Canvas for Assessment in Semester 1 (AY2020/21)

The following guidance will support you in setting up and administering assessments in the current semester (Semester 1 AY2020/21). It highlights the need to consider both the circumstances of the students when undertaking any assessment, as well as the logistics involved in the use of Canvas.

The advice has been designed to help you quickly and easily consider what mode of submission is suitable for your students in the current situation and to guide you in how best to set up and administer assignments and quizzes in Canvas in order to avoid any potential pitfalls.

📑 Note that the Handbook of Assessment Guidance and Support 2020-21 is now available via Queen’s Online and on the website. The guidance outlined within the Handbook is the University’s preferred practice on assessment. Queries can be directed to Dr Claire Dewhirst, Head of Centre for Educational Development (CED).

Key Considerations for use of Assignments

When considering how students should submit any pieces of assessment online in the current semester, it is recommended that the method employing the least amount of technology should be preferred over more technology reliant alternatives. In the current context, the less complex the assessment is, the better able students will be to submit without incident, and the less likely you will have any problems once it is submitted.

Some key considerations to bear in mind when planning any assessment in Canvas:

  1. Keep it Simple – From instructions to submissions, simplify the process.
  2. Stick with Low-Tech – Don’t over rely on complex technology. Do not expect the tech to run as if there wasn’t an ongoing global emergency.
  3. Devices – Students may not have the hardware required. Consider how students will access and summit their assignments. A mobile phone may be the only device they have access to.
  4. Turnitin – At the current time, the system supplier (Turnitin) are experiencing ongoing issues resulting in a poor student and academic experience. In this current assessment period, Schools are advised that they do not use Turnitin. The Canvas Team continue to monitor the response of Turnitin supplier to these issues but there is the potential for these to impact Turnitin assignment within Canvas.  If you do still intend to use Turnitin for the purpose of dissertations, please ensure that you follow the guidance set out in the QUB ‘Getting Started With Canvas‘ course to minimise any potential issues.
  5. Anonymous Grading – The process of anonymous grading in Canvas raises potential issues such as problems in the identification of students with exceptional circumstances, late submissions and feedback to all students. This may impact on student experience and therefore we would advise that you do not use anonymous grading in Canvas.
  6. Use Assignments rather than Quizzes – The use of any real-time quizzing system relies on students having bandwidth and equipment to submit in a short timeframe, and puts concentrated pressure on the system. Consideration should be given to these issues before deciding upon the use of Canvas Quizzes for summative assessment.
  7. Accessibility – Assessment approaches must allow all students to have the opportunity to engage fully and perform on an equal basis with their peers and designing for accessibility is important when creating online assessments.
  8. Use of 3rd Party Tools/Apps: During the examination period in May 2020, a number of students encountered difficulty when using unsupported 3rd party tools such as Microsoft LENS. It is recommended to only use tools supported by the University. If Schools do have a requirement to use unsupported tools, provide clear guidance to students on how to use and instruction on an alternative submission options should they encounter any issues submitting via Canvas.
  9. School based decision to support local contexts: There are different options to consider with assignment settings to suit local contexts. Schools need to take firm decisions on approach and communicate effectively to staff. For example, a school decision around setting of the assignment ‘until date’ or decisions around avoiding use of rubrics in cases where multiple graders are involved in the marking process etc. needs to be agreed.
  10. Consider all eventualities – For time bound assessment, consider a test run so that students are comfortable with the process.  Have a Plan B in place for submission, e.g. use of email to upload/submit files.

🔳 When setting up your Assignments, please do refer to the Canvas Assignment Checklist to ensure your setup is correct:


Manual Grade Posting Policy

Make sure the Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Manual’

The Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Automatic’ by default. If this is not changed to ‘Manual’ then any grades that are input into Canvas will be released to students immediately.

◼  View detailed guidance on how to Set the Grade Posting Policy to Manual

Hide Running Grade Totals

Go to settings and click ‘Hide running total from students’.

Canvas automatically provides the student with a running total based on assessment taken to date. To avoid potential confusion and anxiety we advise hiding this total.

◼  View detailed guidance on how to Hide Running Totals from students

Create an Assignment Group for Each Assignment

Do this for each assignment that contributes to the final module mark.

Once you have an assignment group created for each of the pieces of assessment that are allocated a percentage weighting, you can weight these using the ‘Assignment Groups Weight’ function.

◼   View detailed guidance on how to create  Assignment Group

Provide Clear Instructions

Make the instructions clear and unambiguous.

Keep the instructions as simple as you possibly can for your students explaining exactly what you expect them to do.

◼  View our guidance on how to keep instructions clear for students

Choose Your Assignment Settings Carefully

There are multiple settings in Canvas assignments that may be applicable.

There are some key decisions that you will need to make when setting up your assignment so please take time to understand the implications of each. Some of the more important considerations are:

  • Submission Type: (Turnitin Guidance)
  • Anonymous Grading: (Insert Advice)

◼  View detailed guidance and considerations on assignment set up

Check assignment availability dates prior to publishing

Check the ‘available from’ and ‘available to’ times are set before publishing.

