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Turn back time…in Canvas

The tagline for the CTT’s blog is “Exploring innovations in teaching and learning,” so I’ve been a bit reluctant to post anything about Canvas, a system that–whatever its virtues–isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind when I think about teaching innovation. I tend to see genuine innovation as something that involves changes in outlook, understanding, or methods, not simply using software to accomplish a task.

Every now and then, though, I stumble across some feature of an online platform or an application that makes me sit up and say, “I can’t believe I didn’t know about that!” That’s what happened to me yesterday when I learned about the “undelete” feature in Canvas, a mostly undocumented method for seeing the 25 most recent changes you’ve made to a Canvas course–and then restoring content from any of them.

Here’s how it works. Once you’ve logged in to Canvas, simply append the word “undelete” to the base URL of any Canvas course for which you are the instructor. The base URL for a Canvas course at EvCC will look like this:

https://everettcc.instructure.com/courses/0123456/

So to apply our trick, you just need to add “undelete” to the URL, so it now looks like this:

https://everettcc.instructure.com/courses/0123456/undelete
Screenshot of previously deleted items that can now be restored to a Canvas course
Using the Canvas “undelete” feature reveals content that I’ve previously deleted from my course. Restoring this content is as simple as clicking the “restore” button next to an item in the list.

Loading that page will display a list of your 25 most recent changes, including changes you’ve made to course pages, assignments and quizzes, and discussion topics. Looking at one of my courses, for example, I see several items on the list of content I have previously deleted. Any one of these can be restored simply by clicking the button that appears to right of each one.

There are a few caveats to using this feature, the biggest one being that not every type of Canvas content can be recovered in all circumstances. There may still be times when you need a Canvas administrator or support specialist to intervene to recover deleted content — and even then, not everything will always be recoverable. Also, as an unofficial and undocumented feature, it could be removed from Canvas at any time.

Still, for now, it’s a very nice feature to have around. Full credit for this tip goes to Tara Murphy, by way of Betsy Stam (who shared it with me). Clearly, there’s still plenty for me to learn about Canvas!

Do you know of other “secret” Canvas tools or features? Have any power user tips you’d like to share? Send me your favorites, and I’ll feature selected ones in future posts here.

Featured image: Time by skyler817 licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0