In the move to Canvas, Saint Mary’s now has the ability to automate certain features that did not exist in other systems. One of these features is how courses are created and how content can be added to courses. In this process, we are able to automatically create courses in Canvas that not only have enrollments in them but also content and a similar course structure. What assists in this process are the usage of main course shells. Using main course shells helps to organize content within the LMS, and streamline the course automation process from term to term. Please read through the rest of this to gain a further understanding of this process and what to expect. This document is also attached to this email in an accessible pdf for convenience.

What is a course with a MAIN_ prefix at Saint Mary’s?

“Mains” are the repository of course content. More specifically they are the curated content for a specific course that contains course materials, assignments, and syllabi. One can think of a main course shell as the official repository for a specific course. In many cases currently, a main course in Canvas contains the content that was migrated from Blackboard or Engage. As a course is continually taught the content from the main will be applied to the term version of the course (i.e., FA21). This allows for a course to use similar content term to term.

  • Main courses are identified with the word main in the title (MAIN_EDUC111).

Who updates main courses? Why use main courses?

Depending on the program/department mains can be updated by individual faculty or can be updated by a team of faculty. For programs/departments that may offer multiple sections of a course each term, mains provide a way for each section to have the consistent content to ensure the integrity of the course is maintained. At the end of the term instructors, programs, and departments can request that the content from the term course is copied into the main course to ensure the main course always has the most current content.

  • Additionally, by updating your courses consistently between terms you ensure that your students receive the best overall experience. The Canvas Minimum Usage document outlines a phased approach as the university moves into Canvas.

  • As a clarifying note, students will never be enrolled in main course shells so that instructors have a dedicated place to build and curate content.

What is a term prefixed course at Saint Mary’s?

A term prefixed course is the ‘live’ course running in a specific term. Term prefixed courses are identified with a specific term prefix in the name of the course (i.e., FA21COLLGE_EDUC111, or FA21SGPP_EDUC111). A term course is linked to the Student Information System (SIS–in our case, CAMS) for enrollments and contains content from the corresponding main course.

When do I work in a main course versus a term course?

Instructors, program directors, chairs, and program staff are encouraged to continually curate content in the main course shells up until four (4) weeks prior to the start of a term. At four weeks prior to the term prefixed courses are created that contain enrollments and the content from the main course shells. At that point, any and all further updates should be made in the term course.

  • As a term’s ending approaches, instructors/programs/departments can request that the content from the term prefixed course is copied into the main course shell to ensure the main course shell always has the most current content.

Preparing for Fall 2021 and Pre-Term Actions

At this point in our migration process many courses were migrated from Blackboard/Engage to Canvas. These are in Canvas as main course shells (as described above) and are ready for continual enhancements. For those courses that do not have a main course shell they will be created for you and made available in early July. These newly established main course shells will not have content from Blackboard/Engage but will have the standard Saint Mary’s course template. Based on current fall teaching assignments instructors will be added to the mains. Please work in these main courses until August 2nd. On that date, the content from the main course will be added to the FA21 term courses.

  • If you need content from Blackboard or Engage that was not already migrated please request that by contacting the Help Desk.

Ongoing Pre-Term Actions

  • Eight (8) weeks prior (or more) to the start of a term:

    • Faculty should update main course shells to include the most current content. This may involve collaborations with learning design, instructional technology to help enhance the engagement within a course.

      • If the entire content from a term course is needed, said content can be copied into a main course shell by putting a request into the Help Desk

  • Four (4) weeks prior to the start of a term:

    • Term prefixed courses (i.e., FA21College_EDUC111) are created, and faculty and student enrollments are added (both of these are based upon what is listed in CAMS). Content from identified main course shells are automatically added to the term courses.

      • At this point faculty should halt making updates to main course shells and make any further updates to the term prefixed course.

  • Two (2) weeks prior to the start of a term:

    • Faculty should publish their term prefixed courses so that enrolled students can view syllabi and look at course resources. Please note: Students have a ‘read-only’ access to the courses at this time.

      • Course publishing is part of the Canvas Minimum Usage document and is set to be at two weeks by Phase Three of the rollout of Canvas.

If there are any questions, please reach out to the Saint Mary’s Help Desk at