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Canvas - What to expect when converting from Moodle to Canvas (UW-Madison)

This document covers what users can expect when they move their course content and activities from Moodle to Canvas.


Canvas and Moodle have noticeably different features. But, there are also fundamental similarities that are the building blocks of any learning management system.  The document below compares the terminology each system uses, how each system functions, and what you can expect when converting your D2L course to Canvas. Use the anchor links below to jump to specific topics:

On This Page:

    1. Converting Homepages
    2. Converting Navigation Scheme
    3. Converting Modules
    4. Converting Files
    5. Converting Classlists
    6. Converting Calendar
    7. Converting Discussions
    8. Converting Assignments
    9. Converting Quizzes

For a General Tips and considerations for converting please see:

For other issues not covered here regarding transiting to Canvas please see: 

   Features Comparisons

Converting Homepages

Canvas Dashboard and Global Navigation

When you initially login to Canvas, you are directed to a landing page known as the Canvas Dashboard.  This view shows all of the Canvas Courses you teach or are registered in, represented as a colored box.  The colors correlate to the colors used on the Canvas Global Calendar. On the left hand side of the Dashboard is the Global Navigation Bar.  This bar contains tools such as Account management, Global Calendar for all courses and a link to the Canvas Community Help.  The Global Navigation Bar is displayed at all times within Canvas.  On the righthand side of the Dashboard is an automatically populated To Do list.  To learn more about the Canvas Dashboard and Global Navigation please see:  How do I use the Dashboard (New UI)?

Moodle Front Page

The Moodle Front Page is the first page users see when they login to Moodle.  The Moodle Front Page is organized in blocks (which is the organizational scheme Moodle uses within the course as well).  In the University of Wisconsin-Madison's instance, the blocks represent semesters, with the current semester at the top.  When the blocks are expanded, the title of the courses a user is enrolled in are listed. These titles acts as links and take the user to the Course Home. 

Canvas Course Homepage

The Course Homepage in Canvas is the first view the students see.  It will always feature the side bar, with links like the Dashboard and Account.  It will also always feature the Course Navigation Menu.  Instructors can choose one of five content layouts to display in the content area of the homepage. These five layouts are:
  • Course Activity Stream
  • A course page that is designated as the homepage
  • The Course Modules
  • The Assignment List
  • The Syllabus
For more information see: What layouts options are available in the Course Homepage?  Instructors can also choose to use a Canvas Page as the homepage as well.

Moodle Course Home

Moodle Course Home pages consists of three main columns.  The column to the left consists of blocks.  Common blocks are the calendar, site administration (for instructors), news, and site navigation.  The right hand side of the screen also consists of blocks. Common blocks include messaging, links to "people," direct navigation to activities.  The central column consists of the course content.  The course is organized in content blocks.  Within the blocks are instructions, activities, resources, and readings.  Instructors choose how the content blocks will displayed.  They may choose to display the content by the day, or weekly, or even thematically. 

What to Expect when Converting from Moodle to Canvas:

The home pages in Moodle and Canvas are not analogous.  Instead, content blocks are converted to Modules in Canvas and can be accessed via the Module link in the Course Navigation Menu.  Instructors can choose to display the module list in Canvas as the homepage if they wish.  

    • News forum posts convert to Announcements in Canvas
    • The Calendar on the Moodle Homepage, and associated Moodle Calendar events do not seem to convert in to the Canvas calendar

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Converting Navigation Schemes

Canvas Course Navigation

Canvas has a menu of navigation links referred to as Course Navigation Menu.  The Course Navigation Menu is a series of links that runs down the left side of the course.  The menu is always available, but can be hidden.  When a course is created the menu has a default set of links.  However, depending on the course structure, links can be hidden and reordered.  Custom links cannot be created.  To learn more see:  How do I use the Course Navigation Menu.  

Moodle Navigation Blocks

Moodle uses Navigation Blocks that can be expanded to display links to tools, administration, and various activities.  

