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Guidelines for planning assignments in Canvas

Assignments in Canvas can be both graded (e.g., submission assignments, graded discussions, graded quizzes, and graded surveys) and ungraded (e.g., practice quizzes, ungraded surveys, and ungraded assignments). A simple online assignment in canvas includes an assignment name, assignment instruction, score points, and a due date.   

Start by creating assignment groups.

Assignment groups help organise assignments into categories or groups that can be weighted to calculate final grades in your Gradebook. For example, you can create assignment groups such as Continual Assignments (CAs), Quizzes, Reflections and Projects. To retain a margin for instructor discretion, we encourage instructors to create an Assignment Group and associated Assignment that will not be graded until the end of the semester. Many instructors have used a Participation Assignment worth around 10% of the grade for this.

Make use of the varied assignment submission types.

Canvas has four main submission types for assignments:

    • online (submitted via Canvas),
    • on-paper (in-person), and
    • no-submission (used to grade assessment components that does not require students to submit. For example, this may include class participation component, individual presentation, assignments that involves multiple scores), and
    • external tool (submitted via third-party tool such as Turnitin).
    • You should clearly explain in the assignment description the purpose of on-paper and no submission assignments to avoid confusion. This will inform students as to whether a submission is required and how they are supposed to submit it.

Be consistent in assigning points to the graded assignments.

It is a good practice to be consistent throughout your course and assign a point value or percentage to your graded assignments. If you wish to use percentage, simply use 100 points. If the assignment is ungraded, no grade column will appear in the Gradebook.

Create differentiated assignments by due date for multiple sections and groups.

Canvas allows you to set multiple due dates within a single assignment for sections, groups, and/or individual students. Do not create multiple assignments for individual students, sections, groups or to accommodate late submissions. The differentiated assignments options allow instructors to adjust due dates for selected students and sections as this enables all student grades stay in the same gradebook component. Instructors can easily filter submissions by section when marking using the SpeedGrader.

Provide unlimited attempts.

Even though you can apply options to limiting students’ attempts to an assignment, providing unlimited attempts is recommended. This will enable students to re-submit the assignment as many times as necessary, and their last attempt is taken as the final submission. If you plan to apply limited attempts with an assignment, it is important to note that Canvas does not provide any moderating options.

Design reflective assignments.

Canvas Assignment tool can be used to prompt student reflections submitted only to you as an instructor. Allowing for Unlimited attempts enables you to flip between the various student reflections over the course of the semester, as students can submit multiple times to the same assignment. This type of reflective assignment is ideal if you wish to have one overall grade for the whole semester. Alternatively, you can set up multiple assignments if you want to give a grade for each individual reflection.

Foster peer learning through graded discussion assignments.

Use graded discussions to enable class-wide viewing and commenting on individual student contributions and reflections. Choose “Allow threaded replies” and “Users must post before seeing replies” in the Options section to allow students to first submit their posts before they can reply to specific posts, creating a more conversational atmosphere. You can provide feedback and grades for the student posts vis SpeedGrader but will not be allowed to add direct annotations on the posts.


Additional Reference

Assignment design tips and checklist from University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence