Starting a New Semester in Canvas? – St. Thomas E-Learning And Research
Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

Starting a New Semester in Canvas?

So, you’re getting ready for the spring semester and you want to make sure all the plans and content that were there last semester, (or last year!) are showing up in Canvas just the way you’d expect so you’re ready for a new batch of students.

The good news is that you can transfer the content and assignments you had in Canvas a previous term to your spring section of the same course – you just have to take a few important steps first. We call it “Refreshing Your Canvas Course” so it’s ready for the new term and new students. Doing certain tasks ahead of time will ensure you and your new students are off to a good start in the new semester.  You’ll want to take some time over the next few days to review and refresh your course site.

If you’re copying your course from a previous term, most of the content and activities will transfer over just fine, but other apps, like Panopto and Library Resource Lists, may need to be reconnected so they work with a specific course term and section number. STELAR provides the following checklist to help you think through some of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) course refresh tasks.

  1. Import course content from a previous term or from a Canvas template.  Find many STELAR provided templates in the Canvas Commons (Filter on the University of St. Thomas).
  2. Confirm the course start and end dates under “Settings.”
  3. Refresh and update Assignment due dates. For quick due date changes, use the Calendar feature, accessed by clicking Calendar in the purple navigation menu on the left.
  4. Verify Panopto videos are linked and properly closed captioned (if used).
  5. Use the “Validate Links in Content” tool under “Settings” to check all internal and external links since the source of the online content may have changed since last linked.
  6. Verify links to eReserves and Library Resource Lists (if used). Contact your Library liaison to re-associate your Resource List to your new course term.
  7. Copy (without student comments) and re-connect any VoiceThreads (if used).
  8. Un-publish any Modules you don’t want students to see yet.
  9. Refresh Announcements using the “delay posting” feature and adding a future date for when you’d like them to be made visible.
  10. When everything checks out and you’re satisfied with how your site looks and functions, be sure to click on the “Publish” button at the top of the home page.

To learn more about how to do many of these course refresh tasks, check out the Canvas Instructor Guides. There, you’ll find tutorials and step-by-step instructions for every task in Canvas. And don’t forget about the 24/7 Help Line. Canvas Support is ready to help you with any Canvas related issues via phone call, chat, or email.  Simply click the Help button at the bottom of the purple Canvas menu.

Taking a few pro-active steps to refresh your Canvas course site will go a long way in getting you and your students off to a good start in the new semester.

This post was written by Michael Wilder, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at or email us at

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