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Wake Forest University

Importing Content into Canvas from an External Source

Modified on: Fri, Aug 20, 2021 at 9:58 AM


This article will walk you through moving content into Canvas from an external source. The last potion of this article highlights items you should pay particular attention to if you experience any problems importing from Sakai.

For more complex or interactive course sites, you may want to consider starting with a blank Canvas site and recreating your materials to better leverage Canvas tools. You can always start with an automated transfer of material and build your course from there. 

For assistance, reach out to your Canvas Contact. 

How to Import Content into Canvas

  1. In Canvas, go to your course and click “Settings” 
  2. Click “Import Content into this course” (in the right-hand column of options) 
  3. For “Content Type”, choose the file format most appropriate from your external source. For example, Sakai exports are Common Cartridge files. 
  4. Choose the file that you exported from your external source. 
    1. If exporting from Sakai, click “Select Question Bank” and either create a new question bank, or choose an existing one (this is where Canvas will store quiz questions from Sakai “Pools”) 
  5. Click either “All Content” or “Select specific content” depending on whether you want to import everything, or pick and choose. 
  6. You may click the option to “Adjust Events and due dates” if you like. This attempts to automatically shift dates, but it may not work satisfactorily. 
  7. Click “Import” 
  8. Wait. This may take a long time depending on the size of your course and how many files. 
  9. Under “Current Jobs” canvas will either indicate “Completed” or “Waiting for Select” (depending on whether you chose to import all content, or select specific content). 
    1. If you see “Waiting for Select” click “Select Content”, then place check marks next to the items you want to import. 
    2. If you see “Completed” Canvas may also show an “Issues” link. You can click “Issues” to see what problems Canvas ran into. 
  10. Once Canvas indicates the job is “Completed” you can now go to the individual areas of Canvas to make final adjustments and changes. 
  11. Be sure to review the list of potential problems and things to check, below. You may want to continue with the instructions in the next section to make sure you include all your Resources.

Potential problems you may encounter if importing from Sakai

  • If you renamed resources in Sakai, they will revert to the original names. You need to rename the files again in Canvas.
  • If you copy the entire site, Sakai may fail to include some Resources when exporting. You may need to upload individual files, or follow the instructions for copying Sakai Resources to Canvas.
  • Canvas does not allow you to re-order files, they will always be in alphabetical order. You need to use either the Pages or Modules tool to control the display order.
  • Canvas does not allow you to edit “Files” in place (you can download and edit them off-line, then upload again). The ability to edit in Canvas is in the “Pages” tool, but all material that is copied from Sakai will be placed in “Files” where it cannot be edited.
  • You will need to check the individual items in Canvas to make sure the dates are appropriate (do this even if you chose to “shift dates” - many dates simply will not come through the transition).
  • The Sakai “Syllabus” tool will not copy over to Canvas (this only applies to the tool, i.e., many faculty add a syllabus file to the resources tool, and that will copy correctly). If needed, you can click the “Print View” in the Sakai Syllabus tool, then copy and paste the text into the Canvas “Pages” tool.
  • Certain types of Sakai Resources will not copy over (web links, citation lists). You will need to recreate these in Canvas.
  • Sakai Lessons and Canvas Modules are not exactly comparable. Lessons will be converted into a series of links in Canvas Modules, and the content itself will end up in the Canvas Files (in a folder name “attachments”). To create an experience that is more similar to Sakai Lessons, you may want to copy your content into Canvas “Pages”.
  • Sakai discussion forums must have an added topic. Forums with no topics will not copy into Canvas.
  • The Canvas “Files” section may still be invisible to students (it will be light gray). If this happens, go to Canvas Settings, click “Navigation” then click the menu next to “Files” and choose “Enable”. You may also need to drag the “Files” item into the upper box (out of the “hidden from students” section).
  • If you copy question pools and your questions have images or attached files, you will need to re-attach those images or files again in Canvas.

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