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Community Participant

Assignment File Formats-Best Practices

So I've had students upload assignments without restrictions to the file format, and have found it difficult to get a sense for what file types work best. The assignment I've had the most difficulty with is one that students often do by hand, take a picture of, and submit as a .jpeg or .pdf. Sometimes the file that appears is so small I can't see it, but the image is usually so large I have to shrink the zoom of the window to be able to see the entire .jpeg or .pdf. And either way, there is no way for me to rotate the view as I occasionally need to do. So far, I haven't found any reliable way to get the assignment to show properly with no need to zoom in or out.

I'm trying to see what others have done with assignments that require a file upload. What works, what doesn't?

5 Replies
Community Champion

Hi  @jdubas 

Word and PDF files are always a good choice as they can be opened in SpeedGrader/Crocodoc, allowing you to add feedback and comments directly on the document. Images also open fine in SpeedGrader, but I'm curious about the nature of the assignment you're referencing. Is there a way to change the design of the project/assignment so that they don't have to take a picture to upload? It sounds like this is where the source of error lies, and I completely understand; leaving this step up to students will give you a huge range of products, some acceptable and some not.

A few thoughts: If the assignment is something they are doing by hand, does it make sense for you to grade by hand as well? This may or may not be possible depending on the number of students and the type of assignment, but Canvas will allow you to set an assignment to be turned in "on paper." This still creates a column in the gradebook, but doesn't require the students to upload anything. Do students have annotation abilities on their devices, a la touch screens and/or styluses (styli?)? Many assignments can be migrated to digital form if this is the case.

This is a very helpful community with some very skilled instructional designers. If you provide some details on the assignment or assignments that are giving you trouble, I'm willing to bet that there are some here who would be willing to help iron things out.

Community Champion

We found that Crocodoc was stripping out footnotes in student submitted research papers and also converting double space to single space so we force our students to submit research papers as PDF documents.  We point them to CutePDF as a small, free download which can "print" Word documents to PDF for Windows users (Mac includes that feature natively).

Non-research paper assignments we allows as Word (.doc/.docx) or PDF.  If memory serves me correctly, I don't believe Crocodoc plays nicely with Pages for Mac.

We have a video assignment in one of our courses and do not have any restrictions to allow for various video formats and have not encountered any issues with that setup thus far.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @jdubas ​...

For many years, our Technical College has made the requirement that students submit their work using Microsoft Office.  Very early on, when we were just beginning in the online course world, we had students submitting all kinds of different file formats to their instructors.  For example, sometimes students submitted their work using Microsoft Words which produced a *.wps file.  Our faculty had difficulties opening those kinds of files on their computers, so we made MS Office a requirement.  (Our campus bookstore sold the whole MS Office suite for a very low price, so it was quite the deal for our students at the time.)

Today, we still have this requirement in place, but I'm not exactly sure what many of our instructors require of their students.  (I'm an admin for our instance of Canvas, and I don't teach.)  My guess is that most accept MS Office files and PDFs.  The courses that require other kinds of files (graphics, CAD drawings, web pages, etc.) will obviously require other file formats, too.

Hope this helps.

Community Coach
Community Coach

We have free Office 365 for all of our students, so we require students upload their documents either as .doc/.docx or .pdf. In the past we allowed rtf, but since moving to Canvas my faculty want to use Crocodoc when they grade so rtf is out.

Community Contributor

In higher ed., schools often have free software for students, like Microsoft Office 365 for Windows and Mac.  If you provide links to free software and setup instructions in week 1 of the course, it is easy to ask students to submit assignments in one format like WordDocs, where you can annotate easily.  

Even better, you can provide students a template for assignments in WordDoc form that they download, edit and return. Makes grading fast for certain types of work.