Laura Gibbs

Cold Storage Feature Request: Gradebook Text Fields

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Apr 1, 2017

Last December, I had the misfortune to create a feature request literally the day of the discontinuation of the old feature request process, and it was consigned to Cold Storage. I haven't revived the request because I am just waiting now to see what the new Gradebook will bring (I am assuming we will have that for Fall, although I'm not sure about that). I wanted to get this out of Cold Storage now, though, to have available for linking in discussions about Grading in general, since we just had a lively discussion about that this week:

grading schemes: issue with no rounding 


My approach to grading will never work as a percentage-based scheme (my students always have 100%), but a points-based scheme would work for me, or... even better... a flexible, instructor-driven option to create our own Gradebook columns as described below.


Below is the exact request copied-and-pasted out of Cold Storage (which you can only access if you request membership in that group):


~ ~ ~


It would be very useful if instructors could create TEXT FIELDS in the Canvas Gradebook. Even though I've just missed the window for the old Feature Request submission procedure, I'm posting this here now in hopes of having it considered under the new system when it will be ready in Q1 2017 as announced.


Text fields v. current "Notes" field. Right now, there is a Notes field, but its usefulness is limited because there is no toggle to make it visible to students. There is also only one Notes field, when what we really need is to create multiple text fields, defining a specific purpose for each one, and making each one visible to students or not based on that purpose. Finally, the Notes field is not part of the CSV import/export of the Gradebook, which makes it useless for those who want to experiment with alternative grading systems.




1. Multiple Fields. Instructors should be able to create multiple text fields, based on their specific needs. The fields can be short in length; the Notes field is available for longer entries.


2. Visibility. We should be able to make each Gradebook text field visible to students or not.


3. Export/Import. The Gradebook text fields should be part of the CSV import/export of the Gradebook as other columns are.


4. Sortability. The Gradebook text fields should be sortable in the Gradebook as the other columns are.


5. Messaging. The Gradebook text fields should be available for use in messaging students as other columns are. A simple "not empty" criterion would work, equivalent to the "haven't submitted" option for assignment columns.


6. Searching/Filtering. If/when the Gradebook finally becomes more fully searchable and filterable on multiple columns (as I hope it will), the Gradebook text fields should be integrated with those advanced searching and filtering options.




1. Letters without numbers. Instructors could use a text field to record a letter grade or other text-based mark manually in the Gradebook without a grading scheme.

    * In D2L, this was not a problem; I just created a column and recorded a letter grade manually; I expected to do the same in Canvas and was surprised to find out this is simply not possible. I cannot use a Canvas grading scheme because my course is based on choices, not zeroes, and students always have a score of 100%, which throws off the Canvas percentage-based grading schemes. Having an option to do a true letter-grade or text-based mark without an associated number is important for anyone exploring alternative forms of assessment.


2. Complex grading/analytics. Instructors could use a text field to support a complex assessment system in an external spreadsheet, importing the resulting text-based mark from the spreadsheet back into the Canvas Gradebook.

    * This would work for final grade calculation, and also for other kinds of highly customized data analysis. For example, you could set up a formula in an external spreadsheet to alert students to having missed "more than x" number of assignments in "the past x weeks," and display a resulting text message to the student in the Gradebook via a custom text field for that purpose.


3. Student alerts. Instructors could use a text field to manually enter important information with students.

    * For example, in D2L I used a text-based field in the Gradebook to alert students what stage their project had reached so that they would know what they had due in any given week, updating the field each week based on their progress (my students' project assignments vary based on their individual project schedule).


4. Fields-as-flags. Instructors could use a text field for flagging purposes.

    * D2L offered a single on-off flag toggle that I used for different purposes at different times during the semester; a simple text field can serve the same function as a flag toggle, so the text field option would give us the equivalent of flagging. For example, I found it useful to flag students at risk of failing the class so I could send them extra encouragement and reminders.


For background, I wrote a post at my "Teaching with Canvas" blog about the previous Canvas Feature Requests I found related to this feature request.


And to get this new conversation rolling, I am pasting in here a comment I received from David Vishanoff when I posted this in the Canvas Community Group space for my school (University of Oklahoma):

I don't know what the best solution is--text fields could do a lot, as could formula or points-based grading options as in D2L--but I do know this is a serious problem in Canvas that needs to get some attention. There's nothing worse than a gradebook that gets students confused and worried, which is exactly what's happening to my students right now. I have important reasons for using a 4-point GPS-style scale instead of the 100/90/80 scale, but Canvas insists on showing percentages, which my students automatically interpret according to the 100/90/80 scale.