IDEA Courseware Team Support
Online assistance for Canvas and Learning Tools from Wharton Computing

All about Files and Folders

Each Canvas site has a dedicated course Files storage area, reachable via "Files" in the course navigation. Note that course Files, which are viewable and downloadable by everyone in the course, are different from group or personal files. Only instructors and TAs can upload files to course Files.

TIP: We recommend you store a .PDF or Word version of your current syllabus in course Files, either at the top level or in a Syllabus folder you create. Many students are accustomed to looking in those places for syllabi.

Previewing Files

Many types of files can be previewed in the browser window without downloading the entire file. Preview, rather than download, is now the default when you click a file name or the icon next to it.

Replacing Files

Sometimes users have a hard time replacing a file that already exists. It's important to be careful with these when they have been linked to (often from assignments). To replace a file without breaking any links to it:

  • Upload a file of the same name to the same folder.
  • You'll get a pop-up where you can choose to replace the existing file with the newly uploaded one.

Uploading Files

Use the Upload button to upload one or more files from your computer. 

  • If uploading a .ZIP, Canvas will ask whether to extract the files individually or to simply upload the .ZIP by itself.
  • You can also drag and drop to upload files; Canvas will prompt you to "drop" the files while hovering over the right panel of Files. (Note: You can't "drop" onto the folder tree in the left panel.)

Downloading Files

Files can be downloaded in three ways:

  1. In Preview mode: Preview a file by clicking on the file name and then use the Download link shown at upper right.
  2. Download a file without previewing it: Hover over a file to show the gear icon at the far right.  Click on the gear icon to expose the Download command. Or, select the file by clicking to the right of the file name and then use the grey download button that appears near the top.
  3. Download multiple files or folders: Select your files and folders by clicking to the right of the file/folder names. To select multiple files or folders, hold down the Ctrl key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) while clicking with your mouse. You can also select all files by using Ctrl-A (Command-A).  Then click the grey Download button near the top. Multiple files/folders will be downloaded as a .ZIP.

Restricting Access to Files and Folders

To prevent student access, you can unpublish files or restrict access.

If you're keeping some files hidden from student view, it's worth knowing how published and unpublished folders work when nested within each other. All the content in an unpublished folder will also be unpublished. That means you can't unpublish a top level folder and then selectively publish content within that folder. However, you can have a published folder which contains a mix of published and unpublished content.

The usual application for this would be a course site where you want to selectively release materials, say every week before or after class. To accomplish this, you could have a published folder containing additional unpublished subfolders. As each week passes, you simply publish the appropriate subfolder (for this scenario, you could also schedule student availability - see the link above for more information).

Organizing Files

You can move and reorganize files. You can also rename them. Tip: Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac) after typing in the new name of a file.

If you want students to share files with the entire class

If you want your students to be able to upload files that everyone in the course can view, at this time we recommend that you create a Discussion and instruct students to post replies with attachments. Please contact the Courseware team if you need help with this.

Student groups have Files storage, but it should NOT be used to submit assignments

All student groups created in Canvas have a sub-site for private discussions, announcements, etc. These group sites also have a Files area which is accessible to course instructors, TAs, and students in the group. Students can upload files here for access by group members, but this is NOT the same as turning in an assignment - files uploaded here are not connected to the Gradebook. Please see this article for help configuring group assignments.

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