Canvas - Crosslisting/Merging a Canvas Course [UW-Madison]

This document outlines how to cross-list your sections in Canvas. This is the process of moving a section (containing enrolled students) from one course to another.

Student class enrollments are protected by FERPA. As such, sections of a course may not be merged in Canvas solely for administrative convenience; sections may only be merged to meet educational or pedagogical goals. During the semester/term, if students from different sections of the same course will have occasion to regularly see each other in the same physical classroom or collaborate (physically or online) with each other across sections for educational or pedagogical reasons, the sections may be cross-listed/merged in Canvas. If students across sections of a course do not interact with each other in a physical classroom or online, the sections may not be cross-listed/merged in Canvas.

In Canvas, the process of combining the enrollments from two or more sections in one course is called cross-listing. Cross-listing in Canvas entails moving an enrollment section from one course shell to another.

When sections are cross-listed/merged, Canvas does not create a new course shell for the combined sections. Instead, you must choose one of the existing course shells as the primary course, i.e., the one you'll use for teaching all the cross-listed sections. Then, you will move the enrollments of the other sections from their original locations into the primary course. Once your sections are cross-listed, students will only see the primary course in their list of courses.

  • Course sections are groups of enrolled students that sync with SIS (Student information System). When a student adds or drops a course in SIS, this will update the enrollment in the Canvas course section
  • Each Canvas course starts as a Course Shell; an empty course that instructors populate with their content.

Best Practices

Perform any cross-listing before the semester begins.

  • If you've already added content and wish to cross-list, we recommend that you first back up your content by exporting it. 
  • For instructions, see How do I export a Canvas course?.
  • Cross-listing does not move grades or any student-related contributions to the original course, including: assignment submissions, quiz submissions and discussion contributions. If the semester has already begun, and grades have already been posted in both courses (of a proposed cross-listing action), much of this critical academic content will be lost.
  • You must be a Principal Instructor in the courses you wish to cross-list.
  • Do not merge sections which need to have different learning material delivered to students in the courses. For example, do not cross-list a section which uses eText with a section that uses a traditional textbook.

Cross-listing a Section

Identify Courses

  1. Identify the course that will serve as the primary course, and the sections from the secondary course(s) that will be merged into it
  2. Make note of the primary course's course ID. The course ID is the number following the word courses in the course URL (e.g., 851657 in
  3. Use the Courses menu to navigate to the secondary course containing the sections you want to merge into the primary course.
  4. On the course navigation sidebar, select Settings. From there, select the Sections tab at the top of the page.
  5. Before  cross-listing the section, follow the steps below to create an ad-hoc section. This will make it possible to de-cross-list the section if necessary.

Add Ad-Hoc Section

Important: Learn@UW-Madison Support recommends creating an ad-hoc section when crosslisting a course. Without an ad-hoc section, you will be unable to access the original course (without further assistance from the DoIT Help Desk or a departmental instructional technologist). You may also lose access to discussion sections (if you have not cross-listed them already). You also will be unable to undo the cross-listing process.

  1. On a secondary course, navigate to settings>sections. In the add a new section field, enter the name for a new ad-hoc section. Title it using the section number and the course title. (For example, ENG100 LEC 001 ad-hoc)
  2. Click Add Section. The new entry will appear in the list of sections.
  3. On the course navigation sidebar, select People.
  4. Locate yourself in the course roster. On the far right, select the gear icon, and then select Edit Sections.
  5. On the Section Enrollments window, type the name of the ad-hoc section, and select it.
  6. Select Update to add yourself to the section.

Complete the Merger

  1. Navigate to Settings in your secondary course.
  2. Locate the course sections you want to move on the Sections tab.
  3. Click the title of the section you wish to merge (cross-list). Be sure to select the original section rather than the ad hoc-section you just created (the original section follows the ID format ENG 101: LEC 001).
  4. From the sidebar on the right, select Cross-List this Section.
  5. Type the name of the primary course, or enter its course ID in the appropriate field. (Using the course ID will help ensure you are cross-listing the section to the correct Canvas course)
  6. Click Cross-List This Section.
  7. Canvas automatically moves you to the the primary course, and a message will appear at the top of your browser confirming your section was cross-listed.

De-cross-listing a Section

Instructors and department administrators: You can only de-cross-list/un-merge courses if you are enrolled in the original section as a Principal Instructor; see steps 1-4 above. If you didn't add yourself to an ad-hoc section before cross-listing, contact the DoIT Help Desk or your departmental instructional technologist.

To de-cross-list a section:

  1. Using the Courses menu, navigate to the primary course shell (i.e., the course containing all the cross-listed sections).
  2. In the course navigation, select Settings, and then click the Sections tab at the top of the page.
  3. Click the title of the section you wish to de-crosslist.
  4. From the sidebar on the right, select De-Cross-List This Section.
  5. In the dialog, click De-Cross-List This Section to confirm the change. The section will be moved back to its original course.

Note: All grades for students in this course will no longer be visible in either the original or the primary course. You can retrieve the grades by cross-listing the course again, but in the meantime the grades for these students will come from the original course.

Removing ad-hoc sections

In your My Courses list, you'll continue to see all the ad-hoc sections you created in your secondary courses before cross-listing. If you wish to reduce clutter in your My Courses list, the ad-hoc sections can be removed after confirming that your sections are correctly crosslisted and that you're able to access all of your course materials from your primary site.

If you remove your ad-hoc sections, you'll lose access to the secondary courses (but your rosters will remain in the primary site).

For assistance removing your ad-hoc sections, contact the DoIT Help Desk or your local instructional technologist if they have the ability to assist with this.

Important: Request removal of your ad-hoc sections only if you are certain you will not want to de-cross-list the sections in the future.

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OwnerLearn@UW MadisonGroupLearn@UW-Madison
Created2016-04-19 08:08:13Updated2024-06-11 13:59:31
SitesDoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW-Madison
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