It is good pedagogical practice to maintain a Canvas Gradebook that gives an accurate reflection of your students’ performance. Students frequently consult their grades in Canvas to get a sense of how they are doing in your course and of areas in which they need to improve. You can use weighted Assignment Groups in your Canvas course to help ensure that the grade calculated by Canvas is indicative of students’ actual performance.

Create An Assignment Group

An Assignment Group in Canvas is a means of sorting assignments according to the categories to which they belong in your syllabus. By default, new assignments created in your Canvas course will be added to a catch-all group called Assignments. (Note that “assignments” in this context refers to anything that is graded; this can be an Assignment proper, a Quiz, or a graded Discussion.)

Assignments Group in Canvas

You can create a new Assignment Group by going to the Assignments tab in your course and clicking the gray +Group button at the upper right.

+Group Button

It is a good idea to give your group a name that reflects the assessment categories on your syllabus. For example, if the group contains quizzes that are given each week of the quarter, you might call it Weekly Quizzes.

Weekly Quizzes Group

Once a group has been created, there are two ways to add assignments to it:

  1. Click the + button across from the group name. This will allow you to create an assignment shell, which you can then edit later.
    Assignment Shell Creation Dialog Box
    You can create a Quiz or a graded Discussion using this method if you wish. Simply choose the desired assignment type from the drop-down next to Type.
    Drop-Down Menu with Quiz Selected
  2. Create the assignment first by clicking the maroon +Assignment button at the upper right. The assignment will appear in the default Assignments group. You can then move it to another assignment group by clicking on the double column of dots next to its name and dragging-and-dropping it into the desired group.
    Assignment Being Moved with Handle
    Note that clicking the maroon +Assignment button only gives you access to create an Assignment proper, not a Quiz or graded Discussion. To create one of these, you will need to navigate to the Quizzes or Discussions tab in your Canvas site.

Weight Assignment Groups

Assignment Groups are most useful when used to weight grades. With weighted Assignment Groups, you can make the organization of your assignments in Canvas match the organization used on your syllabus. You also have greater flexibility than is offered by weighting each individual assignment: if an assignment needs to be dropped or added, you can simply remove it from/add it to the appropriate assignment group, and Canvas will automatically recalculate the final grade accordingly.

For the remainder of this post, we will use as an example a course in which the grading is as follows:

  • Five short quizzes: 20% of the final grade
  • One midterm exam: 30% of the final grade
  • One final exam: 40% of the final grade
  • Attendance and participation: 10% of the final grade

To begin, the instructor creates four assignment groups, named Short Quizzes, Midterm, Final Exam, and Attendance and Participation.

Blank Assignment Groups Page

She then clicks the column of three dots at the upper right and chooses Assignment Groups Weight.

Drop-Down Menu with Assignment Groups Weight Selected

She then checks the box next to Weight final grade based on assignment groups. This allows her to set the percentage weight for each assignment group.

Assignment Groups Weight Dialog Box

Note that Canvas shows the instructor that the assignment groups add up to 100%. It is important to check this, as Canvas will not stop you if your groups add up to less than or greater than 100%.

Once the instructor has weighted her groups to her satisfaction, she clicks the maroon Save button. Canvas then indicates across from each assignment group’s name the percentage value of the total grade that it carries.

Assignment Groups with Percentage Weights

Use Weighted Assignment Groups to Calculate the Total Grade

The instructor can now create her assignments and add them to the appropriate assignment groups by one of the two methods enumerated above.

An important caveat: If an assignment group contains more than one assignment, it is important that all assignments have the same point value for Canvas’ math to work out correctly. This avoids the risk of “double weighting,” which will occur if assignments within a group have different point values. For example: if a quiz worth 5 points and a quiz worth 50 points are placed in the same assignment group, the latter quiz will be worth ten times as much in Canvas’ calculations, which will greatly skew the result. In our example course, the instructor has avoided this risk by creating five quizzes within the Short Quizzes group, each of which is worth three points.

Short Quizzes Assignment Group

The Midterm and Final Exam groups each contain only one assignment. This can be an assignment of type Online Assignment if the instructor wishes her students to submit it through Canvas, or it can be an assignment of type On Paper if students will hand in a physical exam paper.

Midterm and Final Exam Assignment Groups

For the Attendance and Participation group, the instructor creates an assignment of type No Submission.

Assignment Type No Submission Indicated in Assignment Options

Remember that in Canvas, there is a one-to-one correspondence between assignments and columns in the Gradebook. Thus, if you wish to create a column for (e.g.) students’ attendance/participation grade, it is necessary to create a corresponding assignment. By making it of type No Submission, the instructor has ensured that students do not need to hand in any work, while still creating a Gradebook column where the grade is recorded.

Attendance Column in Gradebook

Note also that if students need to submit work that will not be graded, such as an outline for an upcoming paper, you can create an assignment of submission type Online Assignment and check the box Do not count this assignment toward the final grade in the assignment options area.

Do Not Count This Assignment Toward Final Grade Checkbox Checked

Using weighted assignment groups allows Canvas to do your math for you. A column will appear in the Gradebook for each assignment group. The Total column will be calculated by multiplying the value of each column by its percentage weight and adding the results. In the case of the student below, the grade is calculated as follows:

Short Quizzes: 12 out of 15 possible points = 80 * 0.2 = 16

Midterm Exam: 90 out of 100 possible points = 90*0.3 = 27

Final Exam: 80 out of 100 possible points = 80*0.4 = 32

Attendance and Participation: 100 out of 100 possible points = 100*0.1 = 10

Total: 16+27+32+10 = 85

Example Gradebook Row with Student Grades

Drop a Low Score from an Assignment Group

If you wish, you can set an assignment group to drop one or more low scores (or high scores) automatically. To do this, go to the group within the Assignments tab and click on the column of three dots across from its name to open a dialog box. Then enter the number of low or high scores you wish to drop and click Save.

Dialog Box for Setting Assignment Groups Rules

You can also specify that an assignment should never be dropped by clicking the blue +Add an assignment link next to Never drop: and choosing its name from the drop-down that appears.

Never Drop Assignment Drop-Down Menu

Further Resources and Getting Help

For more information, please see:

If you have additional questions, Academic Technology Solutions is here to help. You can attend our workshops to learn more about Canvas and other tools for teaching with technology. You can also drop into our Office Hours (virtual and in-person) to ask any questions you may have; no appointment is required.

(Cover Photo by Piret Ilver on Unsplash)