Canvas Course Types

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

Live Courses

Live courses are those released through the CSULB 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. 
  • Devoid of any course content; instructors must copy content from migrated or development 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 ATS.

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 BeachBoard Course Migration Job Aid [PDF] to import content from a migrated BeachBoard course into a live course shell.
  • Copy content from your Canvas Sandbox or Development Course that you may have been using as staging environments.


Migrated Courses

Migrated courses are copies of BeachBoard courses from the past 2 years (Summer 2021 through Spring 2023) that have been transferred through an automated process as part of the 2022-2023 transition period.

Visit our Migration Plan website for details. 

Migrated courses:

  • contain BeachBoard 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 BeachBoard courses; the content has been adjusted to fit the Canvas environment. 

Use your migrated BeachBoard course in a variety of ways:  

  • Leave it in its original state as a reference/source. 
  • Follow the instructions in the BeachBoard Course Migration Job Aid [PDF] to copy your migrated BeachBoard course content into your Canvas Sandbox or Development course where you can edit, adjust the layout, and test new tools and features.
  • Copy the content into your live Canvas shell and adjust it to fit the Canvas environment in preparation for teaching.


Development Courses

Development (dev) courses provide a staging area to prepare your course layout and materials before copying them into your Live courses (see description on Live courses, below).

Dev courses:

  • Have no content. You can copy content from another course or build new content in a dev course.
  • Contain no students; students cannot see your development course. People can be added manually and assigned different roles (students, instructors, etc.) if desired. These people can see the changes you make to the course.
  • Can be populated and organized with the content you are planning to use for your Live course in the future.  When Live courses are released each semester, your content can be easily copied over.  Dev courses are great for helping you prepare in advance.
  • Will remain in your Canvas account indefinitely for reuse as needed.

Complete this Request Form to request a Dev Course:

DEV Course Request Form

Development Courses will appear in your Canvas Dashboard shortly after your request has been submitted. 

You can request a development course for each of the Live courses you will be teaching if needed.  Or, you can re-purpose one dev course for all future courses.

It is recommended that you use development courses to organize your course materials and layouts so you can efficiently copy them to your live courses before each semester begins.

Although live courses are typically released a few months preceding the next term, having a dev course gives you an extra cushion of time to work on course modifications well in advance.


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 (see instructions below).
  • 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.
  • Can be manually populated with students or other course roles (students, instructors, etc.) as desired by the instructor. These people can see the changes made to the course.

A sandbox is not intended as a course-building space. If you would like a space to build courses, please request a Development Shell (see Development Courses).

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, Poll Everywhere, Blackboard Ally, etc.) will be integrated into Canvas. Give them a trial run in the sandbox to become familiar with all the nuances.

Reset the Sandbox to the Defaults
After using your sandbox for testing, you can then wipe the slate clean and return it to the default settings, if desired.  

Resetting course content will permanently delete all associated assignments, discussions, quizzes, modules, rubrics, pages, files, learning outcomes, question banks, collaborations, conferences, or any other content. This action is irreversible, and the data cannot be recovered. 

To reset:

  1. Select the "Settings" link on the left navigation panel of your Canvas Dashboard
  2. Select "Reset Course Content"
    canvas reset instructions



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.  

Organization Courses

Organization courses can be developed to create a centralized place for campus departments, teams, or other groups to connect as a community and share information and learning materials. Organization courses can remain open indefinitely and are not limited by an academic term. Members can be added manually by the administrator of the organization.

Organization Courses are appropriate for:

  • For creating student/staff orientation courses, onboarding programs, staff professional development courses, training modules, job qualification tests or practice, etc.
  • Organizations/groups that will engage participants by sharing content, documents, and other assets, sending announcements, conducting surveys, or prompting discussions.  

If you are considering using a Canvas Organization course primarily just to store and/or share documents, please consider these options instead:

  • Microsoft Teams 
  • SharePoint 
  • OneDrive 
  • External storage drive
  • Shared network drive 


Complete this Interest Form to request a new Organization Course:



Organization General Guidelines:

  • Membership in any organization is only open to CSULB students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other users already present in the MyCSULB Online system.
  • Limited guest accounts are available and must be requested via the guest account request form.
  • Organization courses will be sponsored by a dean, department chair, director or instructor member (leader), who assumes responsibility for the organization’s site including its content and activities. There will be no delegation of this responsibility to a student representative.
  • Managing the organization's enrollment is the responsibility of the leaders. However, ATS can assist with bulk enrollments via an electronically generated list of campus IDs in Microsoft Excel format. The file should be emailed to with a 3-5 day lead time.

Organization Leader Responsibilities

  • Organizational leaders are responsible for maintaining and monitoring their organizations.
  • Note: Anti-spam filters or incorrect email addresses could keep email from reaching users.  As an alternative, consider using the Discussion Board or Announcements to contact organization members.
  • Email messages sent to large sets of organization participants could take up to a week for delivery.

Policy Violations

All organization courses are subject to the university policies and any violation may result in the removal of the organization and possible account suspension of those involved. See Student Regulations and policies for more information. A violation of university policies by a student and employee, including faculty, in a Canvas organization, shall result in disciplinary action according to the CSULB Campus Computing Policy. 

Examples of these policies are the following:

  • User access to computing resources is contingent upon prudent and responsible use.
  • You may not use computing resources for any illegal or proscribed act.
  • You may not use computing resources for any commercial purpose without prior written authorization from the appropriate Vice President.
  • You may not use any computing resource in a way that is harassing [spamming] or threatening to another individual.