Top Three Things to Know about New Quiz Item Banks

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With Canvas continuing to move to New Quizzes, today we’re going to look at an important piece of that puzzle – item banks. Item banks are the best way to organize your quiz or exam questions, and they will help you manage your assessments well. We’ll be talking about adding and editing questions next week, but this week we’re going to focus on the bigger picture of item banks.  

Item banks are accessed through a New Quiz and only through a New Quiz. If you access “manage question banks” through the Quiz page, you’ll get the Classic Quiz question banks. Note that the terminology is different – question banks is Classic Quizzes, item banks is New Quizzes. And with that detail covered, we’re going to jump into the three biggest things to know about item banks.  

1. There’s two different ways to access the item bank from inside a quiz – and each has its own purpose  

Screenshot of the two ways to access the New Quiz Item Banks with each labeled. The Item Banks button on the main page of the New Quiz is labeled #1, and the Manage Item Banks drop-down menu item from the three dots menu next to the return button is labeled #2.
Screenshot of the two different ways to access the New Quiz Item Banks

The First Way – The Item Banks button on the main page of the New Quiz.  

This Item Banks button allows you to view the Item Banks you have access to and add items to the quiz. You can also edit the question name, question text, and answer options. However, you cannot add new questions to the item bank from this view. Think of this view as the “selecting” view.  

The Second Way – The Manage Item Banks button accessed through the “three dots” menu at the top of the New Quiz page 

This Manage Item Banks button allows you to view the Item Banks you have access to. In this view, you can add new questions and edit existing questions. However, you cannot add questions to a quiz from this view. Think of this view as the “editing” view.  

2. Item banks are only accessible and editable by those you share them with 

Item banks are tied to users in Canvas – not courses. If you’re co-teaching a course and want the other instructors to be able to view and edit the questions, you’ll need to share the bank with them. Thankfully, Canvas makes it easy! Go to the item bank (you can use either method detailed above) and click the “share” link underneath the item bank name. Start typing the name of the person you want to add and click their full name from the drop-down that appears. Repeat for any other people you want to add, click “add,” then click “done” to exit out of the pop-up. 

3. Item banks are linked across courses – change something in one place, and you change it everywhere.  

This might sound a little scary – but it’s actually really helpful! Let’s imagine you have multiple sections of a course, and you use the same quizzes with questions pulled from the same item bank in all of them. If you discover a typo or some other error that needs to be tweaked in a question, you can edit it in the item bank and the changes will take effect in all the places where that quiz question is present.  

But don’t worry – updating the question does not retroactively change questions that a student has already answered. Canvas creates a copy of the question in the bank that will be used going forward. There’s a different method in place for regrading and affecting questions and points in a current course, and we’ll talk about that more in the future!  

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