If you teach more than one section of the same course, should you request a single Canvas site, or one for each section?
Either strategy can work well. Let’s look at each to see how the workflows differ.
“I was able to use the Canvas Utility to create groups for my course based on section number! Thanks for this blog post!” –Amanda J., February 2016
Multiple Course Sites
Big picture: this option gives you the most flexibility in terms of the ways you can differentiate your content or presentation style in response to the needs of each section.
Requesting separate sites for your sections means that you will have to maintain the sites separately. You will not, however have to duplicate effort when creating content for use in both. Before the semester begins, author content in just one of your sites, and then duplicate the entire site into the other. As the semester progresses, you can add new content in one site, and then import it into the other. The important thing to bear in mind is that duplicate content is not linked in any way once the import is complete. This turns out to be both useful and annoying. Useful when you want to tailor content to best suit the needs of the individual sections. Annoying when you need to make the same change in both copies. In the latter case, you will need to either re-import the content, or update them separately.
Another strategy you can use for sharing content between two courses is to use course-independent resources, such as files stored in your personal folder, or outside Canvas entirely (such as Google Docs). When you link to files in your personal Canvas Files, it does NOT make a copy in the linked-from course. The file will always be pulled from the folder in it’s current form, no matter how often you update it, or how many courses you access it from.
A Canvas Quiz Question Bank is a course-independent resource. Unlike a Quiz, a Question Bank does not belong to a single course site, and does not need to be imported. Please note that there is a difference between importing a question from a bank, and linking to questions from a bank. When you import a question from a question bank into a quiz, it creates a copy that can/must be maintained independently. When you link questions to a bank, for example, asking for 3 random questions to be presented from a bank of 10, questions will be re-sampled from the bank each time the quiz is launched.
Single Course Site
Big picture: choose this option when you anticipate being able to keep your sections tightly in sync.
When all your students log into the same Canvas site, you have only one site to maintain, however, you may still want to differentiate some content. For example, you may need to specify different due dates for the same assignment, or you may want students to participate in an online discussion with only the members of their own section. Creating section-specific content within the context of a single site is straightforward, with one small caveat.
All relevant Canvas tools have the ability to target groups of some kind. Some tools can be tailored for Canvas Groups, some for SIS sections, and some recognize both. For example, when creating a Calendar Event for a site hosting multiple sections, it is possible to specify different dates for each section. When creating a discussion topic, you can specify that only members of a certain Canvas Group can participate. When creating an Assignment, you can target Groups, sections, or even individual students.
What is the difference between targeting a Canvas Group and targeting a section? A Canvas Group is created within Canvas, and can contain any subset of the students in the course. The membership of a Canvas Group is controlled from within Canvas. In contrast, a section is created and controlled by the UD course registration system, and is re-synced with SIS every night. When you want to target a section within a tool that only allows you to restrict access by Group, your best option is to create Canvas Groups that mirror the sections, bearing in mind that changes to SIS will NOT automatically flow to those groups.
Multiple requests have been submitted to Instructure asking for the ability to automatically generate Groups based on section. These, unfortunately, have not been selected for the Canvas roadmap at this time. Academic Technology Services has recently released a tool that can fill that gap.
To add the tool to your site, visit Settings > Navigation
Drag the inactive menu item Utilities up into the active section. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click the Save button.
Although it does not appear grey, the Utilities button will not appear in student view, however, for your own convenience, you might want to de-activate it after use by pulling it back down into the inactive links list.
If you have any questions, feedback, or concerns about these processes, contact IT Academic Technology Services at the Faculty Commons (116 Pearson Hall, 302-831-0640).