What to Expect When Converting from Moodle to Canvas

The Navigation Blocks will not convert to links on the Canvas Course Navigation Menu.  In addition, Canvas does not allow for custom links to be added to the Course Navigation Menu.  Please consider a different path of access to material linked to a custom link for your Canvas Course.  

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Converting Modules

Canvas Modules

Instructors may use Canvas Modules to structure their course and organize content and activities.  Think of the course as a filing system, where the course shell is the file cabinet.  Inside the filing cabinet are manila folders.  Modules are the manila folders of a Canvas course. The are ready to keep thematically like materials, readings, activities, and assignments together as a unit. 

Moodle Content Blocks 

Moodle uses a Content Blocks that are similar to the Modules in Canvas.   In Moodle, the Content Blocks are commonly represented with a heading block.  The block can be expanded to display the content and materials within the block.  In Moodle, instructors can decided how the blocks will be displayed, but most commonly, they are displayed in chronological order.  

What to Expect when Converting from Moodle to Canvas:

Moodle Content Blocks as well as files within those modules convert from Moodle to Canvas Modules intact for the most part.  Links to Activities in Moodle are converted to Assignments in Canvas.  However Moodle allows for instructors to add directions and contextualization right in the Content Block.  This is done under "Description" when the activity is created or file is uploaded.  Descriptions DO NOT convert.   Release conditions at the module or assignment level will not covert.  Due dates also do not seem to covert and are not displayed in the Canvas Global Calendar. 

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Converting Files 

File Types

There are different categories of files you may have in your Moodle course that you want to covert to your Canvas course.  The first type are the files you may have uploaded to the course.  These could include Word, PDF, Power Point, or Interactive Packages (CSCR, Captivate, Articulate) files that are rendered (displayed) in Moodle. Some files convert in whole to Canvas while Interactive Packages do not.  Links to Google Docs also render in Canvas.  See the end of this section more a more detailed list. 

The second category of files used in your Moodle course are web pages you authored in the system.  Even if you created the pages using the Rich Text Editor (which is like a word processor) the program was writing HTML code in the background.  So, we often refer to these as HTML files. These HTML files are often the places we embed image, audio, or video files. 

Canvas Pages

HTML files in Canvas are referred to as Pages.  If you consider your course a version of a Website (which it actually is) then Pages are Webpages (which they actually are) linked together in the course.  Because of that, the pages do not have to live in a module, but could be linked together through a series of navigational links, much like a traditional webpage. Pages in Canvas are editable in the HTML view and the Rich Text Editor view, much like D2L.  Links and files embeds are handled by clicking on an uploaded piece of content from the options along the right hand menu in the editing view.  Please see What are Pages  and Edit a Page for more details. 

Moodle Pages

Moodle HTML files are also called Pages.  They are added to the Content Blocks by clicking on "Add and Activity or Resource" and then choosing "Pages."  Multiple pages can be bound together in a "Book" in Moodle. Pages are built in a Rich Text Editor view where you can author your material. Canvas also has these functions, but are done a bit differently. Please refer to the the documents linked above for a more complete description. 

What to expect when converting from Moodle to Canvas

Both Canvas Pages and Moodle Pages are written in HTML, which means the conversion is 1:1 for the most part.  In testing, the page formatting (included headings, indents, colors, etc) converted cleanly.  Links to outside materials carried over and embedded materials carried over.  Other content that does not carry over:

  • Kaltura Video Resources will not work when imported into Canvas. You will need to re-embed your media in Canvas. For more information, please see Kaltura at UW-Madison: Known Issues, Workarounds, and Best Practices.

