Quizzes and Assignments in Canvas


Even in a fully face to face class you may find it more convenient t have your students submit their work online to save class time and facilitate grading and record keeping.  Assignments in Canvas, like their Blackboard counterpart, are how you create a way for your students to submit work digitally.  You have the expected ability to grade by points, percentage, letter, or complete/incomplete as well as making it an individual or group assignment. Some additional features Canvas Assignments offer that instructors will find particular useful include separate due and availability dates for specific students, groups or sections, designating the type of file for a submission, and a much more userfriendly peer assessment function.   

Be sure to use Due Dates so the assignments will show up on the Calendar and To Do list to help your students stay on top of their work.  It also makes it easy for you update your course because you can drag and drop assignments in the Calendar and Due Dates will be automatically updated. 

As you create graded assignments columns are created in the Gradebook.  This is the only way to create a column in the Gradebook as Canvas does not have the option of manually creating a column like Blackboard did.  By default, all assignments are placed in the Assignment group, but assignment groups can be designated to facilitate grade weighting.  You can create new Assignment groups as you create your assignments or add an assignment to an existing group.


Quizzes are another form of Canvas Assignment.  Like the Blackboard counterpart, Canvas quizzes consist of different types of questions, many of which can be automatically graded.  Quizzes are created by selecting the Quizzes index link in the menu and clicking. 

Canvas add quiz icon

Canvas quiz detail optionsThis opens a Quiz Detail screen that gives you many of the same features you saw when you selected Edit the Test Options in Blackboard such as time limit, availability date range, number of attempts, when students can see their scores and feedback, etc.  This is also where you assign the quiz to an Assignment Group (but you can’t create a new one here) and designate the type of quiz. It defaults to Graded Quiz.  A Practice Quiz does not show up in the Gradebook while a Graded Survey gives you the option to award points for survey completion. 

  • The Questions Tab – Unlike Blackboard, this screen also has a tab labeled Questions where you’ll begin to build your quiz.  You’ve got three options: 
  • Find Questions – import questions from a question bank or other quiz. 
  • New Question Group – this is similar to Blackboard’s Question Set where you can find existing questions and bring them into the quiz as a group and have Canvas randomly select the number of questions from the Group that you specify.    

Editorial Comment: Canvas uses the term “group” frequently.  You have groups of assignments to created weighted grades, you have groups of students to work together, and now you have groups of questions.  When writing instructions, it’s good to be mindful of this. Clarity is key. 

  • Canvas quiz question type optionsNew Question – this is similar to the Create Question option Blackboard had on its Test Canvas (I knowmore confusing terminology).  Depending on the question type you select, you’ll get slightly different options.  You may notice that this is not the same list of question types that were available in Blackboard.  For example, there’s not a Hot Spot question type that you used to have students select a point on an image as a response.  However, there is a Multiple Dropdowns question type and there is a Text (no question) option allowing you to provide a set of instructions, an image, or a table that students would use to answer multiple questions.   

The good news is that most of your existing quizzes will migrate from Blackboard just fine, most publishers also provide their test banks in a Canvas compatible format, and the enhancements in Canvas quizzes will allow you some new assessment options.  The bad news is that the quiz creation process is slightly different from what you are accustomed to and it may take longer to create quizzes. 

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 1 Getting Started with Canvas”,  Module 3 “Online Assessment and Module 4 “Active and Interactive Learning” 

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight the Downloading Student Content from Blackboard before the Canvas migration is completevisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Canvas Course Storage

Courses in Canvas have a storage limit of 1GB (1000MB) at WCU. More information about course file quotas in Canvas can be found on the Canvas File Quota Guide.  It is advised to store all media within a media library outside of the Canvas LMS in Panopto, OneDrive or other media repository spaceMedia files in your Blackboard course will need to be backed up for Canvas. Review the available guide to help you learn how to export media from Blackboard and upload to Panopto here. 

You might be wondering; do I have to use Panopto to record or store media? No, however Panopto is supported at WCU providing greater security and there is no additional cost.  With Panopto you can also be assured that the vendor has a retention policy for your videos that is quite different than the user agreement you agree to by clicking through to use a free service like YouTube. More information is highlighted on the media & screen capture options page.  

An important thing to note: Anything stored in Panopto will be available in your Canvas course in a similar way to Blackboard. You will need to double check that the Panopto links still point to the correct video (URL). Watch a video to learn about moving and using Panopto in Canvas. (2:21min)  

Storage in Panopto for instructors is currently unlimited.  Instructors also have up to 1 Terabyte of storage available in their personal OneDrive which can also be linked to Canvas through the Canvas Microsoft 365 integration. 

