Often Your Canvas Support Team fields questions as to why and how one should use Grades within Canvas. Below are some of of the tips and tricks that we regularly suggest.
Remember WHY You are Using a Gradebook
At the heart of the very concepts grading resides the notion of how important feedback to the learner is; Reenforcing what they have (or may not have) learned from the lessons being taught is a cornerstone of academic endeavors. Back filling grades at a date far removed from the completion of the assignment or assessment prevents learners from getting the timely feedback they need to proceed in your well scaffolded course and prevents them from having a meaningful idea of how much of the material they are actually understanding. Additionally, grade transparency is important to help provide learners with a sense of how they are fairing in one’s class. Without knowing if they are meeting expectations and learning outcomes it is easy for a learner to become frustrated with and potentially despondent to further instruction.
For these reasons it’s strongly recommended that use of the gradebook feature (and Speedgrader) be employed in a timely fashion to provide meaningful feedback to learners.
Grade EVERY Assignment for Every Learner (Yes, Even Zeros)
If a learner doesn’t submit an assessment and you don’t enter a zero for them, their final grade will be calculated as if they’d achieved 100% on said assessment.
There are three ways to ensure that a learner receives a zero for an unsubmitted assessment:
1. Manually enter a zero by clicking on the box next to their name and typing it in.
2. As an instructor, you can view learner grades as if all ungraded assignments are worth zero points in the Gradebook. This feature is called “Treat Ungraded as 0,” and is located in Gradebook Settings. Treat Ungraded as 0 is a visual change and does not affect any grades. This setting shows the change in Gradebook calculations if ungraded assignments were given scores of zero. Enabling this option has no effect outside of the Gradebook; learners cannot see any difference in their grade pages. Similarly, TAs or other instructors in the course will not see any change in their view of the Gradebook. Only the user who enables this option will see the affected grades.
When the Treat Ungraded as 0 setting is enabled, assignments that do not have a grade will be treated as if a learner received a score of zero. You can disable this setting in the Gradebook at any time. Even when this setting is enabled, Canvas will not populate zeros in the Gradebook. Dashes will still display for each learner submission.
3. Finally, one could use the “Default Grade” function, which allows you to give all learners who haven’t submitted an assessment the same grade at once.
Use “Assignment Groups” and “Weighted Grading” to Manage Groups of Assignments
You can weight final grades based on assignment groups. Selecting this option assigns a weight to each assignment group, not the assignments themselves. Within each assignment group, a percentage is calculated by dividing the total points a learner has earned by the total points possible for all assignments in that group.
For example, if an assignment group included three assignments totaling 25 points, and a learner’s scores totaled 15 points, the learner would earn 60% for the assignment group (15/25). This percentage is then multiplied by the selected group weight. Each assignment group calculation is added together to create the final grade. Of course, Canvas handles all the math on the back end, so you don’t have to!
Mark Assessments Out of 100 and Then Allocate an Overall Weighting
For your own sanity and that of your learners we recommend making the value of each assignment within a weighted category the same. Because most of us think of our grades in percentages scaled to a letter grade anyway, we highly recommend using a 100 point scale for each assignment. Doing so will avoid the necessity of mental gymnastics on the part of both you and your learners when trying to calculate what another arbitrary number equates to
“Mute Assignments” to Prevent Learners From Receiving Notifications Until You are Ready
By default, Canvas assignments are set up to send learners feedback and grades as soon as you enter it. If you’d like to release all grades and feedback at once, enter grades and then review them, or simply wish to avoid the classic, ‘Why has Timmy received his grade and I have not?’ emails you can “Mute” assignment when before you begin grading and then unmute them when you’re ready to share the grades and feedback. When you unmute a graded assessment, learners will see a the grade and feedback as well as the updated total for all assessments.
Delete Unused Assignment Groups
To avoid the confusion unused assignment groups can cause by showing up in the Gradebook you should delete any unused Assignment Groups from within Assignments. This level of Gradebook cleanliness will not only keep your learners happy, but when importing your Canvas course into another course later on, Future You will thank you as well!
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