Changing the 'Submit Assignment' Button

Students tell us that the "Submit Assignment" button is confusing, because the term "submit" implies to turn in. Changing the work "Submit" to "Begin" (or something similar) would be less confusing, and using "Submit Assignment" for when the assignment is actually be submitted for grading.


This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas

For more information, please read through the Canvas Deploy Notes (2021-03-31).

Community Novice

It seems that a guidance statement that the submit button does not actually submit the assignment would be confusing! Appreciate the discussion!

Community Explorer

Exactly! This is the problem that I have had with students. I am able to work it out eventually, but the language is confusing when the assignment involves an upload rather than a text entry. Perhaps if the button said something distinct when an entry was involved versus an upload because a "submission" is not occurring when the button is pressed the first time?

Community Member

How would "Next" or "Proceed" or even just a "green arrow" that might indicate click here to go on.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hello, Canvas Family!

Thank you for such a great discussion on this topic. We appreciate the insight shared here. At this time we will not develop this idea or make changes to our assignment workflow. Our user experience research indicates the workflow is appropriate at this time.  We will, however, take your insights under consideration for possible future projects.

Kind regards,


Community Participant

Well that was a bummer. Even though this is still open for voting it has apparently been set aside...

I think that we can agree that there is a problem in transparency for many (but not all) users.

I also think that we are going to have trouble agreeing on a language change (I was thinking "open" or "initiate" and then the excellent discussion above had me rethinking the terms over and over). I am a big fan of Rob Ditto's suggestions (Begin submission and Complete Submission) because they seem like a happy medium ground that works for different types of assignments.

Since it seems apparent that Canvas is not going to do anything about this (unless I am misreading Jason Sparks' comment) the solution will have to remain with the instructors.

Perhaps we need a discussion where we can share "best practices" for avoiding confusion with the "Submit" button. I'd be happy to participate, but I am not sure where the best place to start the discussion would be. If anyone else wants to start that discussion, please do so! (I have to keep working on another project right now!).

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts. I am a big believer in transparent and accurate language and so the "submit" thing has been kind of annoying for me and it was nice to hear everyone thrash it out in a discussion.

*****An aside for those who are interested in the usage of the word "submit" over the years (point buried at the end!):

  • submit is a noun that comes from the Latin verb submittō
    • The primary meaning of the Latin verb in its original usage (to let down, put down, lower, sink, drop) is largely gone from our current usage.
    • The first usage of "submit" in English is in the sense of a major secondary meaning in Latin usage (to yield oneself to another or to place oneself in the control of another) and dates to the late fourteenth century (1300s).
    • Our usage of "submit" here (to send/refer to another for consideration) is an extension of the submission of control usage and dates to the mid sixteenth century (1550s).
    • The closest Latin usage to our current usage was when submittō was used by the author Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) once to mean "to send privately" and another time to mean "to send a secret message." However, Horace ALSO used submittō to mean "to supply as an aid/for reinforcement" which just goes to show us that "submit" meant lots of different things to the Romans just as it does for us here on Canvas.



Community Contributor

  Students are expected to have the tech savvy to wander around and try things and find workarounds.   My students already have enough barriers to understanding, and need to focus on the content, not navigating the LMS.  Happily, my project will end up elsewhere.  

Arguing about semantics and what "submit" means has nothing to do with whether, in the real world, students think it means something that it doesn't.   

If I had/have to use it, I'd have a practice "text entry" assignment to teach them how to go through the steps, and include a note about it on every assignmnet... and yes, I'd say "and I encourage you to major in web design and make something better!"   

Community Team
Community Team

 @siouxgeonz ‌

You bring up a great strategy here that I want to highlight!  A 'practice assignment' (as I used to call them) is something that I used in every single course I taught, no mater the LMS.  I always had a module titled week 0.  It was worth very little points, but they were easy points that got students off on the right foot (that's a whole other strategy discussion in itself!).  The module took students through every content item they would see throughout the entire course.  I did use the content items for meaningful information and interactions though - so that students felt like they had meaning.  Here are some examples of what I used:

  1. Syllabus Page: demonstrated that a page was used to share information
  2. Syllabus Quiz: students demonstrated that they read the syllabus and experienced the quiz tool
  3. Introduction Discussion:  student introduced themselves to the class and experienced the discussions tool
  4. Assignment submission:  I often had information that I needed students to send only to me.  They practiced this through an assignment.
  5. Other...  If I was using files, videos, external tools, or other content items I always had examples as well!

I know this is a little off topic for this thread, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to draw out such a great strategy.  I know many others use this strategy as well!  It might be really cool if you started a discussion in to see what others have done with this exact strategy???

Community Participant

I am kind of confused by your response because it feels a little antagonistic even though it seems like we are pretty much in agreement, but perhaps I am missing something.

I am in complete agreement with you that simple, clear, and obvious language is best.

As a language teacher I am all too aware that constant shifts in English usage make things it even harder to reach the goal of straightforward communication, but that is another issue entirely.

Your point that the LMS needs to avoid making things worse is one with which I agree with 100%.

Community Contributor

I'm antagonistic towards things that confuse students, and that this isn't a priority in the Canvas LMS.  I'm in full agreement with you Smiley Happy

Community Participant

[Insert thumbs up Emoji here, accompanied by fireworks animation].