Canvas Course Archival and Retention

Canvas, Johns Hopkins University’s web-based learning management system (LMS), provides a platform that enables JHU faculty and students to access and manage course learning materials, assess student learning, and facilitate course engagement. The LMS Steering Committee, formed by the Executive Vice Provost and composed of nominated faculty, students, and staff from the academic divisions and key University offices and departments, was tasked with directing the LMS evaluation process and providing oversight of the selection and implementation of the Canvas platform.

The LMS Steering Committee approved the following plan guiding course record retention within the Canvas system.

Academic Course Lifecycle

In Canvas, academic courses will be deleted after 5 years after the term end date (date when courses are complete). Courses include faculty content, student work (e.g., assignments, quizzes, and other assessments), and student interactions (e.g., discussions, group work, and collaborations). No central backup will exist after it is deleted from the Canvas system.

Important Notes:

  • When considering accreditations, a 5 year look back period is sufficient, often looking only at the last execution of a course.
  • Content copied to a future term or Commons will still work​.
  • Deleting old courses helps manage costs to divisions with storing media content.
  • Deleting old courses will also help keep the system running quickly and smoothly for current faculty and students.
Other Canvas Course Lifecycles

Canvas also hosts non-academic courses including community and staging sites. All non-academic courses require regular renewal by the teachers or leaders of the site. A series of emails will be sent to the leaders and/or teachers of the site to give them the option to renew. If the course is renewed, it continues without any change of access. If the course is not renewed, it will be concluded and can only be viewed by users (no interaction is possible). Then after the conclusion period is expired, the course will be deleted.  

Community (CO) and Catalog (LM) Sites

Community (prefix “CO”) and Catalog (prefix “LM”) sites are non-SIS courses that include life-long learning, networking, training, and more. These sites require yearly renewal by the teachers or leaders of the site. If not renewed, it is concluded and view-only for users. A year from the date of conclusion, the course will be permanently deleted.  

Sandbox (SAND) Sites

Staging sites (prefix “SAND”) can be used as sandboxes to try out Canvas features. These courses require renewal every two years by the teacher or leaders of the site.  If not renewed, it is concluded and view-only for users. A year from the date of conclusion, the course will be permanently deleted. 

Content Staging (STAGE) Sites

Staging sites (prefix “STAGE”) are a temporary location to stage materials that will be copied to a real academic course. These courses require renewal every five years by the teacher of the site. If not renewed, then it is permanently deleted. 

Summary of Course Lifecycles
Course TypePurposeCourse CodeRenewal
(by teachers or leaders of the course)
Conclusion (course is view-only)Deletion
(no recovery)
Academic CoursesAcademic courses generated by SISDivision prefix (e.g., AS)Not applicableBased on term date5 years from term end
Community SitesNon-SIS courses used for life-long learning, training, networking and moreCOYearlyOn date not renewed1 year after conclusion
Catalog SitesCourses from the Canvas catalog, meant for external user enrollmentsLMYearlyOn date not renewed1 year after conclusion
Sandbox SitesTemporary courses used for specific faculty or staff members to test or practice activities in CanvasSAND2-yearOn date not renewed1 year after conclusion
Staging SitesTemporary courses used to stage materials that will be copied to a real courseSTAGE5-yearNot applicableOn date not renewed
Retention of Content in Third Party Tools

JHU uses a wide variety of third-party instructional technology tools in addition to the LMS. While these tools may be seamlessly integrated in the LMS, their content is hosted outside of Canvas. These third-party tools do not follow the Canvas retention cycle. Each third-party tool has different retention and lifecycle based on a variety of legal considerations, costs, and contract terms. For example, eReserves show matriculated students’ materials under fair use, and access is removed after the course is completed. Alternatively, JHU’s Microsoft Teams is part of an enterprise contract and has a yearly renewal cycle.  

Questions pertaining to the retention of data in third party tools may be directed to the appropriate divisional Canvas support contact.  

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Applies to all courses within the Canvas system. Canvas is used by all academic divisions of Johns Hopkins University except for the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Direct Canvas questions and support inquiries to the areas identified in the following links:

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Date of Last Revision: 8/21/2023
Effective Date:
Related Policies/Procedures: Records Retention and Destruction