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Five Keys to Grading in Canvas

  1. Assignments = Gradebook Columns.
    You add columns by adding assignments. An assignment can be any submission type including no submission, but it must be published before the Gradebook will display it.
  2. All assignments must eventually have a grade.
    Students with missed assignments should have a 0. Use the Set Default Grade option to do this automatically. You can also use the New Gradebook and have Canvas automatically assign 0 for missing work.
  3. All required assignments must specify a total points possible.
    This is done in the assignment settings and is needed for Canvas to accurately determine the total points possible for the course, and therefore, calculate an accurate total percentage. Carefully check your total score column to make sure grades are what you think they should be.
  4. Unique calculation scenarios are managed on the Assignments page.
    Create assignment groups with grading rules to drop the lowest or highest n scores. Check the "Weight the final score" box to set up weighting by assignment group.
  5. For letter grades, set up a grading scheme.
    Go to Settings > Course Details tab. Click Edit Course Details and check Enable Course Grading Scheme followed by Set Course Grading Scheme.
Here are some more topics that may be of interest:

How Canvas Calculates Total Grades

Standard Grading Approach:

(Points Earned / Total Points Possible) = Total Score (as percentage)

Weighted Grading Approach:

Where En = Points earned in assignment group n,

P= Total points possible in assignment group n,

Wn ­= Weighting for assignment group n, as decimal (e.g. wn = 25% = .25)

(( E1 / P1 ) * 100)W1 + ((E2 / P2 ) * 100)W2 + … + ((En / Pn) * 100)Wn = Total Percentage 

Current Score vs. Final Score

Current score omits all empty cells from the calculation.

Points Earned / Points Possible of Assignments Graded = Current Score (as Percentage)

Final score includes empty cells in calculation.

Points Earned / Total Points Possible for All Assignments = Final Score (as Percentage)

Common Mistakes when Setting Up Assignments and Grading

  1. Failing to specify a total points possible when setting up a required assignment.
    Results in assignment functioning as extra credit
  1. Failing to assign students who have not turned in an assignment a zero once the assignment due date has passed.
    Results in students seeing a better grade than they are actually receiving
  1. Failing to set and/or edit a custom grading scheme
    Results in no letter-grade calculation or an inaccurate letter-grade calculation
  1. Putting assignments that don’t belong into an assignment group with a grading rule
    Results in the grading rule dropping assignments that should not be dropped
  1. Putting an assignment rule on an assignment group containing assignments having different numbers of points possible
    Drops by lowest percentage rather than points, but unpredictably affects the total score.
  1. When using weighting for extra credit, putting more than one extra credit assignment in an extra credit assignment group
    Results in students receiving more extra credit than they deserve or believing they are receiving a worse grade for turning in extra credit before grades are finalized
  1. If publishing grades to Banner, failing to download the gradebook as CSV file and compare final scores with those shown to students in the gradebook
    May result in uncaught discrepancies

Getting Letter Grades

To Set up a grading scheme

  1. Navigate to the Settings page.
  2. Click the Course Details tab.
  3. Check Enable Grading Scheme.
  4. Select Set Grading Scheme.

    Enable course grading scheme checkbox
  5. Click the Pencil icon to edit the grading scheme.

    Edit the grading scheme screenshot
  6. Enter the appropriate ranges, and then click Save

    Grading Scheme dialog
  7. Close the grading scheme box. Save your course details.
  8. Check the results in the gradebook for accuracy.

General Gradebook Helps

  • You can keyboard navigate (tab, enter, and arrow keys to change cells. Click the keyboard icon for more information.
  • You can click on another column header to sort by that column’s values, either in ascending or descending order.
  • Message Students Who option lets you send messages to students who haven’t submitted assignments or have scored more or less than a given number of points.
  • You can mute assignments to prevent students from seeing scores, comments, or notifications pertaining to the assignment until you are ready to release them.
  • From an assignment, you can go directly to the speed grader from the gradebook or enter comments to students.Grading Options
  • You can sort columns by assignment group or due date.
  • You can toggle between current score and final score using “Treat Ungraded as 0.”
  • You can show a notes column for including notes that only you can see.
  • You can send grades directly to Banner from Canvas.
  • You can hide student names to view grades anonymously.
  • You can view a history of grade changes.


The Assignments page is arguably the most central to Canvas’s operation.

