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

It's sooo true. A couple of years ago, my husband traveled to help our daughter and son-in-law move. I didn't go because I was in the middle of giving feedback to students so they had the feedback for an upcoming job fair. I was disheartened to realize—after the semester—that the students NEVER saw the feedback. They had NO idea I'd spent hours providing it. They'd only seen the grades and moved on like so many students do.

Since then, I've met with students individually to review their most important documents and then created assignments that build upon each other, so that the grade on the next submission is pending that they've followed the feedback on the previous submission. To do this, I've created "how to" videos with students demoing their view and me demoing the professor view so students know where to look. It's really far more complicated for students than it EVER should be. As you've stated, it's also extremely frustrating when it takes several hours to edit documents only to have the feedback NEVER viewed.

The request to make the student view the SAME as the instructor view has been an ongoing request (plea) for soooo long. I hope they're able to do this soon.

Community Contributor

I've said it so many times before I've lost count: CANVAS ADMINS, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO IMPLEMENT THIS?????  I'm sorry about yelling, but this is such as easy that, as Cheryl says, has been suggested and voted on and promised for years...yet nothing gets done. This is CRITICAL to our work as instructors...never more than now when we're all confronted with Fall online.

Community Member

Oh my god yes- here we are with them breathing down our necks to provide affective contact with students- feedback is the number one component of that. It should be the first thing they see- open the assignment under grades and it pops right up with the rubric and the paper with comments too. Seems like a no brainer to me.

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Community Member

Thank you! I teach third grade, and when I leave them very specific comments on things I want them to change, they have to go back and forth between two documents. It is not even worth the trouble. Within Google Classroom, the comments show up on the page and the kids can resolve the comments right then and there. There has to be a better way in canvas, for all students, to be able to see their teacher's comments on their paper as they are working on it. 

Community Member

I can not believe that this has been requested for so long with no action. Canvas seems to promise the world and deliver very very little in the way of effective teaching and learning. I wish the developers would spend less time on confetti, and more time working on features that assist the learning process. 

Community Champion

You might also want to provide feedback about this proposed update to the way students interact with assignment submissions and feedback

Community Member

It would be very helpful if there was a visual notation in grades when a teacher/instructor comments on an assignment. A color change or a flag in the corner of the assignment cell in gradebook. 

Community Explorer

Students should be able to click grades, then click on the name of the assignment and then be taken to the assignment, not the submission page.  OR if it goes to the submission page, the name of the assignment there should take them to the assignment.  The grade page is the only one that give students a summary of all their work, it would be so helpful if they could navigate from there to the assignments they need to do.  Thank you!

Community Member

Yes! I do all I can to teach my students how to view feedback, but I know some of them don't make a habit of it or just aren't familiar enough with the feature. Having the feedback so tricky for them to access is really frustrating. 

Community Novice

Agreed! It should be easier for students to view feedback since that's where individualized instruction takes place. It's unmotivating for students to search multiple places to view feedback. I spend a good deal of time making videos and composing reminders to students about how to view their feedback. It's so complicated that it's not easy for them to remember.

I support the suggestion to put them all in one space.