Canvas - Grading in Canvas


Canvas is Virginia Tech's learning management system (LMS). Instructors use Canvas to manage teaching materials like assignments, quizzes, feedback, and student grades. 

  • Official courses are automatically created in instructors' Canvas accounts.
  • Enrolled students are automatically added.
  • Instructors can reuse teaching materials by importing them to a new course site.
  • Canvas provides 24-7 support by phone (833-639-7621) and chat (click Help on any Canvas screen).

The Canvas Student Guide and the Canvas Instructor Guide have full instructions on using Canvas. These instructions are specific to Virginia Tech. To see other Canvas topics, please see Using Canvas at Virginia Tech (for Instructors) or Using Canvas at Virginia Tech (for Students).



Assessment Setup

When organizing assessments in Canvas, it's important to select the right type for your course and students. You can choose between Canvas Assignments, which includes tools like Gradescope, or Canvas Quizzes (Classic and New). See Canvas Assessment Options for details for each option.

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Best Practices with Canvas Grades

Setting Manual Posting/Grading

The default grade posting policy is set to automatically post grades. We recommend that you set the grade posting policy to manually post grades during course setup:

  1. Go to the Grades tab in your Canvas site and select the Settings icon in the top right corner.
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  2. Click on the Grade Posting Policy tab, then click on the option to Manually Post Grades and Apply Settings.
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  3. You'll go back to the gradebook.
    • Assignment headers now display the Manual label, indicating that a manual posting policy is in place and future grades are hidden from student view.
    • Once a submission has been graded, the assignment header will display the Visibility icon, indicating that there are grades within the assignment that must be posted before students can view them.
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For the full documentation, see: How do I select a grade posting policy for a course in the Gradebook?

If you choose to stay with an automatic posting policy, you can set a manual policy for specific assignments when needed. See: How do I select a grade posting policy for an assignment in the Gradebook?

Set Other Posting Policies
Post Grades
  1. Hover over the assignment name, click the three dots that appear, and choose Post Grades in the drop down menu. 
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  2. In the sidebar pop up, choose whether you want to release to everyone or only those with grades or comments. You can also choose individual sections. 
  3. Click the Post button.
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See What Your Students See in the Gradebook

While in Grades, select a student’s name. In the pop up, select Grades to go to the student's view.

By default, students see a calculated total grade with an option to “Calculate based only on graded assignments” and the ability to calculate What-If Grades. For students to be able to calculate grades accurately for the course, all assignments (quizzes, discussions, assignments, etc) must be created with possible points but do not need to be published. 

To turn off the calculated total grade (and What-if-Grade calculations) in Student Grades: 

  1. Open the course Settings from the course navigation menu. 
  2. Scroll to the bottom and select more options
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  3. Place a check in the box next to Hide totals in student grades summary.
  4. Click the Update Course Details button. 
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  5. Students will now see Calculation of totals has been disabled.

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Setting Viewing Defaults

When managing a large course, loading the Canvas gradebook can be time-consuming. Additionally, navigating through numerous rows and columns can become cumbersome. However, you can streamline this process by adjusting some general view settings. Keep in mind that many of these options, such as filter presets, are personalized, so you'll need to configure them yourself. This applies to your teaching assistants as well; they'll need to set up their own preferences, even after you've configured yours.

  • Hide unnecessary columns. Click the gear icon located in the top right corner of the grades page and navigate to the View Options tab. From there, you have the ability to toggle the checkboxes to display or conceal specific columns. For instance, you can choose not to display unpublished assignments or the notes column, or hide assignment group sub-totals.
  • Sort gradebook columns. You have the option to enable automatic sorting of columns in Canvas. When set to Default Order, your columns will be sorted according to the same order as your assignments displayed on the assignments page. Additionally, you can choose to sort alphabetically or by due date. Occasionally, you may need to switch to a different sort order and then revert for Canvas to recognize the need to re-sort.
  • Sort your assignment columns. You have the ability to arrange your assignment columns based on criteria such as grade or late status. Simply click on the "..." icon in the column header and choose Sort By to access these options.
  • Show extra student information. In a large enrollment course, encountering students with identical or similar names is more common. To distinguish between them, you can request Canvas to display additional information. Simply click on the "..." icon in the column header for Student Name. You can also explore other options based on your preferences.

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Creating Filter Presets

You can create and save filters to display specific sets of students or assignments. An example of this is when each grader sets up a filter to view only the students they're assigned to.

To create a filter:

  1. On the Grades tab in your Canvas site, click the Apply Filters button.
  2. In the drop down menu, click on Create & Manage Filter Presets.
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  3. Click on Create Filter Preset.
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  4. Assign the filter a name and criteria, such as a specific section, assignment group, date, etc. from the drop-down list.
  5. Click Save Filter Preset to create your filter.
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  6. In the future, when you choose Apply Filter, any presets you've set up will be readily available in the list for quick application. 

To remove an applied filter, simply click the "X" next to the filter name, which will appear in the same row as the Apply Filters button.

Learn more about enhanced gradebook filters.

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Setting Default Grades

In Canvas, when you mark a grade as "-" (the default grade), the system interprets it as "exempt." It's essential that you input a grade of 0 for any missing assignments to ensure they affect a student's overall grades.

However, manually finding and inputting these zeros can be time-consuming. Thankfully, there's a tool available for bulk grading.

  1. In the Canvas gradebook, navigate to the assignment column you want to update and hover over the assignment title.
  2. Click on the ellipsis icon and choose Set Default Grade.
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  3. Input the appropriate grade for missing submissions (typically 0) and click Set Default Grade.
    • Remember not to activate the overwrite checkbox; otherwise, all grades will be replaced with the new value, regardless of their previous status.
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Learn more about setting a default grade.

As you manage assignments throughout the semester, it's best to address missing submissions individually when closing each assignment. However, there might be instances, especially towards the end of the semester, where you need to handle all missing submissions at once.

  1. Locate the total or subtotal column in the gradebook.
  2. Click on the ellipsis icon.
  3. Choose Apply Score to Ungraded. This action will apply the designated score to all ungraded assignments simultaneously. Exercise caution when using this feature to avoid unintended consequences.

Learn more about applying scores to ungraded assignments. Note: The Apply Score to Ungraded feature option does not apply to New Quizzes.

When a student is exempt from an assignment, meaning their grades are calculated as if the assignment didn't exist, simply enter "EX" as the grade before filling in zeros for multiple submissions in a batch.

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Message Students Who

In Canvas, you have various options to send targeted messages to students based on specific criteria, with the gradebook being the primary tool for this. For instance, you can send reminders to students who haven't submitted yet, or to those who scored above or below a certain threshold to encourage them. This feature ensures that each student receives their own Canvas message discreetly, without revealing who else received one.

To utilize this feature:

  1. Navigate to the Gradebook and locate the assignment.
  2. Click on the ellipsis icon in the column header for the assignment.
  3. Click on Message Students Who to explore your options.
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Learn more about messaging students from the gradebook.

Note: You can also send targeted messages like this from the groups page (for students who have not yet signed up for a group) and with certain filters in the New Analytics.

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Use Rubrics

Using a rubric to evaluate your assignments can streamline and standardize the grading process, leading to quicker and more uniform assessments. Typically, you'll start by creating a rubric, linking it to an assignment, and then graders will utilize the rubric in SpeedGrader to provide feedback and comments. If you opt for rubrics, ensure to activate the checkbox for utilizing the rubric for assignment grading after attaching it to an assignment, especially if you intend to incorporate the rubric's numeric score into the assignment score.

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Launch SpeedGrader Filtered (by student group or section)

In large courses with multiple student groups, you can use SpeedGrader filtering by student groups. When the Launch SpeedGrader Filter by Student Group box is set in Course Settings, you’ll need to choose a student group when accessing SpeedGrader to grade assignments, quizzes, discussions, or through the Gradebook. This ensures only students from the selected group are shown in SpeedGrader.

Learn more about launching SpeedGrader filtered.

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Grade Quizzes by Question

In SpeedGrader, you have the option to grade quizzes question-by-question, rather than grading the entire quiz at once for an individual student. This feature allows for more focused grading and smoother navigation between questions and student submissions. When enabled, grading a quiz question will automatically scroll to the same question on the next student's submission. This can be useful for dividing the grading of a Canvas quiz by question rather than by student or section.

Learn more about grading one quiz question at a time.

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Moderated Grading

Moderated grading is found in the settings of an assessment and enables the lead instructor to delegate grading tasks to multiple graders while retaining the final authority to confirm and accept the grades (moderation). Moderated grading helps streamline grading processes by allowing collaborative evaluation and ensuring consistency. While it can work nicely with rubrics, it's not obligatory.

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Build a SpeedGrader Comment Library

In Canvas SpeedGrader, you can create a comment library to save and reuse comments for providing feedback on assignments. It's important to note that this feature doesn't currently support annotation comments, and the comments cannot be anonymous.

Learn more about the comment library feature.

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Anonymize Instructor Annotations

Canvas offers the option to anonymize grader annotations in SpeedGrader by hiding the annotator's name.

  • This feature only applies to annotations within the document view, not to overall comments in the comment box.
  • Anonymous Instructor Annotations is separate from the anonymous grading setting, which conceals student names from graders. Both of these settings can be set in the settings of individual assessments.

Anonymous Instructor Annotations is off by default, but can be enabled course-wide. To turn it on:

  1. Navigate to your course site and click Settings in the course navigation menu.
  2. Go to the Feature Options tab and click the red X next to Anonymous Instructure Annotations, then click Enable.
  3. Go to any assignment and edit it. You'll now see an option to enable Anonymous Instructor Annotations.
    • Note: This will only anonymize annotations after the box is checked in the assignment settings. It does not retroactively apply anonymity to annotations.
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Learn more about anonymous instructor annotations.

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New Analytics

New Analytics in Canvas can provide valuable insights into student engagement and performance within your course.

  1. Go to Canvas and navigate to your course site.
  2. Click on New Analytics in the course navigation menu.
  3. Generate reports on student activity, grades, and overall course engagement.

These reports may allow you to identify trends, such as peak activity times or students at risk of falling behind, allowing for timely intervention and support. Despite its name, New Analytics has replaced the classic analytics feature and offers a stable platform for data-driven decision-making.

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Getting Help

For instructions on resolving common issues with Canvas, see:

Instructure, the creators of Canvas, provide 24-7 Canvas support, including live chat and a support hotline.

To get Canvas help, click Support on any Canvas screen and choose from help options:

In Canvas, use the new Help Docs button located near the Support button that will provide quick access to a knowledge base located inside Canvas.

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