[Gradebook] Nickname for students with same name

At the University of Wisconsin - Madison, we frequently have courses with over 500 students. With those numbers, we frequently get two students with the same name. When you're working in the gradebook, or in Speedgrader, there is no way to confirm which student is which.


Additionally, with a large population of foreign nationals, many will adopt Americanized names (e.g. "Frank", in lieu of "Zhang").


For these two reasons, (and there may be others) I would like to see a "Nickname" option for each student. A field (my thinking) in gradebook that could be toggled on/off as needed. Once the field is on, it is left blank for the all students. But, the instructor can custom populate that field for each student. Whatever is shown there would be used "in place" of the student's official name within the Gradebook, or SpeedGrader. If this field is left blank, then the official student name is employed as-is.

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Community Novice


Community Participant

I know it doesn't resolve the issue with the names in groups, but if you display the Login with the student name in the Gradebook, it can serve as a quick reference for which student is which.  It is located in the options menu in the student column - click Secondary Info and then toggle on the Login.

But yes, I agree, it is difficult to differentiate the students while in the groups list.  Being able to view the login id in groups would help, then there is no risk with name issues/preferences.  Had this come up just this morning.

Community Explorer

Students should have the option to control the NAME THEY PREFER. Therefore, the "display name" name should populate in the gradebook, attendance/roll call, discussions, groups, etc. rather than the "full name" or "sort name".  It would be so much more helpful for faculty to see the "preferred name" in the attendance/roll call (especially with the seating chart), and in the gradebook (see screenshots attached). 

This is a great way to add a layer of consistency, allow students to make their name preference known, and enhance student-teacher communication! 
Please make this change asap--this is low hanging fruit that can be accomplished with a fairly simple program change!


Community Member

Just adding my support to a very obvious feature that would take little time to implement.  Yes, students can change their prefferred name, but they often don't, and even in my small classes, it takes me awhile to learn names.  Just let us edit the name!

Community Champion

If students have common names, there can be multiple students with the same name in a course and it's impossible to tell them apart in many areas of Canvas.

You can turn on a secondary identifier in Grades, but any other time you need to pick a student (i.e. starting a conversation, setting up groups manually, adding a differentiated assignment due dates, etc.) Canvas only displays their name. 

Can you please display more information about students when instructors need to identify and select them?

Community Explorer

Dear Colleagues,

Inclusion and diversity are obviously important topics. I think this "feature" is also tied strongly to student identity for all students, and making our students comfortable in class (especially online classes), which facilitates their learning too.

I have used the "gradebook notes" workaround for years... but it is clunky, inconsistent, and very labor inefficient.

I believe the "having the same student with the same name" issue is  red herring.  In computer science, we call these a "namespace conflicts".  There are many well-known solutions and the canvas engineers can certainly figure it out.  See:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namespace

The bigger challenge is that this request does not appear to be on the "canvas roadmap" even though this is a multi-year thread.... See:  https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Roadmap/ct-p/roadmap

How can we get it there?



Community Member

Perhaps a class action lawsuit from the LGBTQ community would change some minds.

Community Member

Showing more information to distinguish students with the same name across features is important. We ran into the problem this week of not being able to distinguish which student to schedule for a quiz due to inability to se ID #'s or other unique identifiers in the assignment/quiz scheduling tool. Apparently ID #'s can be used for extensions in Quizzes / Moderate feature. This problem seems like another example of how Canvas is not designed with large courses in mind.

Community Member

NIcknames are so important, especially for our students who identify as something that doesn't align with their given name.  The official name should be listed, along with the nickname that either student or instructor can set, and both should show up in Speedgrader and Canvas Messages.

When teaching online, addressing students by their chosen name is one of the most important ways of developing a relationship with them.  


Community Member

The ability to set a nickname for each student just like we can create a nickname for our courses would be awesome.

I see this being especially useful when taking attendance / using the seating chart. Being able to call out the student's preferred name would be great.  Actually seeing their preferred name over and over would help me to remember that name as opposed to repeatedly seeing their given name and trying to remember their name preference.