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Community Champion

How can I create groups that I can sort the Gradebook and SpeedGrader by?

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I've got ~300 students this semester (next semester I'll have ~500) and 5 TAs. I want to divide the students into 5 grading groups which will rotate among the TAs over the course of the semester (i.e., each assignment a TA is responsible for one of the grading groups). I'd like to be able to create those 5 groups within Canvas and have TAs be able to select their group in the Gradebook (or Speedgrader) for quicker access to the students they are responsible for as well as to make it really easy (for them and me) to see which students still need grades within a particular TA's group.

I could do this very easily in D2L. How can I do this in Canvas?

If I can't do this in Canvas, what do you suggest as a reasonable work-around?

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Community Coach

I hear you, Beck. I am 68 and am currently working four jobs - all of them on a computer! By current, I mean about the last 3 years.  While my wrist and hands are good, my eyes get worse every year. This is definitely not how I envisioned my golden years!

But by the same token, I love what I do and why I am doing it, so life is good!

Community Champion

I use sections quite a lot and have a number of large courses. You can find some python scripts that I wrote to help deal with this at Sections in courses: Chip sandbox  (Instructions on writing the config.json file are at Making a config.json file to make life simpler: Chip sandbox  and instructions on getting a token at Getting an access token: Chip sandbox ).

Like @ @James , I have a very low tolerance for repetitive tasks and am willing to work hard to avoid them, hence I have written a lot of python scripts to help me. I do not get paid for doing any of these programs, but do them because it makes my own work easier and benefits my colleagues & others.

I should point out that a student can be in up to 18 different "sections" in a course. I make use in this in a degree project course, where there is an examiner for each student and academic adviser for each student. By making a section for each person who is an examiner or adviser - a person can see the list of students just those students that they work with as a view in the gradebook. In my own case, it is much easier to see the 11 students I am working with, than the list of >340 students. Moreover, the administrators of different programs of study can put the students from their program into a section and thus view the students by program of study.

I am working to get the central IT unit to open up some of their other systems so that all of the information that is already available can be automatically used, rather than people having to cut and paste from one system into another. Some of the APIs that they have made available let me get the phone number of an examiner, their title, etc. As a result I was able to make a program that can customize a letter to the authority that is responsible for visas to explain why a student needs an extension of their visa. The program takes as arguments the Canvas course number for the degree project that the student is in, the student's Canvas ID, the date to which the visa should be extended, and text explaining why the extension should be made.  It produces a draft .docx file (with the student's name as part of the file name) that the examiner can modify and print and then sign. The program gets the student's name, the examiner's name, and the course details for the student via information in the gradebook. It took a couple hours to write, but the payoff is large as the current authority has all visas ending at the end of spring term - which means that only a few students are actually finished in time -- hence lots of letters have to be written. The alternative was a letter template that required a lot of effort cutting and pasting the required information into it (in my case, with typically an error occurring as I might use the name the student is known by, but not their formal name - which requires correcting the letter, printing, signing,  ...).

Community Champion

Thanks for all that you share,  @maguire . Your use of sections is far more creative than anything we've imagined at our school. We've used "section" is an official designation that comes from the SIS because "sections" is a word that we use. Your explanation shows something that I know in other areas but had forgotten to apply here: Just because you use the same word as Canvas doesn't mean that it is the same thing or that you're limited to the way you traditionally use them.

Great post!

Community Champion

 @James , with the recently added ability in Canvas to send announcements to a given section - one can basically use sections as if they were a multicast address (in a networking sense) Smiley Happy . Now if only SpeedGrader were to use the View that you have selected at the time you invoke it to give you just the viewed set of students, it would be a real benefit.

One of the very nice things when manually adding a section for a student is that the input box does partial string recognition and gives you the things that partially match what you are entering. With a little clever use of this you can even manually put a lot of students into sections really fast. It took me about 14 hours to enter ~9 custom column values for ~200 student and put them into three different types of sections (examiner, academic supervisor, and program). I hope to avoiding having anyone have to do this next winter by extracting all of this data and filling it into the custom columns by way of a "quiz" that will collect all of the information and a script that will take the quiz answers and turn them into the correct custom column entries in the gradebook. [This is vital as the course (or group of courses) next year will probably have >600 students in it and will have >150 teachers involved in it.] Ideally, I would like to be able to put the examiner's identification in as their Canvas user ID, but have it displayed by the gradebook as their name (but this functionality is missing).

In the older gradebook one of the things I really liked was that I could introduce a custom column and then sort on this column.  This enabled me to inject a "Group" column that contained the number of each of the project groups, then I could sort the gradebook and automatically get the people who were in the same group together in the gradebook. However, this functionality does not seem to exist in the new gradebook. Smiley Sad  

Community Champion

 @maguire , 

Now if only SpeedGrader were to use the View that you have selected at the time you invoke it to give you just the viewed set of students, it would be a real benefit.

I'm not sure I follow what you mean by "View". SpeedGrader allows you to filter by just a section.  Here, only my "MATH 113-02" students are showing in SpeedGrader.


That "MATH 113-02" section wasn't something I changed to demonstrate the availability; I had my gradebook set to only show that section and it remembered it when I invoked SpeedGrader.

Can you elaborate on what you're wanting to happen? It's not that I'll be able to change anything, but I'm curious as to what you mean.

Community Champion

Thanks  @James  for your example!

Based on your example and the information at How do I use the student list to view student submissions in SpeedGrader?  I see that I can pull left on the "Showing All Sections" (after clicking the triangle) to get a choice of sections. (As a side note, the list of sections seems to have a very strange sort order. The list of sections when assigning sections manually shows them ordered by the internal Canvas section number value, but this list seems to be based on something else.)

Community Champion

I've seen other people mention the weird sorting order before. If things are sorted at all, they're sometimes done in the browser and there was a period where Chrome would sort one way (ascending/descending) and Firefox would sort the other. With just a few sections, it hasn't been a big enough issue for me to worry about. If I was using sections they way you are, I can see where it would be problematic -- possibly leading to not even using that capability.

I have looked at messing with the order of the list items in the SpeedGrader pulldown before and it wasn't going to be an easy hack without access to the source code, so I moved on to other things.

Community Contributor

You might want to take a look at the Priority: Teaching and Learning at Scale project underway.

Community Participant

I really hope this slideshow helps.  My situation was combining sections to make a large group for later disaggregation by interest area.  (A Humanities intro class)

Divide and Conquer

Community Participant

I agree with Kona that sections is the way to go. I also agree with Beck that this has been extremely frustrating, as it is possible in other LMSs. 

At the end of the day, many of our institutions are not being responsive to our needs and are not delivering the tools that we need to help students succeed.