Canvas Assignment

Canvas Assignments are a good option for assessments that require file submissions, e.g., a Word document for an essay, video files, audio, images.

For assessments that require students to draw/write and then take a photo of answers for uploading into Canvas, prepare students in advance to download a document scanning app for their mobile device (e.g., Adobe scanMicrosoft Office Lens or Camscanner). In the case of designing the Assignment for an online test, students must have an opportunity to complete a practice exercise (e.g. Assignment of type File Uploads) prior to the test to ensure they are familiar with the technological requirements for uploading images.

Canvas Assignments also have the option to use Text entry for students to type directly into the assessment box, but it may be safer for students to create and save their own document on their computer for file upload in case of internet difficulties when inputting content into the text entry field.

If you would like to contain your entire assessment in a Word document for upload via the Canvas Assignment dropbox, here is a sample answer booklet that may help.

Please make sure you add an academic honesty declaration to all online assessments. Please also ask a colleague to review your Assignment in advance—add them to your Canvas course with the Teaching Support role.

Setting the Assignment timing and duration

Setting the availability of the Assignment

Difference between assignment due dates and availability dates.

Tests are recommended to be held after 1pm to allow for differences with time zones in Asia where most offshore students are situated. For example, the following shows you how to set a 2-hour test starting at 1pm. Student feedback suggests that online tests often take longer than written tests, so consideration should be given to extending the time allowed for the test, where appropriate.

  • Set the availability of the Canvas Assignment by going to Edit, then scrolling down to the Options settings.
  • Assessments should be made available for the duration of a test, sat under normal conditions, with the addition of a 15-minute grace period.
    • Under ‘Assign’ set your Due date for the end date and time of the assessment, e.g. for 3pm NZST, use 15:00 in Canvas.
    • Set Available from for 13:00 on the date of the start of the assessment.
    • The available Until time should be set to 15 minutes later than due time to act as a grace period for any technical issues. Set ‘Until’ for 15:15 for the same day.*
  • Don’t forget to Save and publish your Assignment when ready.

If you require different start times for different groups of students, or individual students, please see the other options below.

Canvas screenshot showing test due date

Note: You may encounter some error with setting up the availability times if the assessment ‘due date is set after the course term ends’. To fix this, you will need to ensure the ‘Ends’ dates are entered correctly and the option ‘Students can only participate in the course between these dates’ is checked in setting. Read the full instruction on solving the due date problem on the Canvas blog.

* Extra time must be added for students with approved special conditions sitting time-limited tests of 30 minutes or longer.

Setting the availability of the Assignment for multiple course sections

If you require different start times for different groups of students, e.g. offshore students, please follow these instructions. Please also review the Canvas website to find out whether you have offshore students in your course and to understand their group ‘section code’.

  • Set the availability of the Canvas Assignment by going to Edit, then scrolling down to the Options settings.
  • If you have multiple sections that require different start times, set these under the ‘Assign‘ section.
  • To add sections, first click the ‘+ Add‘ button below the ‘Assign‘ box.
  • Type the section code under ‘Assign to‘, e.g. for Offshore Online type oo.
  • Follow the steps under the previous heading ‘Setting the availability of the Assignment‘ to complete the remaining fields.
  • Don’t forget to Save and publish your Assignment when ready.

Setting the availability of the Assignment for individuals

You may have individual students who need to be assigned a different start time for a test or those with approved special conditions who need a longer duration in which to complete it.*

  • Set the availability of the Canvas Assignment by going to Edit, then scrolling down to the Options settings.
  • Follow the steps under the previous heading ‘Setting the availability of the Assignment’ to complete the date and time fields for ‘Everyone’.
  • Click the ‘+ Add‘ button below the ‘Assign‘ box to add special times for individuals.
  • Begin typing the individual’s name under ‘Assign to‘ and you may select one from the search suggestions as you are typing.
  • To add more individuals, follow the steps above.
  • Don’t forget to Save and publish your Assignment when ready.

For this example scenario below, John Smith requires a later start time and extra time has been approved. He has an extra 30 minutes added to the 2-hour test, plus the 15-minute grace period in case of technical difficulties.

* Student Disability Services advise teaching staff of any students in their courses with approved special conditions.

Assignment settings

Set the submission type

The Canvas Assignment tool allows a few different options for submission.

  • From the dropdown menu select Online.
  • From the Online entry options, select File Uploads to enable students to upload documents.
  • Alternatively, you can use the Text entry to enable students to type directly into the assessment box.
    Screenshot of the Canvas Assignment options for text entry and file upoad

    Click to enlarge

Note: If you are asking students to attach images to assignments, please inform them that Canvas only accepts GIF, JPEG, PNG and TIFF for image attachments. Read more about compatible file types in Canvas.

Using Turnitin Framework to review plagiarism

We recommend that you activate the Turnitin plagiarism detection tool for your Canvas Assignment. Due to some potential issues with the Turnitin API tool (the external tool), it is recommended that examiners use the Plagiarism Review Tool built in to the Assignment options.

Canvas screenshot showing the Assignment setting's Plagiarism Review drop-down set to Turnitin

Click to enlarge

From the ‘Plagiarism Review’ dropdown menu, choose Turnitin.

When you have selected Turnitin, more options will appear on screen. We recommend the following settings: Select ‘Store submissions in’ as Standard paper repository. Make you ‘Compare submissions against’: Student repository, Website content, Periodicals, journals and publications. The ‘Similarity Report’ should: Exclude bibliographic materials and quoted materials.

Canvas screenshot showing the options for Turnitin assignment submissions.

Finally, you can choose whether you want students to be able to see their ‘Similarity report’ immediately, delayed, or never. It is worth considering whether you want your students to be able to receive this feedback so they have the opportunity to correct the issues and resubmit during the assessment period, or if you do not want them to receive such feedback at all.
Canvas screenshot showing the Turnitin Similarity Report options


Supplementary materials should be locked

If you have material that is supplementary to the Assignment, e.g., images, PDFs or media files, these files should be locked and scheduled for release to students only during the time of the assessment.

Do not reveal the grade to the students during the assessment time

To make sure Canvas Assignment grade is not posted to the students during marking:

  • From your Canvas course, go to Grades, locate the Final Assessment(s). Click on the three dots beside the name of the assessment.
    Canvas screenshot of the Grade Book with the assessment options visible
  • Click on Grade Posting Policy and choose Manual, scroll to the bottom and click Save.
    Canvas screenshot showing the Grade Book options for setting the Grade Posting Policy to manual


Problems viewing PDF documents in SpeedGrader

SpeedGrader has some issues displaying multi-layered PDF documents. To avoid students’ assignment submissions displaying incorrectly, please see this FAQ on how students should create their PDF.

See also

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