  • It controls the columns in the gradebook and gradebook calculations.
  • It displays all things gradable, including assignments, gradable discussions, and quizzes. Each can be created in Assignments.
  • Dates used in the syllabus and calendar are rapidly edited in Assignments.

Use assignment groups to achieve:Drop Lowest Score

  • Assignment categorization
  • Grading rules
    • Drop lowest n scores
    • Drop highest n scores
    • Never drop x assignment
  • Weighting of Grades


drag and drop icon Drag and drop assignments and assignment groups to desired locations
                           Options icon  Options menu
Edit Assignment Icon Edit assignment or assignment group
Add assignment icon Add an assignment or assignment group
Delete icon Delete an assignment or assignment group

Weighting Assignment Groups

  1. From the assignments page, click the main Options menu.
  2. Check the Weight the Final Grade check box.
  3. Enter the weight for each assignment group in the form on the right.
    1. Weights should typically equal 100, but can exceed 100 for extra credit.


You can use rubrics with the Canvas gradebook.  Rubrics explain the criteria you will use to evaluate the assignment and assign a grade. You can create rubrics from either the Assignments page or the Manage Rubrics page (which is opened from the Outcomes main page). 

Follow these instructions to create a rubric on the Assignment page. 

  1. On the Course Navigation menu, click Assignments.
  2. On the main Assignments page, click an assignment in the list to open it. 
  3. Click Add Rubric.
  4. In the Title box, type a name for the new rubric.
  5. In the Title box, type a name for this rubric.
  6. Click the + Criterion link to add more criterion to the rubric. Note that you cannot reorder criterion after you add them to the rubric. Be sure to add them in the order that you want.
  7. Set the Ratings scale and total points for each criterion in the rubric. You can click the arrow icon to create more rating boxes. You can use the Edit icon to adjust the rating points. Hint: Make sure that the total points equals the total points for the assignment.
  8. (Optional) Click Find Outcome to attach a learning outcome to the rubric.
  9. (Optional) Select Rubric settings. 
  10. When finished, click Create Rubric

Select the rubric settings

You can select some optional settings for a rubric. You can select rubric settings when you create the rubric. or by editing the rubric after you have created it. Click the Edit icon to open the rubric for editing. The Rubric Settings table explains the settings.

Rubric Settings Table
Setting Description
I'll write free-form comments when assessing students. This option lets you write comments for each criterion instead of using the ratings scale. If you select this option, you cannot give partial credit. You can still use the rubric for grading if you select both this option and the "Use this rubric for assignment grading" option.
Use this rubric for assignment grading. This option lets you view the rubric in SpeedGrader. 
Hide score total for assessment results The option hides the total score of the rubric from students when they view the rubric from the Grades page. You should only select this option if you are not using the rubric for grading.



Outcomes are statements of your educational objectives. They can be added to a rubric as criterion and used in grading. They are also used in the Learning Mastery gradebook.

Follow these instructions to create outcomes. 

  1. On the Course Navigation menu, click Outcomes.
  2. On the Outcomes page, click Add Outcome
  3. Type a name for the new Outcome name.
  4. (Optional) Type a Friendly name for the outcome. Canvas displays the Friendly name in the student view.
  5. Type a description for the outcome. We recommend that you use instructional objective phrasing. For example, "Students will be able to...".
  6. (Optional) Edit the criterion ratings. Canvas provides a default rating scale, however, you can edit the ratings names and values to your preference.
  7. Set the Mastery and Calculation methods. The Mastery field lets you specify how many points are needed for a mastery rating. The Calculation methods menu allows you to specify different calculation methods. The Decaying Average calculation method is the default.
  8. Click Save.

Using Darn Near Any Grading Scenario

  1. Create at least two assignment groups and check the option to weight the final grade by assignment group.
  2. Set the weight for one group at 0% and weight another group at 100%
  3. Place all of your standard assignments in the group that is weighted at 0%
  4. Create a no-submission assignment for the custom final grade in the group weighted at 100%
  5. Download the gradebook as a CSV file and use Excel to calculate your own unique grading scenario, with the final grade appearing in a column that will match with the custom final grade column you created in Canvas.
  6. Import the spreadsheet into Canvas to populate the custom column.

For steps 5 and 6 you can also use some other method to calculate grades and either import a spreadsheet or type the grades in by hand. Either way, be sure you enter your custom calculated grade into the no submission assignment placed in the assignment group weighted at 100 percent. The total score column in Canvas will draw from this group, and should therefore be the total score you want to display to students.  All you need to do now is customize your grading scheme in your course settings to reflect your own letter-grade breakdown.

Providing Extra Credit

There are two available methods for providing extra credit in Canvas:

 Option 1: Create assignments that don’t specify the points possible

Remember how Canvas calculates: Points Earned / Total Points Possible = Total

If an assignment does not specify the points possible, any points earned on that assignment are extra points that are not accounted for in the total points possible, so the end result is a higher score.

This method works as long as you don’t have extra credit quizzes, which, by design, have a defined number of points possible. It can also be tricky if you are weighting grades using assignment groups. In these cases, you may need to use method 2.

 Option 2: Use Assignment Group Weighting that totals more than 100%

Organize all of your required assignments into groups and then put your extra credit assignments into additional extra credit assignment groups.

  1. Make sure the total weighting of all required assignment groups equals 100%.
    1. If all required assignments are in one group, this is easy. Make the whole required assignments group worth 100% of the grade.
    2. If you have your required assignments split into multiple groups and you were already planning to use a weighted grading approach, simply set up the weighting scheme as planned, making sure it equals 100%.

If you have required assignments split into multiple groups and you were not planning to weight scores
, determine how to weight each group by determining how many points are possible in the group and their percentage of the total points possible:
(Total Group Points Possible / Total Points Possible) * 100

  1. Determine how many total extra credit points you wish to provide.
  2. Determine how many percentage points above 100 are needed to achieve the desired number of extra credit points. All steps condensed into one formula would look something like this:
    (((Extra Credit Points + Total Required Points) / Total Required Points) * 100) -100
  3. Weight your extra credit group(s) accordingly.
  4. Test your outcomes, if possible. Be wary of unexpected results.

Note: If using Option 2, it’s safest to put each extra credit assignment in its own assignment group. 

Because extra credit is optional, students may complete all extra credit assignments, or they may not. If you don’t provide a grade where extra credit was turned in, they will receive a higher percentage than they earned. If you do provide a zero where they didn’t turn in extra credit, it will appear to bring down their overall percentage until all grades are finalized. Keeping each extra credit assignment in its own group prevents both problems as long as you leave un-submitted extra credit grades blank.

Importing Grades Using a Spreadsheet

Sometimes grades are collected using another source, such as i>clicker, scantron tests, and publisher websites. Or you may just prefer to organize your grades on a spreadsheet. Here is a brief overview of how to handle the import and export of spreadsheets in Canvas:

The Basics:

  1. Create a spreadsheet table in Excel (or another program) that meets the layout format Canvas expects (see below for details)
  2. Save the spreadsheet file as a .csv file
  3. Go to the gradebook in Canvas and click the Import button. Follow the steps from there.


The Format:

There are currently 5 required columns that must be in your CSV file. They all must contain the following headers, which are case sensitive, but most columns can be left empty:

  • Student: The student’s Last Name, First Name. For example, Blue, Big
    You need at least one letter from each student’s name in this column, but for best results have the student’s full Last Name, First Name
  • ID: The student’s internal Canvas ID. You can leave this column blank.
  • SIS User ID: The student’s from Banner. You can leave this column blank.
  • SIS Login ID: In most cases, the student’s number. You can match by this as long as you have at least part of each student’s name in the student column.
  • Section: You can leave this blank

Here’s an image, provided by Instructure, that explains the format visually.

Grade Spreadsheet
 Demo: Sharing Spreadsheet Data Between Systems

  • Preparing spreadsheet data from other systems for import into Canvas:
    This typically involves making sure there is only one Student column (by either keeping just the last name or combining the full name under one column), then adding Canvas’s additional required columns and renaming the institution’s student ID column to SIS Login ID.|
  • Preparing a Canvas gradebook CSV file for import into other systems:
    This process typically involves removing or renaming Canvas-specific columns and splitting the Student column into two columns, one for last name and one for first name, using the Excel text-to-columns tool. 

Confused? Try downloading your gradebook.

Perhaps the easiest way to get the format right is to start by first downloading your gradebook as a CSV file. Go to your gradebook and select Download Scores (.csv) from the options menu. Simply edit that file and re-upload it.