Canvas How-To: Importing and Migrating Courses

Importing content from Blackboard is one method of building a new Canvas course web site. No import will be perfect. This page provides basic information about that approach and offers advice on what to watch out for following the import.

Information for Moodle courses

Note: Students, submissions, and grades are not included when importing a Bb course into Canvas.  Only the course content is converted/imported.  Instructors must download Grade Center data from Blackboard in order to save a record of student grades.

Part 1. Create the Export Package in Blackboard

Before you begin!

  1. Comb through the Blackboard site and delete any unneeded files, activities, Content Areas, etc.
    No need to copy over things that won't be used in the new course!
  2. Download and save any video files to your local computer and then delete the item in Blackboard.
    Why? Video files should be stored in the Panopto Recordings area of your Canvas course. Including them in the Bb export will cause the size of the package to balloon unnecessarily, which may result in problems uploading it to Canvas. It is best to transfer video files separately by not including them in the export package at all.

    Panopto quick docs:
    1. What is Panopto?
    2. Enable Panopto Recordings Library in a Canvas Course
    3. Upload Video Files to the Panopto Recordings Library

Now you may begin...

On the Bb Export/Archive Course page, initiate a new Export Package with the following settings:

  • In the File Attachments area, specify that the package should "Copy links and include copies of the files in the course default directory" (required in order to gather up any files you have in the Blackboard site!)
  • Click "Select All" in the Select Course Materials section
    • Timesaving Tip: At the top of the list, uncheck any Content Areas that are actually empty. These will not be included in the package and therefore you will not need to "prune" them from the Canvas shell.
  • Click "Submit" to launch the export process.
    • Bb will send you an email when the export is ready for download.
  • Return to the Export/Archive Course page and click the link for the export .zip file
    • Important: Do not open the .zip file.  When prompted, save it in your Downloads folder only.

Part 2. Import the Package Into Canvas

Once you have created the Bb .zip file, import it to your Canvas shell.

  1. Go to Settings in the Canvas course and click the Import Course Content button on the right
  2. Choose Blackboard 6/7/8/9 from the Content Type dropdown menu
  3. Locate the export .zip file on your computer
  4. Specify All content in the Content area of the page
  5. Check Adjust events and due dates to have Canvas update those things in the new activities it creates (where possible).
  6. Click the Import button to begin the process.
  7. Read Part 3 of this page (below) to understand the results of the import.

Canvas Import Screen

Part 3. What Goes Where and What Do You End Up With?

When importing a Blackboard course export package into a blank Canvas shell, you can expect the following results.  Please note that Canvas is continually updating the Blackboard import process, and some of the issues reported below might not be present at the time of your conversion.

  1. Canvas course home page is set to the Modules page.
    Canvas makes the executive decision to use the Modules page as the course home page.  All Canvas courses need a "home page" and so Modules is the choice after a conversion.  You can change this later to one of Canvas's other options, if desired.
  2. Bb Content Areas are converted to Canvas modules.
    Every item in a Bb Content Area is converted into a corresponding Canvas type, if possible, and placed into the module created from the Bb Content Area:
    • Bb Items w/content >>> Canvas Pages (including attached files)
    • Bb Items w/o content + attached files >>> Canvas File in Canvas module
    • Bb Files >>> Canvas File in module
    • Bb Folder >>> Canvas module (minus any description)
      • Caveat: The "folder" organizational metaphor does not exist in Canvas. Nested folders in a Bb course are no longer nested in Canvas but instead appear at the same hierarchical level (perhaps indented visually) on the Canvas Modules page. Because it does not have "folders", Canvas does not support the metaphor wherein a user “drills down” deeper to view content. The closest analogy is the module and all modules are present on the Modules page all the time.
  3. The layout of modules in Canvas will reflect the heirarchical organization of the original Bb Content Area.
    • Example: if the first item in a Bb Content Area was a folder, then that folder and its contents (including any sub-folders and their contents) will now appear at the top of the new Canvas module. The next item in the Content Area will then be processed by the import.
  4. Discussion forums are converted to Canvas Discussions, including the forum description.
    • Caveat: Forum grade settings are not converted and must be reset.
  5. Tests are converted to Canvas Quizzes
    • Caveat 1: Most but not all Bb question types have an equivalent in Canvas - e.g., Hot Spot is not available.
    • Caveat 2: Test settings are not converted and must be reset using Canvas's tools.
  6. Assignments are converted to Canvas Assignments
  7. Turnitin assignments are not converted.
    Turnitin assignments must be recreated as Canvas Assignments using the "External Submission" in the assignment settings.  After that, Turnitin works the same in Canvas as it does in Bb.
  8. Journals, Blogs, and Wikis are not converted.
    • Ignored.  No content is brought over in the conversion.  
    • Journals and Blogs can be recreated (more or less) using Canvas Discussions.
    • Wiki assignments can be recreated (more or less) using Canvas Pages
  9. LTI content, such as VoiceThread links, is not converted.
    LTI links are ignored by the Canvas import processor and must be recreated using Canvas’s equivalent tools. Only the link must be recreated, not the LTI content itself.
  10. Internal Bb "course links" are ignored by the Canvas processor.

Part 4. Things to Review and How to Fix Them After Import

  1. Availability Dates for Assignments/ Discussions/ Quizzes do not import
    • Reset these things as necessary
  2. Module Settings (Requirements / Availability Dates / Prerequisites) do not import
    • Reset these things as necessary
  3. Nested Folders are sometimes split when importing into Canvas
    • Reorganize new Canvas modules to approximate nested folders approach, if desired
    • Create new Canvas pages for any folder description text that had been present in Bb
  4. Discussion "Grade" settings usually do not import into Canvas
    • Reassign points in Canvas item
  5. Pages with multiple files only import one file
    • Check and relink any missing files from Canvas files silo. Canvas does not “attach” files separately from the Rich Content Editor.
  6. Files referenced in Pages do not preserve their “open in…” setting.
    • Reattach/relink these files using Canvas’s native tools to restore expected “open in…” behavior.
  7. Assignment point values may not be imported
    • Review assignments to make sure point values are correct
  8. Turnitin assignments do not import
    • Recreate TII assignments using regular Canvas assignment tool and set submission type to External URL >>> Turnitin Feedback Studio.
  9. SCORM Activities are omitted
    • Re-upload and link original .zip from SCORM product
  10. Grade Scale has not been set
  11. Multiple objects with the same name are imported with a "-2" or "-3" at the end
    • Rename objects if necessary
  12. Test descriptions and settings are not brought over upon import
    • If using modules, create a new Page to present the description and link to the Quiz
    • Review quiz settings and reset if necessary
  13. Syllabus Page is empty
    • Create syllabus page if desired.
  14. LTI content is not set up
    • LTI content must be reconnected after import (VoiceThread, etc.)
  15. Blackboard journals are left out of the import
    • Recreate these activities using the Canvas assignment tool or the Canvas discussion tool
  16. Blackboard blogs are left out of the import
    • Recreate these activities using the Canvas discussion tool or a third-party external tool
  17. Quiz questions are often broken
    • Embedded images and media clips inside of Quiz questions and answers need to be replaced.
      • Media files should be in Files silo; relink from there
    • Matching Questions need to be rebuilt
    • Formula Questions do not have the correct settings brought over
    • HotSpot questions are not able to be rebuilt inside of Canvas
    • Fill-In-The-Blank question types need to be rebuilt
    • Multiple Dropdowns are often broken


Contact for help importing and converting previous course material to Canvas.