Making feedback more visible to students

This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas

For more information, please read through the  Canvas Release Notes (2021-11-20).

I'm teaching a course using Canvas. This is the second semester I've used it. I like Canvas overall, but I've discovered that my students have a difficult time reading the feedback that I provide on their online assignment submissions because the feedback is split into three different locations, and when student view an assignment that I've graded, there is no visual indication of whether feedback is present, and no unified display of that feedback. I'd like the feedback to be visible by default, or else some kind of visually loud indicator present to show them there is feedback. Let me explain:


  1. Say I grade an assignment that a student submitted. They go to the assignment, and can see straight-away a general comment on the lower right-hand side. That's visible by default. Fine and good.
  2. But what about all the comments embedded in the document view? Those are not automatically displayed, and there is no marker to show that such comments have been embedded in the document. There should be at minimum a big icon saying feedback is embedded, for sure, so go look at it. Currently, "View Feedback" link is always present, regardless of whether feedback has been embedded or not.
  3. Furthermore, the rubric grade is displayed in the upper-right corner, but the detailed rubric view is hidden until students think to click "Show Rubric"... yet even then, the written feedback that I have provided on each rubric criteria remains hidden from view! Students have to hunt for that feedback by clicking the easily-overlooked speech-bubble icon one-at-a-time for each criterion. But I don't necessarily write a comment for each criterion, and there is no visual sign or indication that a comment has been written or not.


How are students supposed to know and remember to check all of these various locations to receive the complete set of feedback provided by their instructors? It is utterly inefficient and defeatist because students don't seem to realize that all this feedback is sitting there waiting for them--and they don't know to look for it.


Now, from a student point of view, I don't want to have to click in so many different places to hunt (perhaps fruitlessly) for feedback that my instructor might or might not have left for me (since there is no indicator signalling the existence of written comments).


The fact that written feedback has been given within the submitted file and within the rubric should be foregrounded--it should be made highly visible to the students checking their grades. That feedback is part of the learning process. It is essential for students to read that feedback in order to improve their work. If they don't know it is there, what is the point?


Don't force users to guess and hunt for feedback. They won't do it. Make it obvious that the feedback has been given by putting some kind of big symbol or message next to the assignment doc (or by displaying the assignment by default so students can see that margin comments etc have been embedded in the file) and also by automatically displaying the rubric WITH the written feedback already visible. Don't make the students click in three hundred different places to get all their feedback for a single assignment. Please.

Community Novice

This is one of my biggest struggles in teaching my course in Canvas. Finding feedback is not intuitive for many students. I teach many students who do not have a lot of experience using computers, and I believe it is even more difficult for them to find. 

Community Novice

This would such an improvement.

Community Explorer

The Canvas team should be embarrassed that this was posted FIVE YEARS AGO and nothing has changed. I have to go through absurd lengths to drill into the heads of my students where all of their comments are on their essays. The screens they see are confusing, with a tiny window containing their line edits. The screen I see is, while far from perfect, far more user-friendly. I'm typing this in Nov. 2020. It makes no sense that Canvas has known about this terrible user interface for so long and done nothing about it. 

Community Explorer

In the 5 years that this Idea has been under discussion Canvas made changes to the late and missing tags, but continues to hide the faculty labor that goes into substantive, formative feedback to students. The icons for comments are small, cryptic, and visually minimized. A limited understanding of "engagement" requires students to click in multiple locations to gain access to the rubrics, comments, and in-document annotations. These design decisions create barriers for students who should have easy access to their instructor's feedback that is an essential part of their courses. We need Canvas to facilitate instructor-student communication. Updates and improvements are long overdue.

Community Contributor

When the student reviews their feedback in the speed grader area, they have to click on the feedback button in order to display their submission and any annotations. this seems like an unnecessary step for the student to take and it would be far better to simply display this so that they can scroll through it as soon as they reach that page


please consider taking this unnecessary step out of the speed grader student feedback process  

Community Explorer

FEEDBACK should be visible automatically.

