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Canvas Course Content Retention

While instructors may independently choose to archive their Canvas course content at any time, Canvas course content in our cloud environment will be maintained for a six-year period. This practice minimizes our information security risk and aligns with University retention policies. Starting July 2022, courses older than six years will be purged from the Canvas system at the beginning of each fiscal year in July.

Instructors may elect to further archive content and data from Canvas via secure methods and practices. See resources below.


What is the recommended or preferred way to temporarily "restore" a downloaded Canvas course for the purpose of reviewing content?

The preferred method is to review course content prior to downloading the archive.  At that point, instructors may make notes or take screenshots of the course.  Alternatively, instructors can export each Canvas course via Settings and save it locally as a IMSCC Zip file. These files can be opened by any LMS that supports "Common Cartridge" files. This format has been stable and used for many years. See: How do I export a Canvas course? 

To see the original course organization, one would need to import the cartridge through an LMS into a course shell. Anyone can request a non-CRN Canvas course at Western or create a free teacher Canvas Basic account and use that to import the extract. Again, most LMS's should be able to import the file type.

Is there an easier way to "browse" a course that has been downloaded/archived?

It is possible to view the basic files in a course by uncompressing the IMSCC file. Viewing the contents of the IMSCC file, however, will not show course organization or layout of the course. Only a series of folders and files are viewable using this method. Some information can be revealed, but it's much less functional than doing a course import.

To view the contents of the IMSCC file, simply rename the file’s extension to “zip.”  Your operating system should then offer a way to uncompress the file, by clicking on it, through a file menu, or tool such as Winzip on Windows and unzip on a Mac.  It is recommended that a safe copy of the uncompressed IMSCC file is created first to avoid corruption.  Note that the uncompressed IMSCC file will not import into Canvas.  Only the compressed IMSCC file will import.

There may be cases, such as with courses that are over 50 GB due to video files, etc. and are too big to export, that require a Course Copy instead. This would create a copy of the course with a new date in Canvas. Courses could also be shared on Canvas Commons and be shared with "Only Me" for later importing.

Is there a way if I download a complete Canvas course this year, I can be confident it will upload two years from now?

While no one can definitively predict the future actions of software developers, the IMSCC file standard has been in use for many years and accepted by most LMS developers.  Even in the unlikely event that the industry decides to change standards, there will almost definitely be a conversion method.  An original download from Canvas following the approved methods saved in a secure location (such as Sharepoint) should maintain a complete backup of all course content for multiple years.

Western retention statements 


For information on how to export Canvas course content, please see "How do I export a Canvas Course." 

For information for copying content from one course to another in Canvas, please see “How do I copy content from another Canvas course using the Course Import Tool?”