Canvas Course Types

Learn about different types of courses in Canvas to support you!

Live Courses

Live courses are those released through the CSUM enrollment system and are populated with your enrolled students for the next term. 

Live courses are:

  • Populated with students who have enrolled in your class for the next term. 
  • Instructors must copy content from other courses (such as Migrated or Sandbox courses), and/or create new content before the semester begins.
  • Not available to students until they are published.

Course Release Schedule
Live courses are released to instructors only a few months before each term to prepare for teaching: 

  • In late Fall, all Spring live course shells will be released in Canvas.
  • In late Spring, all Summer and Fall live course shells will be released. 

Instructors will be notified when live courses have been released via Canvas global announcements from AT.

Informal Yearly Creation Timeline 

Please note: the timelines given here are very fluid and depend on the university registrar and enrollment services. 


Campus Term 


Canvas Creation Date 




Early January 




Early May 




Early October 


Instructors have the following options for building content in their live Canvas course shells:

  • Develop content from scratch inside the live course.
  • Follow the instructions in the BrightSpace Course Migration Job Aid [PDF] to import content from a migrated BrightSpace course into a live course shell.
  • Copy content from your Canvas Sandbox or Migrated Course that you may have been using as staging environments.

Migrated Courses

Migrated courses are copies of BrightSpace courses from the past 3 years that have been transferred through an automated process as part of the 2022-2024 transition period.

Migrated courses:

  • contain BrightSpace course content. 
  • do not contain students; students do not have access to migrated courses.
  • do not contain student data including student assignment submissions, grades, discussions, files, or quiz data.
  • will not look exactly like your BrightSpace courses; the content has been adjusted to fit the Canvas environment. 

Use your migrated BrightSpace course in a variety of ways:  

  • Leave it in its original state as a reference/source. 
  • Copy the content into your live Canvas shell and adjust it to fit the Canvas environment in preparation for teaching.

Sandbox Courses

A sandbox is an empty Canvas course where instructors can explore ("play") and get familiar with the technical features and navigation without concern for messing up a course they will be teaching.  

Instructors can find their Sandbox course in their Canvas account (will appear as a course tile on the Dashboard or listed in your courses). If you are not able to find your Sandbox course, contact 

Sandbox Courses:

  • Can be reset back to default settings for a "clean slate" to try new layouts and features (just email and we can help reset your course).
  • Contain no content. You can copy content from another course or build new content to test out the functionality. 
  • Contain no students; students cannot see your Sandbox course.

A sandbox will be yours to keep indefinitely to help you learn Canvas as a new user and to test functionality and new tools that come along.  

A sandbox is best used for the following purposes:

  • Try out the navigation!
    Explore the navigation panel and change the settings to see what happens!  A sandbox allows you to get familiar with the system without concern for "breaking" your course.
  • Experiment with different settings and features:
    There are many ways you can customize your courses to meet your needs. For example, you can control which of the Course Navigation links appear for your students. 
  • Copy content from another course and make edits to see how it looks and feels.
    For example, you may want to see what the quizzing experience looks like for your students before launching your next exam.
  • Test tools that you've never used before, or new ones that become available in the future.
    Many software tools (such as Zoom, Teams, Ally, etc.) will be integrated into Canvas. Give them a trial run in the sandbox to become familiar with all the nuances.

Sandbox courses are available automatically to all instructors on their Canvas Dashboard or course list.

If you need a Sandbox, submit this Request Form:


After submitting your request, the Sandbox course tile will appear in your Canvas Dashboard.