks Reset Course Content, the course content is wiped out, and the association with the blueprint course is broken.

What is locked/unlocked content?

In a blueprint course, the course author can choose to lock some or all of the course content. Locked content cannot be modified or deleted by the recipients of the course content when it is copied into their destination courses; however, locked items can still be hidden, moved, and removed from modules on the home page. Note: The instructors in destination courses can create additional assignments, resources, etc., in the course but cannot modify or delete the locked content. 
The author of the Blueprint course can lock:
  • Course content (assignments, quizzes, pages, files, and discussions).
  • Assignment/quiz details like points, due dates, and availability dates.  
Unlocked content is content the instructors of the destination course can choose to edit, hide, or delete once it has been downloaded to their classes.
Note: Blueprint authors can also choose to sync course/navigation settings.  

How do people receive the content?

A Canvas administrator marks a course as a blueprint course. The administrator then sets up the relationship between the blueprint courses and the associated/destination courses – i.e., “the contents of the blueprint course will be copied into the following courses.” 

How do content updates work?

Once content from a blueprint course has been imported to a destination course, the author of the original blueprint course can choose to update course material. When an instructor in the blueprint course updates the course material, he/she can click the course’s sync button, and updates will be pushed to the destination courses, which works as follows:  
  • Locked content gets overwritten - any content in the original blueprint course that was marked as locked (meaning that it can’t be edited once it’s imported) gets overwritten. Therefore, if you created a locked course resource in the blueprint course and later update that resource, the courses containing copies of your blueprint course would be have the resource overwritten with the updated version. 
  • Unlocked content gets overwritten unless it has been edited by the instructor in the destination course. Edited unlocked content will not be overwritten. 
  • Unlocked content that was deleted in a child course will not re-appear the next time the blueprint course syncs. The only information that gets pushed to the child courses in a sync is the blueprint course content that has changed since the last sync.  
  • Items teachers added to their own destination courses are not overwritten. 
  • Announcements will sync, but if you want the destination courses to send notifications to students, make sure to delay the posting date of the announcement in the blueprint course so that the announcement is posted to the child class after the blueprint sync has occurred. Otherwise, the announcement will sync but will not trigger notifications.
  • Rubrics associated with locked assignments cannot be locked. 
  • Late policies do not get copied from the blueprint course to the associated courses. 
  • If a module item in an associated course is moved to another module, the module item will be re-created in its original location the next time you perform a blueprint sync, so the module item will appear in two places in the associated course.
  • Muted assignments in the blueprint course are not muted in the associated course.

KeywordsCanvas Commons, Ongoing Course, Blueprint Course, content sharing, course management, instructional resources   Doc ID92975
OwnerBenjamin G.GroupCETL
Created2019-07-09 14:20:05Updated2023-08-18 00:27:29
SitesUW-Milwaukee Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
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