UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Canvas: Assignments & Grading

Best Practices & “Gotcha” Moments

  • Any and all items that you want to show up in the Canvas Gradebook must be added as an assignment, quiz, or graded discussion.
    • This applies even if there is nothing being turned in (a such as for a participation grade), if assignment is turned in on paper, or if the assignment is completed during class time.
  • You must manually enter a 0 score (or No Credit) for any missing assignments. Items left as as the default dashes will not calculate into the final score.
    • You can now set an automatic missing assignment policy, where Canvas will automatically assign a 0 score after the assignment due date has passed.
  • Assignment grades must be posted/un-muted for Students to see feedback. This is set on an assignment by assignment level.
  • Setting a Gradebook Policy to “Manually Post Grades” will automatically mute all assignments in the Gradebook, allowing you to grade, write feedback, and make changes to grades, without students being notified. You can then manually post the grades for each assignment (on an assignment by assignment level) when you are done grading and are ready for the feedback to be visible.
    • If the Gradebook Policy is set to “Automatically Post Grades,” all grades and feedback will automatically be visible, as soon as it is entered for each student, and students will receive a notification (depending upon their personal notification settings).

Making the Most of Assignments


Any items that you want to show up in the Canvas Gradebook must be added as an assignment, quiz, or graded discussion, even if the assignment is turned in on paper or completed during class time.

While some systems require a separate tool to submit assignments, Canvas allows assignments to be automatically integrated into the course. Assignments can be submitted online, on paper, or designated as “no submission” (for oral exams, presentations, or participation). Assignments can be submitted individually, or set up as group assignments in conjunction with Student Groups. There are also options for peer reviews and plagiarism detection using VeriCite.

Types of Online Assignments within Canvas include:

  • Text Entry
    • Students are given a version of the Rich Content Editor. It is not possible to limit word count/character count.
  • File Uploads
    • It is possible to restrict the file type.
  • Media Recordings
    • Students will be able to record Video and/or Audio clips from their computer, or upload an existing Video/Audio clip.
  • Website URL
    • A screenshot of the website is taken at the time of submission, which will be visible to the instructor in SpeedGrader, as well as a link to the website.


Tools and Tips for Effective Grading

Assignment Groups

When entering the Assignments area in Canvas for the first time, you’ll see a header called “Assignments”. This header is what Canvas refers to as an Assignment Group, and you can create as many as you’d like. Use Assignment Groups for two reasons:

  • To organize your assignments and make them easier to sort and find
  • For weighting grades (such as: having homework be worth 40% of the final grade)



A rubric is an assessment tool for communicating expectations of quality. A rubric lets students know exactly what you will be looking for when you grade the assignment, plus it allows you to grade quickly and consistently based on a set of criteria. You can add rubrics to assignments, quizzes and graded discussions.

A few tips for using Rubrics within Canvas:

  • You can reuse comments
  • You can set up Rubrics so that the point values automatically populate to the grade for an assignment, allowing you to quickly click on the rating for each criterion, and have the system add up the ratings and feed the total into the Gradebook for you.



SpeedGrader is a built in tool within Canvas that allows you to view and grade assignment submissions without the need to download and use a third party tool. You can even sort by Submission Status so that all students who have submitted, but have not yet been graded, are grouped together while you click through submissions. You can use SpeedGrader to preview files submissions such as Word Documents, PDFs, Website URL submissions, Quizzes, and Graded Discussions. SpeedGrader can also be used with Rubrics.

New Gradebook

The New Gradebook functions very similarly to the prior version of the Canvas Gradebook, with some new features and updates, including late/missing policies, greater sorting and filtering options, and the ability to view unpublished assignments.


The New Canvas Gradebook allows you to set policies for things like late and missing submissions, where Canvas will automatically deduct points depending upon how late a submission is, or assign an automatic 0 to missing assignment submissions.

If you prefer to operate within Excel and record and adjust grades there, this is still possible with the Canvas Gradebook. Canvas has some required information and columns, so it is helpful to first export a copy of the gradebook and retain the following columns:

  • Student Name
  • Student ID
  • SIS User ID
  • SIS Login ID
  • Section

From there, you can add any new assignments as new columns, and enter or adjust grades there.