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Blueprint Course Design

What is a Blueprint course?

A blueprint course is a special type of course in Canvas that serves as a template for other courses/sections. The content and settings in the blueprint course can then be pushed out to courses that are associated with the blueprint at any time to establish a level of consistency.  Blueprint courses are commonly used for courses at CMC that have multiple sections each semester where outcomes and essential content should be consistent in every Canvas course.

  • Blueprint courses have the ability to lock specific content to make sure it is included in all associated courses, but still, allow faculty to add additional or modify existing non-locked content to make the associated course/section their own. 
  • If updates are needed during the semester or prior to the start of a semester, they can be made in the Blueprint course and then pushed out to all associated courses as needed.
  • Blueprint courses can assist new faculty by providing a "ready-to-go" course that only needs minor adjustments to be successful.
  • Any existing course can be associated with a Blueprint course by a Canvas administrator.

Blueprint settings for the course

How to make a Blueprint course

Any existing course can become a Blueprint course, but it must be enabled as a Blueprint by a Canvas administrator for the functionality to be available.  This allows faculty the ability to work on the design prior to it becoming a Blueprint or after it has been enabled.

Blueprint Options:

  • Add content and assessments that will be included in associated courses/sections.
  • Set due dates, availability, and deadlines.
  • Standardize course navigation.
  • Standardize course tools, 3rd party resources, or vendor items. (ex. eTextbooks, Canvas apps (LTI), non-CMC tools)
  • Lock items within the course.
    • General Locked Objects: Applies the same locking settings in all tools in course.
    • Locked Objects by Type: Allows separate locking settings for Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Files, and Quizzes.
    • Lock Individual Objects: Restrict any changes to individual items within a course.
  • Associate Blueprint with any course.
  • Remove the Blueprint association with any course.

Blueprint add content and lock specific items for all associated courses.

Designing a Blueprint Course

Plan, Plan, Plan

Blueprint courses are well-named, because--like a house or anything designed with a blueprint--planning is critical, as is communication. Blueprint courses wield a bit of extra power in their ability to "push" content and information out to other associated courses/sections.  To reduce issues with many courses proper planning or communication is essential with the development team, whether it be a faculty and their ADI/dean or a group of peers working together to develop a course for their program. Therefore, everyone involved in the process should be involved, give timely updates, consider what is essential for the course, consider the needs of future faculty, design for flexibility, and most of all the students.

This is a great addition to Canvas, as it ensures course, program and CMC outcomes get embedded in all associated courses so that the individual faculty do not have to worry about adding them in on their own.   Future faculty have a well-designed course with all the key information already in place and students will have a cohesive and consistent environment to learn.  With all this design work, the planning and organization of the course is perhaps the most important part of the Blueprint design process.

Items to Consider:

  • Course navigation (less is more)
  • Content organization (modules and consistent requirement/activities)
  • Detailed descriptions and guidance for students/faculty
  • Course outcomes
  • Timeline & due dates
  • Common content
  • Common assessments
  • Common resources
  • Built-in interaction and engagement
  • Consistent feedback and response time
  • What is locked and what is flexible


Locking Content for Consistency

When the team has the course design and content completed the next step is to decide what is to be locked and what can be editable by other faculty when their course is associated with the Blueprint.  Some objects, such as the syllabus, faculty information, and announcements should be unlocked to allow for personal or timely information to be added, while key content, outcomes, and common assessments may be locked, so the experience is the same for every student.

Locked Objects:

Locking an object in a course enforces the attributes defined in Course Settings. Any change to an attribute retroactively applies to all locked objects in the associated course. If an attribute is enabled for locked objects in the blueprint course, any locked attributes in the associated course that vary from locked attributes in the blueprint course will trigger unsynced changes in the blueprint course and override the associated course objects.

Unlocked Objects

Objects that are unlocked can be managed by a course instructor like any other Canvas object. If the blueprint course is synced and the instructor has modified unlocked objects in the associated course, unlocked objects are not overwritten with the synced changes.

Unlocked blueprint objects can be locked at any time. If you lock an unpublished object, and that object was previously removed from an associated course, the object will be replaced in the associated course.


Synching Courses

One of the best things about Blueprint courses is common navigation, content, assessments, and settings can be pushed (copied) to any associated course any time by synching the Blueprint course.  This is great for setting up courses quickly and correcting errors but should also be done sparingly and communicated to all faculty prior to the synch.  Generally, courses will be synched at the beginning of the semester and then as needed throughout the semester if there are any major errors that would affect the function or quality of the course.  Synching repeatedly could cause confusion and challenges with the flow of the course and awareness of adjustments by both faculty and students.

Blueprint sync associated courses to have the same content and settings.

Administration of Blueprint Courses

At this time, the request for approval to develop a Blueprint course must be submitted to CMC and only then can change from a regular course to a Blueprint be performed by a CMC Canvas admin.  This can not be done by faculty in Canvas, as this is an action that must be approved by the school and the program for any course to become a Blueprint.

All Blueprint courses will be associated with the appropriate courses and later synch by a Canvas administrator through approval by the CMC school or program representative.

Instructor Notes/Instructor Guide for MCB courses

Can students who take separate sections of the same course expect similar experiences, including the amount of time and effort they are required to engage? To meet this goal, faculty at CMC can develop a course that can be a "blueprint" in Canvas for multiple faculty to teach. In this way, faculty have some common structure, materials, assignments, and/or assessments and reach the learning outcomes with some consistency. 

  • Course Instructor's Guide
    Faculty designing a "blueprint" course for multiple faculty, it is essential to include an Instructor's Guide that offers guidance for instructors. This guide can include a wide variety of information: reasons for instructional decisions, justifications for the resources used, guidance on grading, suggestions for instructor time management, etc.  This guide is a starting point for developing the Instructor's Guide.