Community Member
Viewing comments and annotations is so terribly, terribly unfriendly for kids, even for myself, the parent. It takes so much time just to see if there happens to be any feedback on a particular assignment. These children spend so much time in front of the screen, there is no way they are going to hunt down feedback from a past assignment. I beg you to make this more user-friendly and streamlined.
As far as we can tell, in order to find teacher feedback, my kids have to check the grades section. There is no reasonable notification that is easily seen by the student. It would be wonderful if there was an icon within the module section directly next to date/points that indicates a comment AND/OR annotation has been left for the student...the same icon that is in the grades section. It needs to be within the module list at the left side so that it is easily visible, as well as within the assignment. Students are already doing so very much, they very rarely go to the grades section to hunt down feedback that may or may not be there. 
Within the grades section, it is terribly hard to use on the Chromebook. When you sort it by date, it is in ascending order. Students then have to scroll allllll the way to the bottom to find the current assignments. This should be in Descending order, so the most current assignments are the first thing they see. Then it would be easier to see comments. 
Feedback is nearly impossible to find and see on an iPad. It's exhausting.
If annotations have been made within an assignment, it should show up as a comment that tells them to open the file to view the annotation. This must be streamlined so students have consistency in knowing the teacher left feedback. 
If none of this is possible, at the very least, make it an option to send an inbox to the students when feedback/annotations are made. The notification section is so full of stuff, it all just becomes white noise to a student that they surely all ignore.
At this point, we have to set it to send ME an email when a teacher leaves feedback. I've already been to school! The program should create the opportunity for students to easily take responsibility for this feedback and not depend on the parents to communicate it. Push notifications on the iPad is an unreasonable option. They are hard to track and disrupt learning.
I really, really hope you can improve these features. These children are tired. Anything to make this a more user-friendly experience would be so valuable to their learning and mental health.
Community Explorer

I'd like to know where the ideas from the initial post are as of this date.  I agree with all the suggestions.  The post and comments were made some time ago.  What's the status in February 2021?


Community Member

Please make feedback from teacher to student and vice versa highly visible on the home page. 

Community Member


Can't believe this hasn't been corrected a long time ago. Nice to realize I'm not alone; I just found out where to even go to make feature requests. Below I'll copy in the request I posted somewhere else in Canvas' forums./

(Also, I'll point out that the early response to the OP "that the Community focus their feature ideas.  Please focus this idea down to one" is ludicrous. Our job, as teachers and users of Canvas, is not to fit into the Canvas Inc. Corporate Feature-Request Workflow Model. Our job is not to do Canvas Inc.'s product development job. If we as users are offering Canvas free, useful feedback on our experience and frustrations with the product, Canvas needs to be able to take it from there and handle splitting requests into the right chunks for their internal workflows.)

Anyway. Here's what I suggested elsewhere, which is exactly the same complaint many are reporting here: ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Can you PLEASE make it easier for students to view annotations that I've made on their assignments? There's that tiny little "view feedback" button if they first click the right button to view their submission. This is not the way high school students work. When they open the assignment they need to very obviously see their submission, and any feedback/annotations I provide need to load automatically and be staring at them.
The kids are not software developers. I mean, they create a Google Doc, upload it to Canvas, and expect my Canvas feedback to be appearing in their original Google Doc. You CANNOT expect kids to click a tiny button that says "view feedback" —they are constantly telling me they didn't see my annotations or even when they go looking for them they're "not there." (Actually, it's more accurate to put this all in the past tense because I've stopped providing feedback within Canvas this way because they simply don't see it.)
You will probably say that they should follow all your workflow steps, but if you think about it, the kids who have trouble remembering all these steps or don't even notice the button are probably more likely to be the kids who need to see my feedback annotations in the first place. The ones who are good at following all the arbitrary directions and right steps to view the feedback are more likely to be the ones who are doing things right in the first place. I'm surprised this sort of information didn't arise in your user-testing beforehand.
Thanks for your consideration.