Unpublish, Don't Delete Canvas Content

Last modified 1/19/2024

There is not a completely reliable way to recover deleted items from Canvas course sites. As a result, we strongly recommend that instructors unpublish items (ex: assignments, pages, modules, etc.) rather than delete them. Learn about the differences between unpublishing and deleting content.

Unpublishing Content

When considering unpublishing Canvas content, take the following into account:

  • Students can’t see a course until the entire course is published. This should be done by the start of the semester.
  • Anything that is unpublished isn’t visible for students. As a result, instructors can work on building out materials, assignments, etc., while they are unpublished, and then publish them once they are ready for students to see them.
  • Besides Modules and Files, every item that needs to be published will need to be done one at a time.
  • Modules have bulk publishing options – either per module or for all modules – located at the top by the +Module button. You can choose to publish:
    • Just the module but none of the items in it
    • The module and all the items in it, or
    • Unpublish everything
  • If items within a module are published, but the module itself isn’t published, students won’t be able to see any content inside that module. We encourage instructors to use Student View to confirm that items are published and visible to students. 
  • When Files are uploaded, they should automatically be set to “published.” If an instructor hears from students that a file is “locked”, that means the file isn’t published yet.

Deleting Content

When considering deleting Canvas content, take the following into account:

  • If you delete an entire module, all pages, assignments, quizzes, files, discussions, etc. will still remain. Access this content by going to the corresponding tab in the navigation. If you delete them from the corresponding tab, then they are gone.
  • If an instructor accidently deletes something, it may still be able to be recovered. If you go to the home page of the course, and then enter in undelete at the end of the URL (ex., you’ll see a list of recently deleted content and you can select Restore to bring it back into the course.

How to Get Help

Instructional assistance and knowledge for Canvas is available through the Center for Integrated Professional Development by phone (309) 438-2542, or email at 

Technical assistance and knowledge for Canvas is available through the Technology Support Center at (309) 438-4357, by email at, or by submitting a ticket or using live chat at