Canvas Release: Student Assignment Enhancements (2020-01-18)

Document created by Erin Hallmark Administrator on Dec 22, 2019Last modified by Erin Hallmark Administrator on Feb 18, 2020
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This document introduces the student assignment enhancements as noted in Canvas Release Notes (2020-01-18) 


This feature is currently only available in the beta environment.


For additional feature updates, please refer to the User Group: Assignment Workflow Improvements

Supported student assignments display an improved interface and submission workflow. This change improves the student experience in completing and submitting assignments, viewing rubrics, and locating instructor feedback.



Feature/Integration Setup

Feature Options

Assignment Enhancements - Student

Student assignment enhancements involve the Assignment Enhancements - Student feature option, which can be allowed on a course-by-course basis or turned on for all courses across the entire account. By default, this feature option is set to Off. Canvas admins can manage this feature option in Account Settings.


If this feature option is not already turned on for the entire account, instructors can enable the Assignment Enhancements - Student feature option for a course in Course Settings.


RCE Enhancements

New assignments is designed to be used with the New Rich Content Editor, as it includes enhanced functionality that may be needed to submit coursework. However, the existing Rich Content Editor can be used for student submissions.


The New Rich Content Editor involves the RCE Enhancements feature option, which can be allowed on a course-by-course basis or turned on for all courses across the entire account. By default, this feature option is set to Off. Canvas admins can manage this feature option in Account Settings.



No additional permissions are required for this feature and inherently affects users with student roles.


Release Schedule

This feature was made available in the beta environment as of 2019-12-23. Additional enhancements will continue to be made to this feature as announced in future release notes.


A production date of this feature will be based on planned feature development and user feedback. 



Supported Assignment Types

When this feature is enabled, all existing currently supported assignment types automatically convert to the new assignment type. No data conversation is required, as this feature change only affects the Canvas interface. Assignments are only updated in active courses; concluded courses are not affected. 


Supported assignment types:

  • Online
  • External Tools


Not currently supported

  • No Submission, On Paper
  • Group Assignments
  • Peer Reviews


Any assignment type that is not supported is redirected back to the existing assignments interface.


Submission Details Page

This feature currently only enhances the view of individual assignments. It does not affect the Submission Details page, which students can view via the Grades page. For supported assignment types, the Submit Assignment or Re-submit Assignment button redirects students to the new assignments view.


Backward Compatibility

After new assignments have been enabled, they can be disabled at any time but submission data is affected if a student has made multiple submission attempts. Reverting to the existing assignments workflow groups all comments into the latest submission.


Course-Level Features

Individual Assignment Overview

The individual assignment page for students offers clarity on submission workflows. Additionally, the following enhancements are available:

  • The assignment summary header are always visible when viewing the assignment and floats at the top of the page
  • Submission process is summarized in a status timeline at the top of the assignment
  • Assignment details can be minimized within the page
  • Submissions can be drafted in the assignment without requiring an immediate submission
  • History of the submission type, comments, and the assignment rubric (if any) are located in their own tabs
  • Submission types, comments, and any rubric grading is retained with each attempt and viewable by both the student and the instructor
  • For instructors, SpeedGrader displays comments based on submission attempt


New Assignments workflow


Assignment Summary Header

Supported individual assignments load the new assignments interface with an assignment header, which includes the assignment title, due date, availability dates, point value, and calculation method. A timeline indicating each phase of the submission process is also visible at the top of the page. 


Assignment summary header


The assignment summary header is always visible and accompanies page scrolling. The header floats at the top of the page with a condensed submission timeline.


Assignment Summary Header floating at the top of the page


Timeline Status

The timeline can indicate one or more statuses of the assignment via color and icon:

  • The assignment is currently unavailable because of a module prerequisite (red lock icon)
  • The assignment is no longer available because of an availability date (red lock icon)
  • The assignment is available and ready to be submitted (green check mark)
  • The assignment is missing (red missing label)
  • The assignment is late (gray late label)


Assignment header with locked and missing statuses


Assignment Resources

Assignment Details

Below the header, the assignment displays the details of the assignment. The Details section is expanded by default but can be collapsed when needed.


Assignment details



If a rubric is provided for an assignment, the rubric can be reviewed by students to help them define their submission. Rubrics can also be viewed after the assignment is submitted.


Rubric tab



The Upload status in the timeline indicates the submission can be uploaded by the student. The term Upload in the timeline represents any submission type supported by the assignment.


A submission can be uploaded in the Attempt tab, which indicates the attempt number. Currently students can have unlimited submission attempts.


Attempt tab


Submission Types

The submission type set by the instructor displays below the Attempt tab. However, if an assignment supports multiple submission types, the Submission Type menu will display in the page for the student to select a submission type.


Attempts with multiple submission types


For all online submission types, students can draft a submission by creating/uploading the content for the submission type. Files can be dragged and dropped from a computer or uploaded from Canvas. 


Canvas will retain the submission content until the submission is submitted via the Submit button. File upload, text, and media submission drafts can be deleted and re-created; URL submission drafts can be changed by updating the website URL added to the URL field.


File submission with draft uploaded document


Multiple Submission Types

When an assignment allows multiple submission types, each submission type has a Submit button. The active submission type where the student clicks the Submit button is the type that will be submitted for the assignment. Drafts of other submission types will be deleted.


For example, if a student creates a text entry, changes the submission type to file upload and uploads a file, then clicks the Submit button, the message will indicate that a file submission is being submitted and any other submission (text entry) will be deleted.


Submission warning message about multiple drafts


Submission Confirmation

After the student clicks the Submit button for the submission, the timeline updates to verify the assignment has been submitted. 


A preview of the submission displays in the page. If multiple files were submitted for the assignment, all files display and can be selected individually for viewing.


Submitted file with preview



Comments can be added to the assignment after the assignment has been submitted in the Comments tab. 


Submission comments are paginated after 20 comments.


Comments tab


Grading Status

Until the submission has been graded, the timeline indicates the assignment has not been graded. Once a grade is received, the timeline updates to Graded, and the assignment header also displays the score.


Graded timeline entry


Multiple Attempts

If students want to make another attempt, the can use the timeline to click the New Attempt option. Attempts can be submitted before or after the previous attempt has been graded.


Clicking the New Attempt button resets the timeline for the next submission attempt. The previous attempt can be accessed by clicking the Previous icon in the timeline.


Timeline with multiple attempts


Students can repeat the submission process with the new attempt. For submissions that contained multiple submission types, Canvas will automatically select the previously used submission type. Any comments added to the attempt are retained with the attempt.


SpeedGrader Instructor View

When student assignment enhancements are enabled for a course, SpeedGrader displays comments based on the submission attempt. Any replies to comments are also displayed to students within the attempt being viewed by the instructor.


Comments view in SpeedGrader


Community Resources

Future Enhancements

This document outlines existing functionality included in the initial release of this feature. Enhancements will continue to be added over future releases as indicated in Canvas Release Notes. Please follow the release notes for future functionality updates, which will be indicated by the assignments tag.


Customer Feedback

Community feedback for this feature is welcome per Canvas Community Feedback Guidelines, which outlines general feedback, broken functionality, and feature enhancements.


Feature enhancements should include the assignments tag. Before submitting a new idea, please review all existing Assignments feature ideas.


User Group

Feedback is also welcome in the Assignment Workflow Improvements User Group.


Feature Documentation

Documentation for this feature will be available on 2020-01-25 in the Assignment Workflow Improvements User Group.


Lessons will also be updated with all future enhancements as indicated in release notes.

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