Lesson 2: Using the SIS Import Tool

In this lesson, you will learn how to add student information system (SIS) data to your account using the SIS Import Tool. The SIS Import Tool allows you to bulk-create a variety of account items using formatted comma separated value (CSV) files. 


  • The SIS Import Tool is a feature that your CSM must enable for your account. 
  • All CSV file uploads should be tested in your institution’s test environment before attempting to upload them to your production environment. You can learn more about the Canvas test environment
  • This lesson outlines a manual process of using the SIS Import Tool. To learn more about using the Canvas API to automatically integrate with your SIS, talk with your CSM and visit the Canvas Guides, review Canvas API documentation, and visit the Canvas Developers Group in the Canvas Community.

General Account Setup Information

Using the SIS Import Tool allows account admins to upload data to their Canvas account quickly. Bulk uploads may be done at any time and in no particular order. Additionally, there are some risks associated with using this tool. For more details about these risks, please view the SIS Imports lesson.

An admin can manually input all of the data identified below. Learn how to manually add admins and course-level users in your account, as well as terms and learning outcomes

Download and Format SIS Data

Most Student Information Systems (SIS) export account data as CSV files that can be viewed and configured using spreadsheet software. Once CSV files are correctly formatted for Canvas, you can upload them to Canvas, expediting the process of configuring your Canvas account. 

Download and format the following information from your SIS: 

  • Admins (admins.csv): a list of all account-level users
  • Accounts (account.csv): a list of all sub-accounts in your account; establishes account structure
  • Courses (courses.csv): a list of all courses in your account, specifying to which sub-account they belong

Though not necessary for account setup, you may find it helpful to include additional information in your initial data uploads. If so, you may also download the following data:

  • Terms (terms.csv): a list of all terms in your account; a term provides a default set of start and end dates to any course assigned to that term
  • Sections (sections.csv): a list of all sections in your account; all course sections must be assigned to a specified course; enrollments (via the enrollments.csv) can be assigned to specific sections 

Note: The workflow recommended above is general advice. There may be other files you wish to include in your Canvas setup. Please work with your CSM and review How do I format CSV text files for uploading SIS data into a Canvas account? for more information about uploading SIS data to your Canvas account using CSV files. 

Compress CSV Files

When you finish configuring the data files, you can upload each file individually or compress them into a zipped file before uploading them to Canvas.

Compress PC Files

To compress your CSV files on a PC:

  1. In My Computer, select all of the CSV files
  2. Right click to view the Options menu
  3. Select the Send To option
  4. Select the Compressed (Zipped) Folder option

The zipped (.zip) file displays in My Computer

Compress Mac Files

Compress Mac Files

To compress your CSV files on a Mac:

  1. In Finder, select all of the CSV files
  2. Click the File link
  3. Click the Compress Items link

The zipped (.zip) file displays in Finder.

Upload CSV Files

All CSV file uploads should be tested in your institution’s test environment before attempting to upload to your production environment. 

Once your files are formatted and compressed, you can upload them using the SIS Import Tool.

Upload SIS Data

Upload SIS Data (entire Ac't Nav)

To upload your file: 

  1. Click the SIS Import link in Account Navigation
  2. Click the Choose File link and select a file from your computer
  3. Click the Process Data button

View Upload

Canvas displays a status bar as your data uploads. Large uploads may take a few hours to complete. Once your upload completes, Canvas will verify the success of your data upload. 

View Last Batch Report

View Last Batch Report

View a summary of the most recently uploaded information.

View Upload Fail

View Upload Fail

Canvas displays an Import Failure message when it cannot process your data upload. You will need to correct the errors in your CSV files before attempting to re-upload.

View Upload Errors

View Upload Errors

When Canvas cannot process specific lines in your data upload, it displays an import warning. Click the Download the complete list of errors and warnings here link to download an error list that identifies the location and type of errors in your data upload. You will need to correct the errors in your CSV files before attempting to re-upload.

Learn more about manually uploading SIS files into Canvas and about generating SIS Import Error reports. 

Account Information

You can view your uploaded information in your Canvas account.

View Account Information

View Account Information
  1. Courses: View courses created by the courses.csv and sections.csv imports
  2. People: View users in your account created by the users.csv and admin.csv imports
  3. Sub-Accounts: View your account organizational structure created by the accounts.csv import
  4. Terms: View terms created in your account by the terms.csv import

Additional Resources

Canvas Guides

For more in-depth information about the topics covered in this chapter, check out the Canvas Admin Guide chapter on SIS Imports

You can also watch the Canvas Admin overview video about the SIS Import Tool.

Canvas Community

The Canvas Community is an online community of Canvas users from around the world. It houses a space for Questions and Answers about Canvas, and a variety of groups, including the Canvas Administration group

Up Next in Lesson 3: Course Access and Grade Reporting

Once you’re finished uploading data to your account, you can further align your account to your institution’s grading and registration periods. In the next lesson, you will learn about the following: 


  • Terms define course start and end dates, and term access dates specify when users can access courses.
  • If you created terms using the SIS Import Tool, you can learn about adjusting term access dates.  

Grading Periods: 

  • Grading periods specify date ranges used for student grade reporting. You can also use grading periods to maintain your institution’s post-term-end grade modification policies. 
  • Grading periods must be added manually.