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Community Team
Community Team

2021-05-15 Q&A: Assignments—Student Annotation Submissions

Looking to discuss this feature from the 2021-05-15 Release Notes? Post a reply and start a conversation!

  • This topic is for feature discussion only—please share use cases, best practices, etc. regarding this feature
  • Please thread replies as much as possible to keep posts organized
  • Feedback to product managers about idea enhancements should be submitted in (though linking to the idea here so others can find it is welcome)
  • Bug reports should be submitted to Canvas Support—bugs will not be triaged in this thread
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Surveyor II

Very excited about this annotation assignment feature.  How well will this work with screen readers?  In other words, if a low vision or blind student is using screen reader software, how will the software describe the annotation tools and help students choose where to insert their annotations?  I understand that the documents uploaded for annotation are themselves screen readable; I'm more interested in the accessibility of the annotation tools

We also need to know about screen reader accessibility. 

Hi, @stephen_beers,

Thank you for your question. We understand how important it is to make features accessible in order to meet the needs of our users who need accommodations. In full transparency, DocViewer is not accessible at the current time and we will be working to improve that in the future. In order, however, to ensure that all users can still complete these assignments, we have intentionally made this an online submission type so that multiple submission options can be selected. We recommend that instructors include a conforming alternative, such as text entry or file upload when creating these assignment types. We also remind instructors through a message in the UI to consider this when creating assignments that include student annotations. For students using screen readers, we also provide messaging around the tabs available and how to access the document and that there may be other submission options available, which is dependent upon the items selected by the instructor. 

Surveyor II

I just checked this out on beta and it looks nice, but it doesn't work with peer review. You can enable it and it goes out, but the peer reviewers do not see the original submitter's annotations. It's an exciting feature to be sure!

We are currently working to add support for peer review to this new submission type and will be sure to communicate its availability in the deploy notes. We didn't want the lack of peer review functionality to hold us back from releasing to beta to allow for testing and feedback. More to come on this soon!

Explorer III

I am also very interested in the accessibility and peer review features.


Excited to pilot this! Where do I turn this on in beta? I cannot find the place where I should turn it on in Feature Options. Did I miss something?

I believe it's already turned on by default,

you will need to create an assignment, choose Online then tick the Student Annotation box.

I've tested it and it works with JPG, PDF, DOCX, and PPTX.



That is correct! This new feature does not require any admin intervention to enable. It is just on by default for all. 

@jsailor Can you confirm the supported file types?

@jlubkinchavez, you can view a list of the DocViewer supported file types in this instructor guide.  

I tested this feature in our beta and it appears to accept all the supported files for annotation as the link you posted stated; however, when viewing the student mobile app guides it states PDF files. Will students be able to annotate Word and PowerPoint files in Canvas student app? If not, please make this distinction in the documentation please. 



I've checked and do not see this as an option when I am in assignments and click "online" student annotation is not an option.

@Shetechs1 ...

Are you logged in to your school's "beta" environment?  It won't show in the normal "production" environment until tomorrow (the release date).

How do I access the Canvas beta environment as an instructor?

Thank you!!

Surveyor II

This is such a huge addition, I can't wait to share this with our fellow teachers and use it next semester.

Upon trying this feature, there are a few things that I thought this already great annotation tool could improve:

  • This submission type is not yet available for students to submit when [assignment enhancement - Student] is turned on, it just does not have that [submit] button available anywhere, you'll need to turn it off as an admin in the admin setting.


  • It would be a dream if there's a redo button, or an ability to use CTL + Z to redo the annotation we've created.
  • An eraser tool would also be great to add.
  • with [text type] annotation, currently, it does not support spacing, when you hit ENTER, it just does nothing.


It would be a missed opportunity if such features were missing, I certainly hope we can see some of these improvements real soon 

@ihsan, you are correct in that this new submission is not YET available when the Assignment Enhancements - Student feature flag is enabled. We are working to add this functionality in that new submission workflow and will provide updates in our regular documentation once the work is done and it is made available. 

Also, thank you for the additional feedback. For the text type annotation, we do support spacing through the use of shift + enter. We've taken note of the other items (eraser and CTRL + Z) to be considered. 


@Stefanie@erinhmcmillan:  Loving the new student annotation submission type!  It's a brilliant idea and works really well.  There are a couple of things I'd like changed before it comes out of beta

  • It is currently incompatible with the assignment enhancements - student
  • Every annotation works like the comment annotations in Adobe Acrobat, where you annotate and then can type text.  This is good for circling something and then adding typed comments.  However, I would confidently guess that this not what most teachers and students want.  This text feature is a distraction from annotating.  The mobile app versions fix this problem - it would be good to see it changed in the web version.
Explorer III

I've been looking at this feature and have a couple of questions / observations

Is there a way of locking the student comments? When I tested this and went in under a Teacher Role I discovered if I click on the comment made by the student it allows me to edit, delete it etc.

Ideally it would be useful for the Teacher to be tagged /coloured differently  to make it more distinguished form student comments.

I have not been able to get this to work via the Canvas Student App. has anyone been successful with this?


