Knowledgebase: Canvas
Canvas: Data retention
Updated: 26 August 2020 01:25 PM

OCAD U students and faculty upload a lot of data to Canvas (Legacy): almost 10 terabytes as of early 2019. That's about 1 million phonebooks worth of data. This much data is expensive; it requires a lot of hardware and infrastructure to store and backup.

Starting on May 28, 2019 and each year going forward, any files that have been stored for longer than 4 years (course content) and 1 year (assignment submissions) will be removed. See below for details. 

Fun fact: as of February 2019, Canvas is hosting 1.8 million files!


What Does This Mean For Me? 

This applies only to undergraduate and graduate courses. 

If you have files in older Canvas courses that you do not have saved elsewhere and wish to keep, please download a copy of those files for your own records. Canvas has tools to help you do this: 

For students

Download your assignment submissions from all courses
Download course as ePub

For Instructors

Download all student submissions for an assignment
Export course content
Download all files

What is Being Removed and When? 

Course Content

Course content includes files like images and PDFs that were uploaded to the course, usually by the instructor. This includes files added directly to the Files page, using the Rich Content Editor sidebar, or as discussion attachments. 

Course content will be maintained for four academic years.

For example, during the 2018-19 academic year, we would retain files dating back to the 2014-15 academic year. At the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, files from courses in 2014-15 will be removed.  

Assignment Submissions

Assignment submissions will be maintained for one academic year.

For example, during the 2018-19 academic year, we would retain submissions from the previous year, 2017-18. At the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, submissions in courses in 2017-18 will be removed.

This will not delete other information about the submission. You will still be able to see when a submitted the assignment, grades and rubric feedback and student/teacher comments about the submission. 

Other Files

Other types of files including course IMSCC or ePub exports will be deleted as needed. For the most part, this will not affect Canvas users. In some cases, you may need to re-generate a previously-created content export. 

Why Is This Happening? 

The decision to implement this retention policy was made by the LMS (Learning Management System) Advisory Committee. The rationale includes: 

  • In the current Grading Policy, it is the responsibility of the student to retain copies of their assignments.
  • We do not retain any student paper submission beyond the current running academic year.
  • Student submitted content comprises a significant proportion of all Canvas data.
  • Canvas Data is the largest data set at OCAD U, and enterprise data storage and backup are finite and expensive.


It is recommended that in order to avoid any data loss students and faculty not rely on Canvas as a place to store files. Please ensure you maintain your own copy and a back up of your data on a separate system!