Canvas - How Automated Course and Section Creation Works

The automated process in Canvas for creating courses and sections, also referred to as the "Student Information System (SIS) import" process, is based on how course sections are combined in the UW-Madison course catalog. This document describes how Canvas courses and sections are created during the SIS import process and how people are populated into those courses and sections.

Overview

In Canvas at UW-Madison, Course Guide courses and sections are automatically created during the SIS import process. The SIS import process keeps course enrollments up to date by running six times during each 24-hour period, seven days a week, to handle adds and drops.

User records for all UW-Madison-affiliated individuals are also imported into Canvas. New user records are introduced into Canvas on an hourly basis. 

How are courses and sections related?

Courses and sections work together in Canvas. Before understanding how courses and sections are created at UW-Madison, please read How are courses and sections related? It will provide you with a brief understanding of Canvas courses and sections and their interrelation.

Course and section creation basics at UW-Madison

Course creation

At UW-Madison, some classes have multiple sections that students may enroll in. In that case, a individual Canvas course is automatically created for each section. For example, if seven sections of Chemistry 103 are offered, the automated SIS import process will create seven individual Canvas courses:
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (001)
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (002)
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (003)
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (004)
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (005)
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (006)
    • CHEM103: General Chemistry I (007)

Course names and codes

In Canvas, there are two course title elements: Name and Course Code. Course name and code are based on course information entered in the SIS and follow these formats:

  • Name format - Subject and course catalog number: course title (section number)
    • Example - ASIANAM101: Introduction to Asian American Studies (001)
  • Course Code format - Subject, course catalog number, section number
    • Example - ASIANAM 101 001

Instructors and course designers are unable to modify Name and Course Code in Canvas. Modifications to course attributes (numbers, titles, credits, prerequisites, descriptions or course reorganizations, grading, cross-list status, new courses or course deletions) must be approved by college and university curriculum committees and such modifications should be carried out in the SIS, after which they will flow into Canvas.

Section creation and user enrollment

Each Canvas course has at least one section. This is because users are actually enrolled into sections when they are enrolled into a course. Thus, courses without sections can have no enrolled users.

At UW-Madison, Canvas sections are automatically created for different course enrollment packages. For example, let's say Chem 103: General Chemistry I (001) has 10 corresponding discussion and lab sections into which students can enroll, along with the main lecture. In that case, the Chem 103: General Chemistry I (001) Canvas course will contain the following sections, with students enrolled into each corresponding section:
  • CHEM 103: LEC001
  • CHEM 103: DIS301
  • CHEM 103: DIS302
  • CHEM 103: DIS303
  • CHEM 103: DIS304
  • CHEM 103: DIS305
  • CHEM 103: DIS306
  • CHEM 103: DIS307
  • CHEM 103: DIS308
  • CHEM 103: DIS309
  • CHEM 103: DIS301
  • CHEM 103: LAB601
  • CHEM 103: LAB602
  • CHEM 103: LAB603
  • CHEM 103: LAB604
  • CHEM 103: LAB605
  • CHEM 103: LAB606
  • CHEM 103: LAB607
  • CHEM 103: LAB608
  • CHEM 103: LAB609
  • CHEM 103: LAB610
Courses and sections each have unique identifiers, known as "SIS IDs." These identifiers help the automated process know where to put sections, and where to put students. 

Crosslisted and meets with course combinations

Classes and sections can be presented a number of ways in the Course Guide. How these class and section combinations are handled during the SIS import process depends upon the combination. 

Crosslisted classes

These are the same exact class, listed across multiple subjects (departments). They have the same catalog number. Each class may have multiple sections.

Example
    • Zoology 523 section 001
    • NTP 523 section 001
    • Psych 523 section 001
SIS/Course Catalog details
Within the SIS, a "primary subject" is indicated for each crosslisted class. The classes are combined in the SIS under one ID (beginning with the "XL" code; for example, "XL AN SCI 434 A1 001").

What happens during Canvas SIS integration
The crosslisted classes are combined into one Canvas course, as different sections, under the primary subject as defined in the SIS.

For example, let's say Zoology is indicated in ISIS as the primary subject for the three crosslisted classes listed above. As a result, a Canvas course is created for Zoology 523, along with a respective Zoology 523 section that contains all enrollments for that class. Also within that Canvas course reside sections for NTP 523 and Psych 523, each of which contains enrollments for those classes.

Meets with classes

These are classes that meet together. Sometimes they are within the same subject (department) but that's not always necessarily the case. They have a different catalog number and the same section number.

Example
  • Genetics 470, section 001
  • Genetics 570, section 001
SIS/Course Catalog details
In the SIS, a "primary class number" is indicated for each meets with class. The classes are combined in the SIS under one ID (beginning with the "MW" code; for exanple, "MW SLAVIC 251 A1 001").

What happens during Canvas SIS integration
The classes are combined, as different sections, into one Canvas course under the primary class number as defined in the SIS.

In our example, let's say Genetics 470 is indicated in ISIS as the primary class number for these meets with courses. As a result, a Canvas course is created for Genetics 470, along with a respective Genetics 470 section that contains all enrollments for that class. Also within that Canvas course resides a section for Genetics 570 that contain enrollments for that class.

Section-level meets with classes

These are classes that meet together. They can be within the same department or across different subjects (departments). Catalog numbers can be the same or different. Section numbers can be different but typically are the same. 

Example
  • Comp Sci 302, section 005
  • Comp Sci 302, section 007
SIS/Course Catalog details
The classes are combined in the SIS under one ID (beginning with the "SL" code; for example, "SL SOC 915 A1 001").

What happens during Canvas SIS integration
These classes are NOT combined during the Canvas SIS integration process. In other words, Canvas courses are created for each class and enrollments are kept completely separate.

Crosslisted and meets with classes

This is a grouping that contains both crosslisted and meets with classes.
  • Crosslisted, in that different department classes are combined
  • Could involve either a meets with or a section-level meets with:
    • Meets with, in that they can be within the same subject (department) but that's not always necessarily the case. They have a different catalog number and the same section number.
    • Section-level meets with, in that they can be within the same department or across different subjects (departments). Catalog numbers can be the same or different. Section numbers can be different but typically are the same. 
Example
  • German 804 section 001
  • German 742 section 001
  • French 804 section 001
  • History 804 section 001
  • Poli Sci 760 section 001
  • Soc 804 section 001
SIS/Course Catalog Details
In the SIS, a "primary subject" is indicated for each crosslisted/meets with class, as well as a "primary class number." The classes are combined in the SIS under one ID (beginning with the "XM" code; for example, "XM GERMAN 804 A1 001").

What happens during Canvas SIS integration
The classes are combined into a single Canvas course, as sections, under the primary subject and primary class number as defined in the SIS.

For example, let's say German is indicated as the primary subject in the SIS for the classes above and that German 804 is indicated as the primary class number. As a result, a Canvas course is created for German 804, along with a respective German 804 section that contains all enrollments for that class. Also within that Canvas course reside sections for the crosslisted classes from other departments, each of which contains enrollments for those classes, as well as a section for the meets with German 742 class, which contains enrollments for that class.

Lecture/lab/discussion classes

These are classes that contain lecture, lab, and discussion components.

Example
  • Chem 104 sec 001
    • 001 LEC
    • DIS 401-416
    • LAB 701-716
  • Chem 104 sec 002:
    • 002 LEC
    • DIS 421-430
    • LAB 721-730
SIS/Course Catalog details
Most commonly, for each class, discussions and labs are rolled up into "enrollment packages" of the main lecture.

What happens during Canvas SIS integration
All lectures, labs, and discussions from an ISIS "enrollment package" are combined into one Canvas course.

For example, the Chem 104 001 Canvas course is created with a respective lecture 001 section which contains enrollments for that lecture. Also within that Canvas course reside sections for the associated discussions and labs, each of which contains enrollments for those classes.

Chem 104 section 002 is created as a separate Canvas course with its own associated lecture, lab, and discussion sections and enrollments.

Crosslisting/merging sections

In Canvas, instructors and instructional technologists can choose to change the section combinations in courses. For details, see Canvas - Crosslisting/Merging a Canvas Course .




Keywords:canvas course creation automatic SIS integration import section sections shell automated auto crosslist cross list listed crosslisted combined combine meets with lecture lab discussion ISIS catalog merge   Doc ID:65870
Owner:Learn@UW Madison .Group:UW-Madison Canvas
Created:2016-08-08 11:30 CDTUpdated:2016-08-16 16:12 CDT
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW Madison, UW-Madison Canvas
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