Explorer III

We noticed that the online assignment file selection required usage rights.  We currently do not have this enabled for other file uploads. This function should respect that setting. Additionally, the mixed use of need to "check" to save pen annotations may be confusing for students since that is not required for all annotation tools.  Otherwise, this seems like a great addition.

Agreed on the rights thing. I remember feeling off about it and checked that my course wasn't set to require it.

Hi @lezonl2 and @dkpst5,

This is not intended. I have a ticket created for our engineers to make the appropriate adjustment so that it is only required when the setting for usage rights is enabled at the account level. 

The fix to respect the status of this setting and only require usage rights when it is enabled has been deployed to beta. You should now see this working as expected. 

cc: @lezonl2 and @dkpst5

@jsailor thanks for the update. We have tested again and no longer see the usage rights settings.  Thanks for clarifying that this was not expected functionality and working it through to have it corrected. It will save us from a lot of questions from our users. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

@jsailor ...

In our "beta" environment, at the account level, we do not have the option for "Copyright and license information must be provided for files before they are published." checked.  I just tried creating a new assignment in my sandbox course using the new student annotations option.  I was prompted with the "Usage Right" dropdown and "Copyright Holder" text box even though that option is not enabled at the account level.  Are there still some issues with this?

@lezonl2 totally agree with the need to "check" pen annotations being confusing.  

Aside from being confusing, it also causes unexpected behaviour when scrolling through a document.  If a student annotates some work and scrolls down, the document will jump to the top of the annotation until the "check" is ticked.

Surveyor II

Does student view work on this yet? I was testing in beta and made the assignment without issue, but when I used student view, I didn't see the document or where to annotate.

I turned off assignment enhancements and then student view worked. Suggestion I have is to prompt students to save their annotations if they haven't clicked the check mark. I tested as a student by making some marker annotations and then clicking submit and they did not save because I did not click the check mark on them. 

@jbarton, student view does work within the traditional student submission workflow. This feature is not yet supported by the newer assignment enhancements, which is why it was blank for you when the feature option was enabled, but we are working to get it supported within that updated flow very soon.   


I know the origin of this feature was for students to be able to annotate via web browser/desktop, however what does it look like for students accessing this assignment via app on iOS? Tried to see with a demo student account we use but getting errors and "Students are not allowed to access test installations." when signed in via web. 

Hi, @TannerKent,

This new feature is not yet available in the mobile apps, but our mobile team has it on their radar and will be adding support.  

Thank you for your reply! What is the timeline of this? 
If we set assignments up this way- would students who are accessing via mobile not be able to see anything/be able to complete the assignment? We are doing an incredible amount of course design currently and don't want to go (or continue going) down a "wrong" path. 

Explorer III

This looks interesting. What is the plan for re-submitted assignments? As a student, when I tried to resubmit an assignment that I had just annotated, I cannot see my recent work and have to start over. Is that expected?

I agree that the requirement to check pen annotations is a bit confusing too. I was able to submit an assignment without checking the pen annotation and the annotation did not appear in the submission. I wouldn't want this to trip up students. Is there a way to make it clearer, or remove the requirement to check for pen annotations so it is consistent with the other types of annotations?

It would be good to get an update when those usage rights are sorted. That default setting may confuse our teaching staff.


I thought it might be worth summarising some of the points made about "checking" pen annotations.

  • Confusion. "The need to 'check' to save pen annotations may be confusing for students since that is not required for all annotation tools" from @lezonl2.  For example, it's not required when students annotate in the Canvas student app.
  • Scrolling. If a student annotates some work and scrolls down, the document will jump to the top of the annotation until the "check" is ticked.
  • Lost annotations. "I was able to submit an assignment without checking the pen annotation and the annotation did not appear in the submission. I wouldn't want this to trip up students." from @kirsten_ryall 

I had a further thought that it would be good to remove this requirement for teachers / instructors as well.  My expectation would be to not have to "check" any of my pen annotations.   I've created a feature idea about this:

Removing the requirement to "check" pen annotations.


It seems a mistake to turn on student annotation assignments by default.

Our university uses new assignment enhancements. Even if a teacher creates a student annotation assignment, the students will not be able to view the document, annotate or hand in the assignment. In beta, there is no warning to let teachers know that this is the case.

melody_pathkill, we are currently working to make this available with the same view as other assignment submission types when Assignment Enhancements - Student is enabled. In the meantime, we have just deployed an adjustment that will take students to the traditional submission flow, allowing users to benefit from this submission type even with that feature option enabled. 

Explorer III

Has anyone been able to test this with Turnitin?
I am concerned that their maybe high matches shown as all students are effectively submitting the same document.

Secondly would students annotations be screened by turnitin ? I am guessing not but would like to know.

Turnitin plagiarism detection only works for assignment of the 'File uploads' submission type. If a students submits an assignment of the 'Student annotation' submission type, it can't not be checked by Turnitin.

Surveyor II

Is this beta feature rolling out in waves to users? From my understanding, there shouldn't be any admin intervention needed for this feature to appear for teachers when creating assignments. However, we are not having any luck seeing the annotation option when creating an assignment. Am I missing something? Are others encountering this issue? 

Below is what we currently see when creating an assignment and selecting online. 

Screen Shot 2021-05-04 at 8.32.54 AM.png