Canvas Gradebook Best Practices

Filed in best practices, Canvas, gradebook by on September 21, 2020

Using Canvas Gradebook can be daunting! There’s a lot of features packed into this unassuming tool. We’ve gathered up some of our best practices to help you get going smoothly. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to We’re happy to help!


Start of the Term

The following tasks ideally would be set up at the start of the term before you begin grading. It doesn’t mean you can’t do them at other times, but you’ll get the best results if you start thinking about them ASAP!

Assignment Groups & Grade Weighting

Set up your assignment groups weight on the Assignments page of your course. You can also set up rules for assignment groups to drop the lowest and/or highest scores for assignments.

In Class Assignments

Set up On Paper or No Submission assignments for anything that will be turned in outside of Canvas, but grades will be tracked for in Canvas. Track “quizzes” given in class this way as well.

Grade Posting & Release Policies

By default, Canvas releases grades automatically to students as soon as they are entered. Change your grading policy at the beginning of the term to Manual Grade Posting Policy to stop students from seeing grades during the grading process. Once enabled, students will not receive notifications until you click “Post Grades” for each assignment. You can choose to have a course level grade posting policy or enable it by assignment. Grade Posting Policy changes are not applied retroactively. Make sure you have selected the desired posting policy before you start entering grades. Please Note: when a course is copied from a previous term, your gradebook settings are NOT preserved, so you will need to reset this each term.

Late & Missing Assignment Policies

You may enable an automatic deduction for late or missing assignments.

Optional: Hide Total Column

If you don’t want your students to see the total column value when they check their grades in Canvas you can hide it from student view. You can enable a total override column where you can input your own final grade for students if it differs from Canvas’ calculation.


During the Term

These are tasks that will come up again and again throughout the year.

Inline Grading & Annotation

Use Speedgrader to grade student submissions and make annotations directly on their submission without leaving the web browser.

Filtering and Organization

Use the View menu to customize your view of Gradebook and make it more efficient to grade.

Excusing a Grade

Excusing a grade allows an assignment to be ignored while determining the final grade.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Review

We use SimCheck (Turnitin) for plagiarism review. Please see these instructions for using SimCheck with Speedgrader. SimCheck is only available in Assignments.

Temporarily Hide Grades

If you forgot to enable Manual Grading Policy or you made a grading error, you can hide grades while you work on fixing mistakes by using the Hide Grades feature that will hide grades that were previously posted temporarily. Any scores added to the gradebook after manually hiding grades follow the selected post policy and are visible to students.

Student Support

Your students may not be seeing the same information on their Grades page that you see. We recommend that students uncheck the “Calculate based only on graded assignments” checkbox and feel free to share this document with them to help with viewing grades and feedback.

Help from TAs/Graders

Check out this blog post on best practices for efficient grading with the help of TAs & Graders.

Optional: Export to Excel

If you prefer to adjust and work on grades offline, you can export the gradebook to Excel. After grading offline, you can import grades back into Canvas for student view.


End of the Term

Here are some things to think about as the term is ending and grades will be due!

Check for hidden assignments or grades

An assignment with grades hidden from students is indicated by the Visibility icon (the eyeball). Cells in gradebook that contain a dash have not been graded and final grades will not calculate correctly if they are left as is. All grade cells should have a number in them and should not have an eyeball in the column heading. How to use Icons and Colors in Gradebook

Assign Zeroes to Missing Assignments

Use the Set Default Grade feature to set the default grade for each assignment to zero at the end of the term. It will allow you to automatically insert zeros for all students that haven’t yet received a grade for a specific assignment. If there are ungraded cells remaining (with a dash) the students’ final grades will not be calculated correctly.

Optional: Show Total Column

If you have hidden the total column previously in the semester but want students to now see final grades, don’t forget to unhide it.

Want to learn more? Check out the full Canvas Gradebook documentation.


This guide was adapted for WPI from FSU’s Best Practices for Canvas Gradebook.

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