Panopto is used at WCU to give unlimited storage and streaming through the learning management system for media content. These issues not only include size limits but a range of other issues like the full capture of content, student engagement with media content, and quality. An article published by Panopto highlights these and many more in 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Rely On Your LMS to Manage Videos 

In the Priming with Canvas Course, there is an exploration of the reason the current research-backed pedagogy recommends short “one point” videos as an alternative to a long “lecture-type” video.  The Panopto editing tool is sufficient for short videos, but long videos (20+ minutes) will probably require using a video editor that is not loaded as a browser tool. 

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas:Module 9 Usability and Visual Design Module 10 Multimedia” 

Best practices for recorded lectures as a bonus with checklist/lecture planning kit document in module page 10.4 “Priming the Canvas” course. 

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight Quizzes and Assignments in Canvasvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Canvas’ Rich Content Editor

Understanding the powers of the RCE in Canvas will enable you to craft information to your students in not only a visually compelling way but also encourage engagement with your content while offering clearer information. 

The following Canvas features use the Rich Content Editor:  Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Quizzes and Syllabus. 

overview of the rich content editor

Menus [1] 

Menus are listed above the toolbar where you can find the all features available in the RCE. *Note: There are some less common features only available in the menus and not the toolbar.  

Toolbar [2] 

Buttons on the toolbar are condensed and grouped by related function. Clicking the down arrow next to buttonssimilar to the Apps & Integrations button [4reveals a fuller list of choices. 

Integrations [3] 

The buttons for Panopto and Office 365 are featured as top-level buttons in the RCE. Additional integrations are available by clicking the External Apps & Integrations button [4]. Clicking View All [5] reveals a full list of available integrations. Click on the title of the app from the popup menu to select it. *Note: Recently used apps/integrations will be listed in a quick-list under the plugin button.   

Status Bar [6]

The status bar under the menu is where you can find the Accessibility Checker [7]the Raw HTML Editor mode button [8] and a button to go Fullscreen [9]Note: A Keyboard Shortcuts reminder is also available in the Status bar area.  

Condensed Toolbar

Important to note: If your screen is too narrow to show the entire toolbar, Canvas will compact some of the items into a More button at the end of the toolbar. Click the More button to see the rest of them. 

condensed toolbar snowman menu in the Cavas RCE

More About the Accessibility Checker in the RCE: 

The Rich Content Editor supports multiple accessibility features for easy creation of accessible content: 

    • The Rich Content Editor includes an accessibility tool that checks common accessibility errors within the editor. This tool can help you design course content while considering accessibility attributes and is located in the Rich Content Editor menu bar. Learn how to use the Accessibility Checker in the Rich Content Editor. 
    • Alt text should be added when embedding external images. Learn how to embed images from the web in the Rich Content Editor. 
    • Headings for table columns and rows can be changed in either the Rich Content Editor or the HTML Editor view. 

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: 1.3 Getting Started: Modules, Content, & Discussions 

Additional Resources: 

  • Rich Content Editor lessons for instructors 
  • Rich Content Editor lessons for students
  • Visit canvas.wcu.edu 
  • Contact the 24/7 Canvas Help if you need help with issues as you are working in Canvas. (NOTE: 24/7 Canvas Help goes away on June 30 and Help will be taken over by the WCU Helpdesk which is not manned 24/7). 
  • Canvas Migration FAQ
  • Register for one of the Zoom sessions which will be held on Thursdays and Fridays at 11:00 A.M. after reviewing the Priming the Canvas Course. This week’s sessions will cover Canvas modules, Pages and Files as well as using Canvas’ Rich Content Editor.

Our next article will highlight Course Storage in Canvas & Media in Panoptovisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Canvas Modules vs. Pages vs. Files

The Canvas platform can be used to create and support an excellent learning environment for all modalities: fully face-to-face, hybrid, and fully online.  When the tools are used well, they can enhance communication, understanding, and faculty and student experience.   

Canvas has three different organizational structures for content that overlap but have different functions.  Modules serve as a curated path for a specific unit of learning.  A module will walk a student sequentially through the stages of learning created by the instructor.  An example might be: 

    • A concise introduction to the concept in the form of a brief video lecture or text 
    • A link to a discussion board post for initial thoughts and reflections (graded assignment scheduled on the calendar) 
    • A link to a longer reading (or an instruction to go to the textbook) 
    • A specific set of questions as an assignment (graded, linked, and scheduled on the calendar) 
    • Other assurances of learning 

Canvas is designed so that Modules are the primary point of access for students and so that their path forward in the course is clear and navigable.   Best Practice is to think about modules in terms of staging one’s home for important guests who have limited time.  What do you want them to experience?  Where would you like them to sit?  What is the best direction of flow?  Which restroom is the best for guests? Etc.  Modules allow you to create this experience in a linear fashion. 

