Canvas Spotlight

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Canvas

Last updated on June 11, 2024

Best Practices

What are the best strategies to avoid common mistakes?

  • When copying courses into the new semester, reference CLTD’s Copy a Canvas Course tutorial.
    • Although it is a simple process, there are many details to consider. Even seasoned instructors can overlook one of these detailed steps and create duplicate materials as they copy their course into a new semester. Starting each course with an error-free course copy will save students and instructors time and energy throughout the semester. 
  • Confirm that Gradebook settings are updated at the beginning of each semester and make any necessary changes to ensure it matches your course grading policy.
    • These changes may include:
      • Checking visibility settings on assignments.
      • Setting a grade posting policy for assignments or all grades.
      • Setting your late policy.
      • Automatically applying a grade to missing submissions. 
  • Regularly use the Student View feature to review your course.
    • It’s easy to forget that students view your course differently than you do. Make it a habit to check your course modules and assignments using the student view feature. While doing so, you may notice things you would like to change, unpublished materials, or assignment settings errors.
  • Create a course team with Microsoft Teams for each course at the beginning of a semester.
    • If your course needs to be online, you will have a place to conduct your class. Doing this early ensures you and your students have an agreed-upon setting for virtual meetings.

What are the most common ways mistakes are made?

  • Creating duplicate materials in the course copy process.
    • It may seem intuitive to select the “copy entire course” option while copying a course into the new semester, but this will create duplicates of any blueprint content, like the Course Information and University Policies modules. It is much more efficient to select the “Select specific content” option and select only what you need while following the CTLD Course Copy guide. 
  • Forgetting to publish materials when creating or adding new content to a module.
    • Although this may seem like a menial detail to consider, we often see mistakes with publishing. As you create new content or add content to a module, confirm the contents are published or will be published at the right time. 
  • Forgetting to add due dates or availability dates.
    • Due dates determine when an assignment is counted late, and availability dates determine when students can submit an assignment. It can be easy to miss this minor detail, though it can create larger issues down the line. Before the semester starts, always double-check that the correct due dates and availability dates for assignments and content are in place. 
  • Incorrect Gradebook settings.
    • Many settings in your Gradebook might be specific to your course or certain assignments, such as late policies, posting policies, or grade visibility. Make it a habit to check these settings as the semester begins since students need accurate grade information to chart their progress in your course. 
  • Creating a course team via MS Teams at the last minute.
    • There are many reasons a course or class may need to be conducted virtually. For this reason, it is best to create a course team via Microsoft Teams at the beginning of a semester. This will ensure you and your class have a place to meet virtually should you need to. Waiting until the last minute to do this can create undue stress for you and your students. 


Fixing and Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes in Canvas

You may have found that you’ve already run into a common issue or you simply want to avoid it in the future. Check out the list of common mistakes and how to avoid them below. While this is not a comprehensive list of issues encountered in Canvas, it does cover the most frequent problems observed at CTLD.

Grading Issues

Gradebook issues are some of the most common we see at the CTLD. Below is a list specifying common mistakes regarding the Canvas Gradebook and how to fix them. All of the following instructions for fixing Gradebook issues will begin from the main Gradebook menu. 

Problem: Incorrect grade posting policy

By default, the Automatic policy is selected, meaning students will see grades as soon as they enter the Gradebook. Still, there are many cases where you may want to post grades after you have completed your grading manually. To do this, review the CTLD tutorial on using Grade Posting Policies in Canvas or follow the quick steps outlined below.

  • Note: If grades for an Assignment are hidden, a crossed-out eye icon will appear to the left of the Assignment name. If grades are posted, this eye icon will not be present.

Solution: Change the Grade Posting Policy for a Single Assignment

  1. Hover your cursor over the name of an Assignment.
  2. Click the More Options (3-Dots) icon to the right of the Assignment name.
  3. Click Grade Posting Policy in the pop-up menu.
  4. Click the circle next to either Automatic or Manual in the panel that opens to the right.
  5. Click Save in the bottom right-hand corner of the panel.
    • You may need to scroll down to see the Save button.

Solution: Change the Grade Posting Policy for All Assignments

  1. Click the Gear icon in the top right-hand corner of the page.
  2. Click the Grade Posting Policy tab along the top of the Gradebook Settings panel.
  3. Click the circle next to either Automatic orManual.
    • An Automatic policy will make the grades immediately visible to students the moment the grade is entered in the Gradebook or Speedgrader. You can still choose to hide grades after the fact, though, and choosing this option will not post grades that are currently hidden.
    • A Manual policy will hide grades that are entered until you choose to post them. Any grades that are already posted will remain visible until you hide them.
  4. Click Apply Settings in the bottom right-hand corner of the page.

Problem: Missing Assignment and Missing Late Policy

By default, assignments that are not turned in after a due date has been passed will be ungraded, leaving a “-” instead of a zero grade. This will cause a grade to look inflated to a student with missing assignments. The ungraded assignments will count against them only when the course ends or when every assignment is manually graded. 

Likewise, most courses have a late policy but it may not be automated. Manually applying a late penalty is time-intensive and rife with opportunities for errors. Automating late penalties in your course is the best way to avoid issues in this regard. For a full tutorial on missing or late policies, check out the CTLD tutorial on Setting Missing or Late Policies. 

Solution: Automate Grading for Missing Assignments

To automate grading for missing assignments to receive a zero grade or to automate your late policy, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner.
  2. Click the Late Policies tab.
  3. Choose the Options you prefer for your late or missing assignment policy. Possible options include:
    1. Automatically Apply Grade for Missing Submissions. If you select this option, you can choose to have missing submissions count for a specific point value. For example, if you want all missing submissions to be recorded as a zero grade, this is where you would enter that.
    2. Automatically Apply Deduction to Late Submissions. If you select this option, you can tell Canvas to apply a percentage deduction to late assignment submissions. You can choose how often a percentage should be deducted (for example, 10% for each day the submission is late) as well as what the lowest possible grade percent should be for a late assignment. 
  4. Click Apply Settings in the lower right corner. 

Copying Courses

Problem: Copying Courses and Duplicate Materials

When courses are copied, it’s common to inadvertently create duplicates of pages, assignments, or quizzes. This is extremely confusing for students and can create major grading issues for you. 

Solution: Follow the CTLD Course Copy Guide

The best solution to this issue is to follow the CTLD Course Copy Guide for each course you copy. Use the “Select Specific Content” option in the course copy settings to choose precisely what needs to be transferred to the new course. This selective approach helps maintain a clean and organized course environment. Make sure not to bring over pages, the course information module, and the university policies and recourses module. After copying, take the time to review the course content and remove any unintended duplicates, especially any graded materials. 

Module Building

Problem: Not Including or Publishing Crucial Elements in Modules

Sometimes, important course materials like readings, assignments, or discussions are not included in modules, making them impossible for students to find and follow. Similarly, instructors often forget to publish assignments, quizzes, or even entire modules, which prevents students from accessing these resources. Though this is a very simple error, it will save you effort and energy in problem-solving to avoid it altogether. 

Solution: Review and Publish Materials

Always organize your course content into modules that are logically structured by week, topic, or unit. This not only helps students navigate the course more effectively but also ensures they have access to all necessary materials. Check each module to confirm that all related content is included and correctly linked.

Manually review your course modules before the semester starts and the course is live. Review the  CTLD tutorial on Adding Items to Modules to help guide your process. Make sure each module not only has the required material but also that the module itself and each item within it are published — this can be confirmed by the green check next to each item or module. A circle with a slash through it will show if an item or module is unpublished. Regularly use the “Student View” feature in Canvas to verify that all published content is visible and accessible to students.  If you would like to create prerequisites or requirements for students to open an item or module, review the CTLD tutorial on Prerequisites, Requirements, and Locking in Canvas Modules. This automates the process of publishing modules and reduces room for error. 

Problem: Missing or Incorrect Assignment Due Dates and Availability dates

Due dates determine when an assignment is counted late and availability dates determine when students can access an assignment. A missing due date on an assignment can cause various issues. Without a due date, students may not know when they need to turn in an assignment and it will not show up on their To-Do Lists. Missing or incorrect availability dates may cause confusion as well, as students may be able to access assignments before or after you intend for them to.

Solution: Ensure Every Assignment has the Correct Availability and Due Date

At the beginning of every semester and every time you create a graded assignment, confirm it has the availability and due dates you intend for it. Refer to the CTLD tutorials on Creating an Assignment with a Due Date and Creating an Assignment with Limited Availability for more information.

Microsoft Teams

Problem: Missing Course Team for a Class

Campus closures, illness, or unforeseen events may necessitate hosting your course online. Creating a course team with Microsoft Teams is one of the best ways to prepare for any of these events. Creating and sharing a course team link at the last minute may cause undue confusion and stress for your students when they need to attend virtually. Even if you run in-person, synchronous courses, it is best to create a course team for each of your courses before the semester begins.

Solution: Create Course Teams for Every Class

To avoid this issue, always create a course team using Microsoft Teams at the beginning of each semester. It is best practice to post a link to this team as an announcement so students can access it when needed. To review how to make a course team, review the CTLD Spotlight on how to Create a Course Team, Add Students, and Set Up a Recurring Meeting.