Canvas Assignment Tool

What is the Canvas Assignments Tool?

The Canvas Assignments tool is one of several native Canvas tools that allows instructors to collect student work for grading.  Through Assignments, students submit their completed work and instructors can easily collect and score the work either offline (by downloading all submissions with a single button click) or online through the Canvas SpeedGrader tool.  Canvas Assignment can also be used to create columns in the gradebook for grading student work that is not submitted online.

Several of the External Applications integrated into Canvas work in coordination with the Canvas Assignments tool.  For these tools, you will still create the Canvas Assignment as normal, but you will need to follow the detailed instructions for the specific external application to properly link it to the Canvas Assignment.  Visit our Instructional Tools and click on the appropriate tool for details.  

Why use Canvas Assignments?


For students, Canvas Assignments are a great centralized location to find and submit their coursework.  Instructors can use the assignments to provide students with detailed instructions for each assignment, due dates, template file for student to use when applicable, and rubrics to help students understand what is expected to achieve full credit for their work.  Canvas' online grading via the SpeedGrader tool also allows students to quickly receive and reply to instructor comments on their work.  Canvas Assignments also work hand-in-hand with the Canvas Grades area, so students can quickly see how well they did on each assignment and how they are doing overall in the course in one place.

For instructors, Canvas Assignments streamlines the way that student work is collected.  Instead of receiving digitally completed homework in the form of individual emails from each student for each assignment, instructors can just create a Canvas Assignment to collect the work of all students.  With Canvas' online grading tools, instructors can use rubrics for consistent grading and can use the Canvas SpeedGrader tool to provide detailed annotations on student-submitted files or simply use the one button download all submissions button to export all student files at once to their local computer.  The Canvas Assignments tool does allow instructors the flexibility to assign activities to specific due dates to individual students or even create activities that are only available to certain students.

Use Cases for Assignments


Canvas Assignments can be used in many ways - below are just a few examples of how assignments can be used in your course.

  • Homework Assignments
  • Research Papers
  • Written Exams
  • Handwritten Student work (check out our help article for students on how to create a PDF of handwritten work)
  • Custom Grade Columns- you can create a no-submission assignment to create a column in the Grades area for posting grades.  Common examples of a custom grade column:
    • Overall grade for course (that differs from the Canvas-calculated Totals column)
    • Grade for an oral exam or other activity that does not require students to hand in work
    • Class participation grade
  • Peer Review Assignments - students can be assigned to read and comment on one or more of their classmates' submissions
  • Group Assignments -  require one submission for a group of students
How do I use Canvas Assignments in my course?


The Canvas Assignments tool is a tool that is available in all courses in Canvas.  Instructors and TA level users can always access the tool to create and organize activities - but the tool can be hidden from students if desired.

NOTE:  The Assignments tool is hidden from students by default until there is at least one published activity/assignment.

Creating Canvas Assignments

The Assignments area is the central location where all graded activities and assignments listed.  To create an assignment, click the Assignments button [1] in your course navigation menu then click the +Assignment button [2].

To create a new assignment, go to the Assignments tool and click the +Assignment button.

Assignment Submission Types

The Canvas Assignments tool allows instructors to create activities for students to complete in one of four ways:

  • Online
    • File Uploads - allows students to you can restrict file types if desired, but can accept almost any type of file including (but not limited to):
      • image files (.jpg, .jped, .gif, .tiff, etc...)
      • video files (.mp4, .avi, .mov, .wmv, etc...)
      • word processing files (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .ppt, .xls, .xlsx, .rtf, .txt, etc...)
      • HAND WRITTEN WORK: Hand written student work can easily be submitted as part of a file upload assignment.  Students can be referred to our help guide on How to create a PDF of handwritten assignments for information on how to create a file that can be uploaded to  a file upload assignment.
    • Text Entry - gives students a text box on the assignment page where they can type in their answers.
    • Website URL - students will be given a text box where they can submit the URL link to a website.
    • Media Recording - using a native recording tool in Canvas - if you want to allow recordings from other devices, you would use the File Uploads submission type.
  • No Submission - used for assignments you would grade that do not require a submission - like class participation or an oral exam.
  • On Paper - used for assignments you want to grade, but you expect the students to submit a physical copy of the work.
  • External Tool - Using external applications like GradeScope, PlayPosit, VoiceThread, etc... for the activity.
Grading Assignments

When creating a graded activity using the Assignments tool, a column will automatically be created in the Grades area for that activity.  You can set your activity to display grades as points, percentages, letters, GPA scale, or complete/incomplete.   Check out more information related to Grade Posting Policies which control whether the student will see grades immediately (automatic) or after the instructor posts/releases the grades (manual).  

Off-Line Grading

Instructors can grade Assignment submissions offline by downloading all submissions to their local computer.  After they have completed their grading, they can reupload graded files back to students (it is imperative not to change the file name of the student submission - as this is how Canvas knows how to distribute the graded versions back to the students.  

Due Dates & Assigning to Your Students

As with any native Canvas activity tool, instructors can set up 3 distinct dates for each activity:

  • Due Date:  Date in which you want students to complete the activity - this date will appear on the Canvas Calendar for this course.
  • Available Date:  Date in which the students will be able to view and begin submitting to the activity.
  • Until Date:  Date after which no more submissions will be accepted.

If needed, you can set up multiple due dates for each activity.  This may be useful if you have Discussion Sections that meet on different days and the due dates should match accordingly or if an individual student(s) needs a different due date.

CONSIDER:  For students who are in different time zones, have personal obligations that conflict, or experience technical difficulties, you can use the additional due dates to help accommodate their unique situation.   

What will my students see?


The actual view your students see will depend on the settings you set on your assignments.  Below you can see what a student would see for an online, file upload submission type assignment.  

Student clicking on an Assignment that has not opened yet

On each assignment, instructors can set an Available From date - which is the date when the assignment will open for students to start submitting their work.  Even though an assignment may not yet be open, students will be able to see that there is an assignment and will be able to click on it.  When a student views and assignment that has not opened for submissions yet, they will see a message showing that the assignment is locked and the date when the assignment will open (the Available From date).

Student that view an assignment that has not opened will see a message saying that the assignment is locked until the available from date.
Student Submitting to an Online, File Submission Assignment

When going to submit a file, the students will see the assignment instructions, points, due/available from/until dates, and the rubric (if one exists).  The students will submit by clicking the Submit Assignment button and following the process to upload and submit their file(s).