  • SCORM files (like Captivate, Articulate) will need to reloaded from their source files

  • CSCR (Case Scenario/Critical Readers) will need to be reloaded

  • Online conference sessions created in Blackboard connect or Blackboard Ultra will need to be recreated

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Converting Classlists

Canvas People

In Canvas students and instructors registered for a course are listed under "People."  The links for people can be found along the Navigation Menu.  The People page displays registrants as a list with a picture and their preferred name.   From this tool instructors can manage enrollments, see the amount of time a students has logged into a course, as well as a student or user's last login. Instructors can also view student analytics from the People page.  Most functionality for this tool is found under the gear wheel on the far left of the row a registrant is listed on.  For a more detailed look at the "People" tool in Canvas see:  How do I use the People page in Canvas?  In addition, students can update their biography, contact information, and digital "footprint."  See How do I use the People page as a student? for more information. 

Moodle People

Users access the classlist in Moodle through a Navigation Block called, "People." Within that block is a link called "Participants."  Moodle displays the registrants as a list with an avatar picture. Users can see a detailed profile of a users by clicking on the name of an individual.  Users can edit their profile in this tool and instructors can see some progress reports, including logging activity. 

What to Expect when Converting from Moodle to Canvas:

The profiles in Moodle will not convert to the People page in Canvas.  Both Moodle and Canvas Courses that are listed in the Online Course Catalog at the  University of Wisconsin-Madison Registrar's office will be automatically populated and updated.  Users with a NetID can be added manually to both Canvas and Moodle as well.  However, for Canvas courses with guest users without a Net ID will need to request the users added by messaging  Learning Technology Consultants will no longer be able to add guest users manually.

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Converting Calendar

Canvas Global Calendar

The Canvas Global Calendar look very similar to other calendar applications, like Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook. In fact, the Canvas Global Calendar can be added to any of these applications so Canvas events are displayed in your preferred online calendar.  In the Global Canvas Calendar due dates and events from any course a user is registered in are automatically populated and color coded.  Theses can be sorted by course. To learn more see:  How do I use the Calendar?

Moodle Calendar Block

The Moodle Calendar is displayed as a block in either the left or right column. It is course centric rather than global and has a much different look and feel from Canvas and other common calendaring applications. First and foremost, most users in Moodle interact with the calendar through the Calendar on the course home.  The Calendar provides a general overview.  Users can click on a day to see the due dates or activities listed, called "Events," for the day.  They can navigate to those activities from the calendar as well.  Users can also add their own tasks to the calendar.  The Moodle Calendar can be added to an iCal feed, and iCal events can be added to the D2L Calendar.

What to expect when converting from Moodle to Canvas

Events do not seem to convert from the Moodle Calendar to the Canvas Calendar.  We recommend rebuilding the calendar to display the most accurate due dates and activities.

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Converting Discussions

Discussions in Canvas

The discussion area in Canvas is a place where instructors can assign their students to think and comment about a specific prompt, view other students' responses, and comment on those responses. Discussions are organized by the initial prompt.  Instructors make the first prompt, then students reply to that prompt in a threaded format.  The response do not show up in a list however that displays the topic of the post with reply nested replies indented underneath.  Rather, the entirety of the text of the post with no topic line is displayed.  The top level replies (in other words, the initial response to the original prompt) are slightly indented.  Replies at the second level, third level, and so on are each indented one level. Replies can be condensed to show only top level replies to the original prompt or expanded to see all content. The posts can be set to be graded and can be graded from within the discussion board. Please see What are Discussions for Instructors? for a more detail description.

Forums in Moodle

As in Canvas, the forums in Moodle are places where instructors can assign their students to think and comment about a specific prompt, view other students' responses, and comment on those responses.  Users discuss by posting topics as top level responses.  Other students can reply to those topics directly.  Replies are nested under the topics.    

What to expect when converting from Moodle to Canvas

The Forums in Moodle are converted to new Discussions in Canvas. If the discussion is for credit in Moodle, it becomes a graded discussion in Canvas.    When using the Canvas discussion please note that the indentation at the second, third level and so on are rather subtle, making keeping track of the thread more challenging than the discussion list in Moodle.  

Converting Assignments

Assignments in Canvas

Canvas does not have an analogous dropbox, per se.  Rather, it has a function called "Assignments." Our colleagues at Ohio State University have summarized the tool: "Student submissions are managed through the Assignments area.  In addition to uploading files, students can submit text (essay), a URL, or an audio/video file.  Other assignment types-quizzes and graded discussions-can also be managed from the Assignments section." (Office of Distance Education and e-Learning,  In addition, the Gradebook (Speedgrader covered in Module 5) is managed through Assignments in Canvas, rather similarily to Canvas. To learn more about assignments see: What are Assignments for Instructors

Assignments in Moodle

The Assignment Activity in Moodle is similar to Assignments in Canvas.  It enables teachers to communicate tasks, collect work, and provide grades and feedback.  Students can submit any digital file or type directly into a text editor.  Rubrics can be added to an assignment. 

What to expect when converting from Moodle to Canvas. 

Assignments in Canvas are relatively similar to Assignments in Moodle.  Recall, however, that discussions and quizzes are also considered Assignments in Canvas and will be imported into the "Assignments" list in Canvas.  They will be categorized as "Imported Assignments."  This is not a problem, just something to notice.  It appears that due dates due convert as well.  Assignments hidden in Moodle remain hidden (unpublished) when they are imported into Canvas.  

Converting Quizzes

Quizzing in Canvas

There are four types of quizzes in Canvas to choose from: Practice Quiz (ungraded); Graded Quiz; Graded Survey (completion points); Ungraded Survey. Question types include: Multiple Choice; True/False; Fill in the Blank; Fill in Multiple Blanks; Multi Answer; Multi-Drop Down; Matching; Numerical Answer; Formula; Essay; and File Upload.  In addition questions can be grouped into a question groups for that quiz, which allows for question randomization. Question banks are global question repositories that can be used across courses.  There are also a number of settings to choose from including shuffling answers, setting a time limit, allowing multiple attempts, showing responses and correct answers. 

Quizzing in Moodle

There are two parts to creating a quiz in Moodle, setting up the quiz then populating the quiz with questions. When instructors add a quiz activity in Moodle, instructors can set up restrictions and timing, feedback and display options, and grading options.  Question types in Moodle include: True/False; Multiple Choice; Matching; Numerical; Calculated and Calculated Format; Essay; Drag and Drop onto Image; Select Missing Words; Variable Numeric.rt.  Question banks can be created or imported into the Question Banks.

What to expect when converting from Moodle to Canvas

There are some significant differences in functionality and questions types from Moodle to Canvas.  As such, some materials convert while some do not.  Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
    • Converted Quizzes are automatically imported to Canvas as "Practice Quizzes."  They are not automatically connected to the Gradebook.  Quizzes should be changed to "Grade Quiz" and settings changed to indicated points value. 
    • Restrictions and submission views to not covert to Canvas.
    • Question point values do convert.  All questions are assigned a 1 point value in Canvas.  If using partial credit in Moodle, all answer with ANY credit will be assigned 1 point in Canvas. 
    • It is not possible to explicitly define "incorrect" answers for numerical questions.  Canvas imports all answers or numerical questions as correct. 
    • Canvas questions can only be displayed one at a time or all on the same page.  There is no custom option.
    • Real Time Quiz is not available in Canvas
    • There is no Matching Question equivalent in Canvas
    • There is no Drag and Drop Question equivalent in Canvas
    • There is no Calculated Question equivalent in Canvas
    • There is no Stack Question equivalent in Canvas
    • There is no Pattern Matching equivalent in Canvas

See Also:

Keywords:conversion, migrate, canvas, moodle, scorm, convert, import, export   Doc ID:64833
Owner:Learn@UW Madison .Group:Learn@UW Madison
Created:2016-07-07 12:29 CDTUpdated:2017-03-16 13:01 CDT
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, DoIT Tech Store, Learn@UW Madison, UW-Madison Canvas
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