68 Import an Open Textbook into a LMS

Clint Lalonde

Last update: Oct 17/22

A request we often hear from instructors is that they would like to add an open textbook to their institutional learning management system (LMS). With course cartridges (also known as IMS Common Cartridge or just Common Cartridge), you can do just that.

Some  open textbooks are available as course cartridges. Course cartridges are designed to be imported into your institutional LMS, which allows your learners to access open textbook content without having to leave the LMS. It also gives instructors some limited customization opportunities in that you can reorder chapters of the book within your LMS or hide textbook content that is not relevant to your learners using the functions within your LMS.

What is a course cartridge?

A course cartridge is a standardized way of packaging and exchanging digital learning materials based on the IMS Thin Common Cartridge web links standard. The course cartridge is a special file that can be downloaded from the textbook and imported into your institutional LMS course shell. The course cartridge contains links to the online version of the textbooks with each link leading a student to a section or module within the textbook. Since these links appear as modules in your LMS, you can adjust them like a module in your LMS setting specific release dates for them, deleting content you are not using, or rearranging them to customize the course content for your students.


While you do have some flexibility to rearrange chapters or sections of the book from within your LMS, you cannot edit the contents of the book as the common cartridge does not make a copy of the book in your LMS. For example, you won’t be able to edit the text of the book or add, edit or remove specific images within the book.

Also, the availability of course cartridges varies by book. To see if the book you are interested in has a Common Cartridge file available, follow the instructions described below.

Find and download the Common Cartridge file

  1. Find a book you would like to use.
  2. On the book page, expand the “Alternate Formats” drop-down menu. If the book has a Common Cartridge file available, you will see it listed there under “LMS Integration.”
  3. Click the “Common Cartridge (Web Links)” button to download the file to your computer. The file will have a file extension of .imscc designating it as an IMS Common Cartridge file.
A screenshot of a book page in the BC Open Collection. The "Alternate Formats" drop-down is displaying with the "Common Cartridge" file selected.
If a book in the BC Open Collection has a Common Cartridge file available, it will be listed under “Alternate Formats.”

Adding the Common Cartridge file to your LMS

Once you have the cartridge saved on your computer, log in to your LMS.

The method for uploading the cartridge, and the options you have when uploading the cartridge, will vary depending on what LMS you use at your institution. Below are instructions for the some of the most common LMS’s in use in the higher education sector; Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas and Brightspace. While these should work for you, each LMS can be configured slightly differently and if the process does not work for you, ask your institutional LMS support for assistance.


Course cartridges can be imported into Moodle course shells using the same process as a Moodle course restore.



To add a book to your Canvas course:

  1. Open Canvas and access your course settings
  2. Select Import Course Content from the right sidebar menu
  3. Open the Content Type menu and select Common Cartridge 1.x Package
  4. Click Choose File and select the Common Cartridge file you’ve downloaded to your device
  5. Click Import

After you’ve imported the file, the course will populate with the structure of the book.

Screenshot of a Canvas course shell showing how the book is populated in the course shell

The Parts, as well as Front Matter and Back Matter sections will appear as modules, and Chapters within those sections will appear as items within the module. Instructors or instructional designers can then intersperse these weblinks with other content, like quizzes, within the LMS.

When a student clicks on a chapter, a live version of that chapter in the public webbook will display within the LMS interface. Users can use LMS navigation tools to move to other content or activities within the module or the course.

Screenshot of a Canvas course showing a Pressbooks book chapter embedded within the Canvas course shell


For instructions on importing a course cartridge, refer to the Brightspace documentation on importing IMS Common Cartridge packages.


For Blackboard instructions, refer to the Blackboard support documentation Common Cartridge Course Packages.

Text Attributions


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Sask Polytechnic Pressbooks Guide Copyright © 2016-2022 by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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