Community Member

Permission limitations on custom roles based on the Student role

I'm currently unable to submit an idea in this site so am starting by looking for feedback on how permissions currently operate in Canvas. 

We have a situation where multiple teachers are enrolled in the same course but specific teachers will grade some assignments in a course but not others.

We'd thus like teachers to only receive notifications in their To Do list for assignments that they will be involved in marking in that course. Instead, teachers receive To Do notifications for all assessments in the course, and there have been instances where some teachers have graded the wrong assignment.

While the simplest answer here is to ask the teachers to mark assignments complete that they are not involved with (or indeed using Act As to log in as each teacher and complete these for them), I was hoping for a more elegant solution.

So since Canvas is not currently designed to allow much control in limiting course content and actions for teachers, I was considering creating a custom role off the Student base role, and then giving this role as many of the permissions of the Teacher base role as possible. The hope here is that I could then use some of the restrictions available to student roles to control what assignments each teacher would see.

If this custom teacher role could be set up, possibilities here might include creating a section for each assignment, adding the relevant teacher to the relevant section, and then selecting that section in the Assign To field.
Or enabling Mastery Paths, creating a dummy assignment and using this assignment to define grade levels the teachers would need to reach in order to see an assignment.
Or adding each assignment to a separate module and then using module conditions to allow teachers access to the assessment that is relevant to them.

However, when I create a custom role off the Student base role, many of the teacher permissions can't be enabled for the role. When I asked Canvas Support about this, they advised that selecting teacher permissions off a custom student role like this was not possible.

My questions is, why are there restrictions as to what permissions can be selected in a custom role, and have others found ways to get around this limitation?





2 Replies
Community Contributor

This certainly sounds like a challenging problem to address that I'm not sure Canvas is currently designed to support well.  I've seen similar requests but rather than assigning specific assignments to certain graders, it was assigning specific students to certain graders, which could be achieved using sections.  It sounds like your idea is to add an assignment setting that would allow you to assign the grader rather than it being open to everyone that has grading permissions in the course.

I think the main reason that Canvas restricts permissions available to certain roles is so the base role doesn't lose its meaning and you can still make some assumptions about certain restrictions and/or behaviors that are needed for that role.  As an example related to this case, I wouldn't expect that a user role that was based on a student would have access to grade student work beyond peer reviews.  If someone has access to grade student work, I would expect that role to be based on Teacher or TA.  Some of these expectations are also necessary to help ensure third-party tools/LTI's are able to interpret and handle roles appropriately.

Hi James,

Thanks for the thoughtful and speedy reply, and for your perspective on the possible reasoning behind the limitation.

I'd have to say though that I don't see any issue with allowing full customisation of roles...
As long as the base roles such as Student, Teacher, TA, etc remain in place, their use is unaffected by the addition of custom roles.

I'd assume that LTIs/tools will also still be able to leverage off these base roles independently of whether there are custom roles alongside them or not.

Additionally, if you're new to Canvas and you see someone in a 'Student' role, you'd have a fair idea what to expect. However if you see someone in a custom role called 'Staff viewer' for instance, you're not likely to immediately confuse that with a Student role, even though for us both roles are essentially the same.

The upside with opening up the permissions for custom roles is that users immediately get access to much more flexibility in how they can use Canvas. Instead, there seems to be a distinction made between what is student and what is non-student when it would be easier to treat all roles as equal and let the existing functionality apply where and when it's useful.