By John Hawes, Educational Developer and Jonathan Wade, Senior Educational Technologist

There are nearly countless ways to stay in touch with your students. Zoom, emails, text messages, announcements, digital syllabi, and dynamic course schedules make it possible for instructors to reach out to students with a few strokes of the keyboard or taps on the screen. An often overlooked means to communicate with students is the Canvas Gradebook. Student surveys have shown that students seek feedback through the grading mechanism of the LMS. Pushing information to students through email or announcements from you is a wonderful way to communicate with them but using the grading function of the LMS can allow you to connect with them at a moment when they are seeking to connect with you. Consider that grading need not always be a permanent summative judgment but can also be an opportunity to help the student understand how to better understand the material. Dr. John Orlando writing for Faculty Focus observed that giving students an opportunity to revise and resubmit their work helps with student motivation because “… students who know that they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and fix their problems will not be demotivated by their failures.” Resubmitting their works allows students a chance to better demonstrate their mastery to obtain a better final grade.

SpeedGrader is the portal that gives you access to the communication functions in the Gradebook like rubrics, comments, and the document viewer.

Rubrics in Canvas serve two basic communication functions. First, rubrics let the students know what the criteria are that will be used to evaluate their submission. Second, rubrics provide a means for instructors to let students know why they received the score they did. There’s a lot to consider when creating a good rubric. When designing a rubric, instructors should keep in mind what the learning outcomes are for the assessment. If it is to demonstrate understanding of a topic, use Demonstrated Understanding as the criterion rather than page or word count. When creating the text for each rating level use language that clearly differentiates how a submission met or failed to meet a standard. Check out the link below for more information. And of course, rubrics also make it easier to grade many submissions while still providing feedback students can use to improve future work.

Assignment Comments 

No matter how well you’ve designed your rubric, you may want to add some specific comments for a student. In SpeedGrader the Assignment Comment text box gives you the option of adding additional comments in multiple ways. You can type in your comments, attach a document, record audio or video comments or use voice recognition to add text comments. See the SpeedGrader link below for specific guidance.


Depending on the type of submission, you can also add comments directly to the document in the preview window. See the DocViewer link below for specific guidance.

Messages from the Gradebook

You can send messages to students using filters based on specific assignment categories:

  • Haven’t submitted yet – students who haven’t submitted the assignment, even if they have been manually awarded a grade.
  • Haven’t been graded – students whose assignments have not yet been graded (submitted or unsubmitted).
  • Scored less than [point value] – students who earned a grade on their assignment less than X number of points.
  • Scored more than [point value] -students who earned a grade on their assignment more than X number of points.

More than one student may receive the Gradebook Message, but each student will receive an individual (not group) message.

To chat with a member of the faculty partner team about communicating through the Gradebook click on this link to schedule a consultation




Designing Grading Rubrics

Using DocViewer in SpeedGrader

Sending messages to students from the Gradebook

Orlando, J. (2021, July 28). Use Revise and Resubmit Instead of Extra Credit [Higher Education]. Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning.