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Frequently Asked Questions about Canvas

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Orienting to Canvas

Watch a video overview of Canvas here.

Organizing your Canvas Course Site

Where do students submit graded work? 

Students submit their graded work to the "Assignments" tool. There are several settings you'll need to adjust within the "Assignments" tool; for example, you'll need to designate whether the assignment will be graded on a points-based system, a holistic letter grade system, or as "complete/incomplete." You'll also set the due date for the assignment submission in this tool and decide how long you'd like to allow students to submit the assignment. To learn more about how the Assignments tool works, check out Canvas' support materials on using Assignments. 

Where do students submit ungraded work (for a DropBox-like functionality)? 

Use the "Assignments" tool in Canvas. Once you create your assignment, click "Edit," and then scroll down to the "Display Grade As" menu. You can select from a number of options, like "Not Graded," "Points," "Letter Grade," or "GPA."

How should students access course readings?

The best tool to use to organize course readings, websites, and other activities is Modules. While the "Files" tool is effective for storing documents, images, and videos from your hard drive, the Modules tool offers a more user-friendly interface for students because readings, web URLs, and other materials can be organized based on the unit you're teaching or the week you're teaching new material.

To learn more about how to use the Modules tool, check out Canvas' support on using Modules. 

How do I embed a URL into the Files?

Unfortunately, you cannot use put URLs into the Files tool. You can use the Modules tool to share URLs with your students.

How do I ensure that all of my course materials are visible to students? 

You will see a grey cloud icon with an "x" through the middle if your course material is unpublished. When you want to publish any of your course material, click the "grey" cloud; you will see that it becomes green and has a checkmark in the middle. Once the cloud is green, your work has been published and is visible to your students!

Here's a video about organizing Canvas sites.

Communicating with Students via Canvas

How do I contact the students in my course? 

Use the "Announcements" tool to contact your students about last-minute changes, reminders for class, and resources for them to explore. When you write an announcement and click the "save" button, the announcement will be immediately sent to all of your students. There is no "draft" feature in Announcements, so if you'd like to save a draft of an announcement, you can select the option to delay your post and send the announcement at a later date.

The only reasons an announcement might not reach a student in your class if your course is published or if an individual course members has opted to turn off notifications for announcements.

Can I send an e-mail to my class outside of Canvas?

Unfortunately, you cannot. You can use the "Inbox" tool instead of the "Announcements" tool if you'd like to send a message to your class, but you don't want the message to be archived in your class page. Otherwise, the "Announcements" tool is your best option.

Grading in Canvas

How do I use the Gradebook in Canvas? 

In Canvas, the "Grades" tool is auto-populated by scores you enter into the "Assignments" tool. In order to use the Canvas gradebook, you must already be using the "Assignments" tool. You can only modify scores in the "Grades" tool by changing the grades located in the "Assignments" tool.

How do I grade individual assignments in Canvas? 

When you set up an assignment in the "Assignments" tool, students will have a space to submit their work. Once students have submitted their work to an assignment, you will then be able to grade their work either by using the "Speedgrader" tool or by downloading their submissions. The Speedgrader tool will allow you to grade student work in your web browser without having to download documents. The Speedgrader tool also features essay mark-up options; you can add comments and highlight student writing directly in the browser. To learn more about the Speedgrader, check out the Canvas support website on Speedgrader. 

Here's a video about setting up assignments in Canvas.

Note that if you use the Speedgrader tool, students will see your grades as you're assigning them. If you do not want your student's grade to show up immediately after using Speedgrader, go into "Grades," hover over the graded item, and click the downward-facing arrow to reveal a drop-down menu. Click the arrow and select “Mute Assignment” from the menu. When you are ready to release the grades, go back into Grades, repeat this process, but choose to select “Unmute Assignment.”

Using the Attendance Tool

How do I use the Attendance tool? 

You can keep track of which students are in class and which are absent by clicking the "Attendance" tool in the left-hand toolbar. From there, you'll see that your students' names are automatically visible. Click the symbol that looks like a "no" sign; if you keep clicking that button, you'll see options for "in attendance" (a green button with a checkmark), "absent" (a red button with an "x"), and "tardy" (a yellow button with a clock icon). 

Can I indicate how many minutes late a student is if I select the "tardy" option? 

You cannot personalize the default buttons on the attendance tool. However, you can create "badges," which are like notes that you can repeatedly add to individual student entries. You can create "badges" by clicking the "More" button next to a student's name. Then, click "Add badge." to create a new badge for your class. For example, you could create a "badge" for "5 minutes late," "10 minutes late," and "20 minutes late" to indicate the extent to which a student was late to class. Similarly, you create a "badge" for positive accolades, like "Was an especially great leader in class discussion" or "I would love to hear more from you in the larger group conversation." You can create up to 5 badges for your course.

How do I get rid of or modify the "Roll Call Attendance" assignment? 

The Attendance tool automatically creates an Assignment called "Roll Call Attendance" that's worth 100 points. If you do not want attendance to be a graded part of your course, take the following steps:

  1. Go into "Assignments."
  2. Click "Roll Call Attendance."
  3. Click "Edit Assignment Settings."
  4. Scroll down to the drop-down menu for "Display Grade As"
  5. Select "Not Graded."
  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "Save."

If you'd like attendance to be a graded part of your course, but you want to change the "percentage" or "point" value, take the following steps: 

  1. Go into "Assignments." 
  2. Click "Roll Call Attendance." 
  3. Click "Edit Assignment Settings." 
  4. Scroll down to the drop-down menu for "Display Grade As"
  5. Select how you want the attendance grade to be displayed.
  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "Save." 

Need More Resources?

Consult our comprehensive Canvas Set-up Checklist (download available at link to Stanford members only) to go step-by-step through how you may want to set up your Canvas course site!