Migration - Sakai to Canvas Instructions - Canvas Skip to main content

Migration – Sakai to Canvas Instructions

This page will explain how to export Sakai Course Content and import into Canvas.


Depending on the complexity of your course content structure, you may have to do some content reorganization. This is a good opportunity to re-evaluate your course structure.

If you need further assistance, please contact the Office of Instructional Design and schedule a consultation.

Export Sakai Content

Although Canvas allows you to import Sakai content, you must first export using Common Cartridge packages. You need to be aware that you can ONLY import content from Assignments, Forums, Test & Quizzes, and Resources, using the Lessons tool.

  1. Navigate to ANY “Lessons” page in your Sakai site. If your site does not have the “Lessons” tool, start by adding it to your site (go to “Site Info” –> “Manage Tools” and check “Lessons” then click “Continue”).
  2. Go to the “Lessons” tool in your Sakai site (note that you may have renamed the “Lessons” tool to something else, that won’t matter as long as you can find it).
  3. Click “More Tools”.
  4. Choose “Export CC”.
  5. Select the “Use newest version (1.3) Better for Canvas” option.
  6. Optionally choose to add your question pools (this will include all the questions that you have added to “Pools” from all your courses)
  7. Wait. The process may take some time, especially for large courses.
  8. Look in your “Downloads” folder on your own computer, you should see a file named something like “Sakai-export.zip”

View the PDF Version with Images

Import Sakai Course to Canvas

  1. In Canvas, go to your course and click “Settings”
  2. Click “Import Content into this course” (in the right-hand column of options)
  3. For “Content Type”, choose “Common Cartridge 1.x Package”
  4. Choose the file that you exported from the Sakai lessons tool, it should have a name similar to “Sakai-export.zip”
  5. Click either “All Content” or “Select specific content” depending on whether you want to import everything, or pick and choose.
  6. You may click the option to “Adjust Events and due dates” if you like. This attempts to automatically shift dates, but it may not work satisfactorily.
  7. Click “Import”
  8. Wait. This may take a long time depending on the size of your course and how many files your course has stored.
  9. Under “Current Jobs” canvas will either indicate “Completed” or “Waiting for Select” (depending on whether you chose to import all content, or select specific content).
    • If you see “Waiting for Select” click “Select Content”, then place check marks next to the items you want to import.
    • If you see “Completed” Canvas may also show an “Issues” link. You can click “Issues” to see what problems Canvas ran into.
  10. Once Canvas indicates the “Common Cartridge” job is “Completed” you can now go to the individual areas of Canvas to make final adjustments and changes.
  11. Be sure to review the list of potential problems and things to check, below. You may want to continue with the instructions in the next section to make sure you include all your Resources.
  12. Finally be sure to edit assignment, discussions, and test/quiz settings and update questions associated with test/quizzes.

View the PDF Version with Images

Tips and Troubleshooting

  • If you renamed resources in Sakai, they will revert to the original names. You need to rename the files again in Canvas.
  • If you copy the entire site, Sakai may fail to include some Resources when exporting. You may need to upload individual files, or follow the instructions for copying Sakai Resources to Canvas.
  • Canvas does not allow you to re-order files, they will always be in alphabetical order. You need to use either the Pages or Modules tool to control the display order.
  • Canvas does not allow you to edit “Files” in place (you can download and edit them off-line, then upload again). The ability to edit in Canvas is in the “Pages” tool, but all material that is copied from Sakai will be placed in “Files” where it cannot be edited.
  • You will need to check the individual items in Canvas to make sure the dates are appropriate (do this even if you chose to “shift dates” – many dates simply will not come through the transition).
  • The Sakai “Syllabus” tool will not copy over to Canvas (this only applies to the tool, i.e., many faculty add a syllabus file to the resources tool, and that will copy correctly). If needed, you can click the “Print View” in the Sakai Syllabus tool, then copy and paste the text into the Canvas “Pages” tool.
  • Certain types of Sakai Resources will not copy over (web links, citation lists). You will need to recreate these in Canvas.
  • Sakai Lessons and Canvas Modules are not exactly comparable. Lessons will be converted into a series of links in Canvas Modules, and the content itself will end up in the Canvas Files (in a folder name “attachments”). To create an experience that is more similar to Sakai Lessons, you may want to copy your content into Canvas “Pages”.
  • Sakai discussion forums must have an added topic. Forums with no topics will not copy into Canvas.
  • The Canvas “Files” section may still be invisible to students (it will be light gray). If this happens, go to Canvas Settings, click “Navigation” then click the menu next to “Files” and choose “Enable”. You may also need to drag the “Files” item into the upper box (out of the “hidden from students” section).
  • If you copy question pools and your questions have images or attached files, you will need to re-attach those images or files again in Canvas.