How to: Canvas Assignments


Assignments, Canvas, Feedback & Assessment, Getting Started, How to, LMS, Professional development Leave a Comment

What is a Canvas Assignment?

A Canvas assignment can be any graded item; papers, quizzes, or even an in-class presentation. It can be anything you wish to record for a student.


  • Create Assignment Groups to categorise work or tasks such as attendance, discussions, papers, quizzes, etc. All groups can be used to create a weighted total for the final grade.

  • Customise submission types from students (you can restrict the kinds of files allowed); provide a URL; create a media recording as submissions for Assignments.

  • Designate Assignments as group work, customise the settings, and require peer reviews.

  • Assignments are automatically added to the Calendar and the course’s Syllabus area, and can be created directly from the Calendar

  • Speed Grader is tied to each Assignment.

It is similar to a Blackboard assignment in that:
  • Submitted assignments are time and date stamped
  • Students can resubmit their work for an assignment and their submission history is viewable by teachers
  • Assignment groups can be used to categorise work or tasks such as attendance, discussions, papers, quizzes etc. All groups can be used to create a weighted total for the final grade.
  • Assignments can be set as group work. You can customise settings and require peer review.

However it differs in that:

  • The concept of an assignment is much broader in Canvas than in Blackboard. An Assignment in Canvas can be any assessment type.
  • In Canvas you cannot create a grade column in the gradebook without creating as assignment first, however you are able to create ‘assignments’ that are for offline tasks (eg. in-class presentations).
more about Canvas Assignments [Canvas community documentation]

Good practice examples

If you have any examples of good practice, let us know and we’ll share them here!


What is the grade distribution graph?

By default, Canvas allows students to see a grade distribution graph for each assessment task. This graph displays to students the highest score, the lowest score, and the mean for each assignment, allowing students to visualise how their result compares with that of other students.  If you do not wish students to have access to this graph, follow the instructions below:

  1. Login to Canvas and select the course in which you want to hide the grade distribution graphs.
  2. Click on Settings at the bottom of the left navigation menu.
  3. Click on the Course Details tab at the top.
  4. At the bottom of the list of settings, click the more options link.
  5. Tick the check box next to the Hide grade distribution graphs from students option.
  6. Click the blue Update Course Details button.

What is the difference between the assignment submission types “paper” and “no submission”?

Functionally there is no difference between these assignment types, both create an Assignment (assignment details) and a column in the Gradebook (to enter grades and feedback), but no submission link for students. In the Canvas community “paper” is often used for assignment submissions external to Canvas and “no submission” for extra credit, however either can be used for assessments where online submission is not appropriate. See How do I add or edit details in an assignment? for further instructions.

How can I hide grades from students until I’ve finished marking?

In the Gradebook (Grades) you can mute a published assignment until you’re ready to release the grades to students. You currently can’t set it to automatically release on a specified date, it is a manual process. See ‘How do I mute or unmute an assignment in the Gradebook?‘ for further instructions.

In student view, the assignment appears as follows.

Canvas assignments with multiple submission types

When you set up a Canvas Assignment to include more than one online submission type, only one of the files / link the students add are actually submitted. There’s no indication or message that not all the things they’ve added via the tabs have been submitted. Students can add multiple submissions, but they need to do this by ‘resubmitting’ the assignment, and then you can toggle between the different submissions in SpeedGrader.

Demonstration Screencast


Can I use Canvas rubrics with a TurnItIn assignment?

Yes. If you want to use a Canvas rubric for the assignment, you must add the rubric before setting the External Tool submission type. Create the assignment with any other submission type, save the assignment, add the rubric, and then edit the assignment to select the External Tool > Turnitin. You can then use the Canvas rubric when grading in SpeedGrader.
This is very important if you wish to have Turnitin submissions but also wish to track learning outcomes/accreditation requirements/competency attainment using the Canvas Outcomes function.

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