It is important that students can only view the assignment at the time you wish to release it so consider these settings when creating the assignment.

◼    View detailed guidance on considerations around assignment availability dates

Ensure all markers have access

Make sure all markers have access to the Canvas course in advance.

Contact your school admin as soon as possible to grant access to those requiring it.

◼  View guidance on how to ensure all markers have access to the relevant Canvas courses

Check Grade Posting Policy is Manual

Check that the Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Manual’.

As outlined above, the Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Automatic’ by default. If this is not changed to ‘Manual’ then any grades that are input into Canvas will be released to students immediately.

◼  View guidance on how to check your Grade Posting Policy

Mark submissions in Speedgrader

Mark the submissions / input grades in Speedgrader.

Submissions can be marked online through the Canvas Speedgrader. Marks can be input into Canvas then exported through the Gradebook function.

◼  View guidance on using Canvas Speedgrader

Key Considerations for use of Quizzes

If you are intending to use Canvas Quizzes during Semester 1, there are some considerations that you should take into account before you make this decision. Good assessment design is imperative in addition to the use of question banks and question groups in Canvas to reduce the potential for concerns that may impact on the assessment process. The considerations around the use of Canvas Quizzes fall under three areas:

  1. Will the students have the technical equipment and physical location available at the time of the quiz to complete it.  The use of a time-bound objective test type quiz relies on students having access to Canvas at the time of the quiz in an appropriate location with appropriate technology and appropriate connectivity. Please consider whether all students are likely to have all 3 of these when considering the use of Canvas Quizzes.
    Alternative: Use Canvas Assignments to enable students to submit the answers to the same questions you intended to use in your Canvas Quiz to mitigate the risks outlined above.
  2. Is the use of objective test questions such as MCQs appropriate to the learning outcomes of your course? If the learning outcomes of your course are focused on understanding, comprehension and application then it is difficult to test these using short form objective test questions. These types of questions will usually test knowledge and recall rather than understanding and application.If a student can conduct an internet search and easily find the answer to the question you are asking, for example; What is the capital of Mongolia?, then that question is likely to be knowledge based.If however the question was based on a scenario written by you, for example; Based on the scenario above which of the following ethical principles is under threat?, then this answer could not be easily ‘Googled’ and tests the application of knowledge.In higher education we are generally expecting understanding and critical thinking to be demonstrated so it is important to consider whether the questions in a quiz are appropriate for summative assessment.
    Alternative: Use of Canvas Assignments to have students submit a longer, more considered piece of work that is related to the understanding of the content and authentic to their experience on the course.
  3. Can the integrity of the Quiz be guaranteed? Related to point 1 above the students will easily be able to search out the answers online in the current situation if the questions in your quiz are ‘knowledge based’. In addition to this, there is the risk that students may collude to answer questions collectively. You can overcome the first of these issues by good assessment design as described above, but please consider the potential impact of the second of these when designing your quiz and consider the use of Question Banks and Question Groups in Canvas to reduce the potential for such concerns to impact your assessment if you feel a quiz is still appropriate.
    Alternative: Careful construction of appropriate questions and use of Question Banks and Question groups.

If you feel that Canvas Quizzes is the appropriate means of assessment for your module then please review guidance below.


It is good practice to set up question banks first BEFORE creating the quiz. This is where all your questions are stored. This is a lengthier process than manually adding questions individually to a quiz, but the benefits are that your questions can be re-used multiple times for future use.

◼  How do I create a question bank in a Canvas course?

NOTE: The linked guidance above points out the difference between Canvas Quiz engines (Classic Quizzes) and (New Quizzes), but please ignore this as we have Classic Quizzes only in QUB.

You can then choose to set up question groups to allow you to place multiple questions within a group for students to answer. Creating a question group randomises or shuffles questions within a quiz (which is useful if you are using quizzes for class tests or graded assessments, and particularly if you intend to run the quiz within a limited time period).

◼  How do I create a quiz with a question group linked to a question bank?

NOTE: The linked guidance above points out the difference between Canvas Quiz engines (Classic Quizzes) and (New Quizzes), but please ignore this as we have Classic Quizzes only in QUB.

Once you have set-up your quiz, don’t forget to Preview, before publishing as you can check how the questions are being pulled in from the groups.



Using Quizzes in Canvas

13:00-13:30, Thurs 26 Nov 2020

Setting up Assignments in Canvas

13:00-13:30, Fri 27 Nov 2020

Using Quizzes in Canvas

13:00-13:30, Tues 01 Dec 2020

Browser and Computer requirements for Canvas

For best performance, Canvas should be used on the current or first previous major release of Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari. Because it’s built using web standards, Canvas runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or any other device with a modern web browser.  Link to further information on supported browser and computer requirements for Canvas.