Pages are digital objects in Canvas that contain most of the content, direction, and instruction.  Every course should have a home page that serves as a “landing page” for students and that allows for them to get their bearings and navigate from module to module as needed.  Best Practice for quality course design (OSCQR Standard 1.2QM 1.2is that your Course Home Page and module introduction pages be the most carefully crafted part of your Canvas course.  It will help your students understand what you want them to accomplish, what sort of navigational freedom they have, and what specific paths you would like for them to take.  Canvas recommends that the Pages navigation be hidden from the student and that all pages in the course be tied to specific modules or other pages. 

You can think of Pages, metaphorically, as the scenes you wish your guests to see at specific times.  When the path of their visit takes them to the kitchen, you would like them to notice the hand-made cutting board, the carefully placed drinkware, the stained glass in the window that highlights the view of a mountain in the distance which might start an amiable conversation, etc.  You probably do not want for them to open a folder that has all possible views listed in alphabetical order. Canvas recommends that the Pages navigation be hidden from the student and that all pages in the course be tied to specific modules or other pagesBest practices for quality course design (OSCQR Standard 13.6) advise that navigating through your course be organized simply for students. The navigational experience for students will be different for students and instructors.  Instructors are designing a learning experience as experts. Students should be learning. 

Files are an even deeper part of the underlying infrastructure of the course and, even more so than Pages, the recommendation is to hide the left hand navigation tool from students unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise. In our metaphor, files are things like the stained-glass in the kitchen window.  It should be seen only in that window (Page) and only in the part of the learning journey in which it is important, the kitchen (Module).  You can think of the Files navigation for faculty as a quick way to see everything that you have associated with the course (a sort of home inventory), but for the most part, as in our lives at home, sharing a long, browsable list of everything you have is rarely helpful for moving forward a specific learning agenda. 

In summary, think about using the tools effectively and according to best practices: 

    • Use modules to move your students through the learning process. 
    • Use pages in the appropriate places in the modules to help direct students in that learning and to highlight external links and introduce assessment and activities. 
    • Use a home page to aid in navigating the whole course 
    • Use the Syllabus Tool and the Calendar to help with sequencing and giving student scheduled “To Dos” that align with your teaching goals. 
    • Insert files in their proper places using the rich content editor in Pages, Assessments, and Quizzes.

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 1.3 “Getting Started with Canvas” & Module 5.1 ”Gathering, Making, and Structuring Content” 

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight Canvas’ Rich Content Editorvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles. 

Canvas Notifications and Preferences

We know that communication is a cornerstone of both learning and relationship.  We also know that students value clear communication and that many find great value in having a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to “pass” their courses.  We have also witnessed that many of our students are still developing their time-management skills and rely upon external cues. 

In Canvas, notification settings are set by the user and relate to how and when you receive information about upcoming events, dates, and, in the case of instructors, student activities (like the submission of a discussion post or the submission of an assignment that is ready to be graded.) 

You are in complete control of how you receive notifications.  For email notifications and notifications that appear in the Canvas window (whether in the browser or in your “Teacher” app on your mobile device) you can make a number of changes to the default settings by going to your “Account” profile and clicking notifications. 

Finding Account Notifications

Setting notifications here will be a global choice.  You can override these settings in individual courses by navigating to course settings in your course and going to the “View Course Notification” button, as shown below.


Note that your notification settings do not have any bearing on your student’s settings.  By default, students will get all course announcements and the assignments with dates will be viewable, but they have complete control over their settings. 

Also note that the notifications for the mobile apps default to a less aggressive notification (lock screen) regime than do commercial apps.  If a smartphone or tablet user wants notifications outside of the time they are using the app, they will need to set those notifications specifically on their smart device and these notifications, though they have a similar name and function, are outside of the operation of Canvas. For more app information: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Mobile/ct-p/apps

Viewing Course notifications

Notifications work best if instructors use the syllabus tool and calendar in a way that has specific date requirements for all assignments and other student “to dos.”

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module 1.2 “Getting Started with Canvas” Canvas Basics 

Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight Modules vs Pages vs Filesvisit Canvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles.