Allow instructors/admins to delete student assignment submissions

Community Participant

I'd like to propose that admins, and possibly also instructors, are given the ability to delete a student's assignment submission (not just the file - the submission itself). At minimum, a record should be kept of who deleted the submission and when (for auditing purposes) - perhaps in the form of a log in the 'Gradebook history'.

This suggestion has been raised numerous times as Idea Conversations since 2011, and has collectively received hundreds of comments and five-star ratings from the community.

Below is a list of scenarios (probably non-exhaustive) in which the current inability to delete student assignment submissions causes problems.

Scenario: Student inadvertently submits their assignment prematurely/incomplete (but to the correct portal)

  • If the assignment was set to single submission only, the instructor now needs to:
    • set the assignment to two submissions for ALL students, and to avoid giving other students a second submission, the instructor needs to organise a time to make the assignment available to only this particular student, then needs to change the assignment back to single submission and make it available to all students again.
  • The instructor is forced to live with the clutter and annoyance of having an assignment submission which does not belong there.

Scenario: Student inadvertently submits to the wrong assignment portal

  • All points above, plus
  • The instructor can no longer unpublish the assignment portal because it contains submissions.
  • The instructor can no longer convert the assignment a group assignment because it contains submissions.
  • The instructor is now consistently prompted (via the Dashboard to do list) to grade a submission which does not need to be graded.

Scenario: Student inadvertently submits to a past assignment portal which has already been graded

  • All points above, plus
  • The Gradebook icon now suggests that the student has not been graded because their most recent submission is not graded. To get around this, the instructor needs to click ‘Use this same grade for the resubmission’ – essentially grading a submission for a completely different assignment using the grading rubric/rules for this assignment.

Add on to this the extra workload for instructors (and us admin staff) when they contact us to ask how to delete a submission, only for us to have to tell them that it is impossible in what is supposed to be a modern LMS. Even the archaic Blackboard Learn allowed submissions to be deleted.

I do see value in the core philosophy that is “keep a record of anything and everything”, but when it results in headaches and workload for countless instructors, students and admin staff, a line must be drawn. It would not be a monumental task to allow deletion of submissions while keeping a record of who deleted the submission and when (for auditing purposes).

If there are concerns about instructors inadvertently/recklessly deleting submissions they shouldn’t be, then this can be made available to admins only, or a toggleable user permission. Alternatively, this can be made “difficult” for the average user (e.g. only make it possible through the API).

This has been requested on the Canvas Community since 2011. This idea has had hundreds of comments and five-star ratings across multiple idea threads over the course of more than a DECADE. In 2015, Instructure posted an update stating:
It's a great feature idea and we would like to solve this problem. However, our immediate roadmap is overflowing with other great ideas and we will not realistically get to this feature request in the immediate future. I'm going to have to Archive this for now, but don't lose hope. This is a really solid feature request and one that deserves our attention. It won't evaporate from our minds just because it's archived right now.