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Add, Create, or Modify a Calculated or Total Column in the Gradebook

Add, Create, or Modify a Calculated or Total Column in the Gradebook



Being able to calculate things in the grade book beyond adding things up or weighting and adding seems like an absolutely necessary feature.  It seems like one of those that comes up repeatedly under various guises, but keeps getting archived.  But, I keep reading that there are lots of people who do more than just add things up to calculated grades.

Community Champion

Hello Sherry,

In my classes when I want to combine grades from multiple assignments I put them into weighted assignment groups on the assignment tab, and canvas automatically creates subtotal grades.  The subtotal is an average, but if the bonus point assignment is set up to have a value of zero points (and then you grade submissions with actual points earned) the result is that the bonus points are added to the original assignment.

Community Champion

Hello M S and Mike,

I have not needed an option to add my own calculations to any gradebook columns, but I always use the existing weighted columns for which canvas does all the calculating.  The trick to using them, is to put all assignments into assignment groups on the assignment tab based on the different percentages you want to apply.  Then use the three dot icon to the right of the "+group" button to access an option labeled "assignment group weight," and check the box labeled "Weight final grade based on assignment groups."  More settings will appear for you to adjust the weight of each group, and canvas takes care of creating and setting up calculations for the individual columns.


There are also three dot menus next to each of the individual assignment groups that provide access to an edit menu that will incorporate rules about dropping highest or lowest scores. 


That probably won't cover everything you'd want to use custom columns for, but I hope it's at least a start.  If you share specifics about what you want your custom columns to do, there might be others here with ideas about what works for their classes.

Community Member

I agree.  There needs to be a way to add a custom formula for calculating a grade column, or for calculating the final course grade.  In my instance, I deduct points from the final course grade for a certain number of absences.  There's no way in Canvas to be able to automatically do this.  I need to be able to write my own custom formula for calculating final grades.  I have found a way around this, but it's clunky and not automatic.

Community Participant

Thanks, Steven, I'll have to try that!

Community Member

Unfortunately, no.  I am fully aware of Canvas' ability to weight assignment groups.  It does not help me for things that I was able to do in Blackboard fairly simply.  Assignment groups cannot themselves be grouped, which requires me to manually calculate numbers and add excess assignment groups (imagine, if you will, having homework being 25%, two tests at 25%, and a final at 50%. Congratulations, now you have to have nine top level assignment groups at 3.57142857143:3.57142857143:3.57142857143:3.57142857143:3.57142857143:3.57142857143:3.57142857143:25:50.

Oh, yeah, that's kind of messy.  And Blackboard made it very simple.  You had a calculated column for homework, that was made by averaging the calculated columns for Chapters 1-7.  No figuring out that 25 ÷ 7 = 3.57142857143… and needing to hope there's a no rounding error that would make a difference for a student.

Now combine the same situation for a course that has a variable hour registration.  If you have some students registered for 2 hours and needing to do 3 chapters, and others that need to do it for 4 or 6 hours and need to do a different number, the Blackboard solution works out fine: you tell the assignments column to ignore the chapter average columns without assignments in them, or you could even create separate assignments average columns based on registration type (in Canvas, it is impossible for any assignment to be in two calculations at once).  In Canvas, there is simply no way to do it. Full stop.

I once again make my offer to Canvas to implement it for free.  I have a full spring break and summer available to do it.  But the fact that it won't be implemented shows that Canvas doesn't actually care about usability.

Community Member

If a feature is too hard for someone to use correctly, it doesn't have to be used.  But it would be nice for things to be possible for those of us that do.

Otherwise, you end up with professors doing everything in Excel sheets that can be externally reviewed by course observers and do not give students up-to-date grade information.

Community Champion

I actually have 8-10 assignment groups for my classes.  After reading through your example, I think you must be referring to making separate assignment groups for each chapter of homework assignments, however the simplest preparation of this example require only 3 weighted assignment groups.  One 25% group holding all homework, one 25% group holding two tests, and one 50% group holding the final.  Your 25% homework group will average all assignments in the group, but then you will not have the sub-groups for each chapter.  Explaining why you also need the chapter subtotals might help canvas understand how this feature would be used. 


Regarding your groups of students with differing assignments, there is good news!  You can put all the homework assignments together in one group regardless of which group of students will be assigned to complete them.  In the actual assignments, where you enter the due date remove "everyone" and instead enter the appropriate section of students.  Canvas will complete calculations using only the assignments actually assigned to the student.  If you can pass on the chapter subtotals, this should allow your grades to be calculated automatically.


I think canvas encourages the creation of third party solutions, and you may have the skills required to create one.  I, however, cannot tell you how to get started.  I have also seen examples of solutions built by canvas users that we can somehow add to our own instances of canvas in API.  That is getting over my head, however.

Community Member

I appreciate the time you took to try to find some solutions for me, but to be able to do it with a single 25% homework category would assume that each chapter has either (a) a single assignment or (b) an equivalent number of points.  Neither is necessarily the case, so it doesn't work.  Consider three chapters in the 25% category:

Chapter 1: 3 assignments, 10 pts each. (30 pts total)

Chapter 2: 2 assignments, 20 pts each. (40 pts total)

Chapter 3: 7 assignments, 5 pts each, one assignment at 15 pts.  (50 pts total)

Now, I want it to treat each chapter equally and within the homework category.  If I just lump them all in, Chapter 3 is weighted more heavily than the others.  To have it work out correctly, I must make three separate assignment groups, each at 8.333333%.  Or I could set the assignments with similarly adjusted point values.  In either case, it's possible, but more work (my assignments are necessarily this neatly done, they idea is that I should be free to organize within each chapter is optimal)

Your method for assigning for the multiple hour course does not work for me in that instance either — it is an open module format, where students choose (X* hours-registered) modules out of Y modules to complete the course. I could query the students, and go through manually an unassign them from from the (Y - X * hours-registered) modules, but that's a *lot* of extra work. I mean, I suppose I could create all the assignment groups in triplicate, have them self select for groups, or something crazy solution like that, but again, when Blackboard makes it easy, it's ridiculous that Canvas doesn't.

I took a lot at Canvas APIs, and I believe in order to implement it I'd need to work directly with my Canvas administrator.  Maybe they'll give me access, but making users create basic functionality that every. single. other. LMS. has (particularly given how much our universities are shelling out for Canvas!) it really, truly, wouldn't kill them to have an intern spend a few hours reaching basic feature parity.

Community Champion

I agree that you should be able to group your assignments in whatever way works best for your class, and your response makes it clear why you need it.  Thanks for adding that detail, it will help canvas understand the purpose of this request.  I have seen canvas updates that fix a variety of problems, but most take considerable time to be fully tested and released for general use.  It is more work, but for now, I would suggest doing the math to adjust point distribution in the assignments so that you can use a single "homework" assignment group.  You might look at each chapter as 60 possible points and then divide them up among your assignments proportionately.  (Three 20 point ch.1 assignments, two 30 point ch.2 assignments, seven 6 point and one 18 point ch.3 assignment)  I know you have four other chapters that may have other point distributions, but I'm sure you get the idea.  I also know that this might complicate your rubrics or point distribution for quiz questions.  It is however the fastest solution without those uneven percents that you have a reasonable objection to. 


Its not as organized in the gradebook, but there is still a way to automatically skip assignments from chapters that are not started.  You do not need to tell canvas to skip ungraded assignments in calculations, because that is the default. If you do not enter zeros for "missing" assignments they will not be counted against students.  That means you can grade only the assignments from the correct number of modules and leave the grade blank for assignments in the extra modules your students skip.   You will have to manually enter zeros in some activities for individual students if they do not complete the required number of modules or activities.  Otherwise, they will be graded as if what they completed is all that was required, and effectively only need to complete one assignment.  It requires more monitoring than entering zeros automatically as a default grade for all ungraded assignments, but it offers a way to make your grading possible.


Mastery paths may offer you a more complete solution eventually for differential assignments based on student responses do I add conditional content to a MasteryPath source item?  However my recent tests showed that the test student could see and access all supposedly "locked" assignments and the new gradebook treated the assignments assigned to mastery paths the same as those assigned to everyone.... That is not what I recall in the old gradebook, and so it is probably temporary.  (Also, I do not use this tool, and so I might have made mistakes in my tests.)  When it is working properly, it should let you set a quiz at the beginning of each module to automatically assign activities to students who answer "correctly" that they want to complete the module, and grading should only be available for activities assigned to each student.  Then grading should be easier, because you can use features like "set default grade" because grading will not be available for assignments that were not assigned..  (The last time I checked mastery paths strips off any pre-set due dates, and you would still have to monitor to ensure that students enroll in the appropriate number of modules because there is not yet a setting to require a certain number of complete modules.)  It is a new feature that is not turned on by default (check out feature options in course settings) and so I recommend extensive testing before using this in a course with students. 

New Member

It is baffling that this still isn't a feature. Canvas is far superior to Blackboard in many ways, except for the Gradebook, which actually represents a large -- and extremely important -- part of our job. A learning management system should at least be superior to Excel.

It is also baffling that there are people out there downvoting this because they or members of their department don't know how to use the tool, math operations, or parentheses (!). If you don't want to use it, don't. If you're not hiring staff who understand math, or if you aren't training your staff to use the tool, forbid them from using it. But don't prevent others from having another tool to efficiently manage the grades of their students. Nobody is trying to force anyone to use the proposed feature; we're just trying to make it an option.

Giving instructors the freedom and power to compute their students' grades in the way that best suits their subjects just makes sense.

Community Member

The biggest problem with Canvas is that it assumes that all of our courses and all of our teaching and grading styles and philosophies fit the One True Model™.  As I've used Canvas over the past year now, I've found that hands down, Blackboard is much more powerful, although it has a higher learning curve.  Canvas has a low learning curve, but that enabled because it is far too simple to handle many tasks.  The gradebook is, perhaps, the shining example of that, but sadly it's quite pervasive.

Community Participant

We have times when we need to create manual columns in the gradebook.  Everything is not connected to a quiz or an assignment.  We had that option in Blackboard, that is one thing I miss being able to do.  We have a few courses with over 900 students in them and they are assigned to groups.  We used to add a column in the grade center to show which group each student was in.  I know there is the secondary info option in Canvas but it would be nice to have this information in its own column.

New Member

Canvas needs to give instructors the ability to create columns that calculate scores based on other columns where I can assign each column a different weight. Whomever decided that I should have to waste a ridiculous amount of time creating "assignment groups" has clearly never taught classes before.

In addition, I should also be able to create my own letter grade column wherein I can assign final letter grades to be exported to the registrar. Your grading scheme "feature" is also a colossal waste of time and does not allow instructors to have complete control over final grades. 

New Member

I need to have a text column in the gradebook for grades such as "Honors", "High Pass", etc that are based on percentage average as well as projects completed.

Community Participant

@matthew-stuckwiyou are correct.  Blackboard's grade center does a lot more than the Canvas grade book.  Creating columns manually is one if the things faculty our miss the most.  I'm really hoping Canvas will listen and add that to the grade book.

New Member

I get "access denied" on the archived proposal, but I completely agree with the comments.  This is the first thing I've found where Canvas is a huge pain and Blackboard was dramatically better.  It's disappointing to find that users have been saying this for over 4 years, and Canvas hasn't listened.

I want to be able to create calculated grade entries, like a simple spreadsheet, so the calculations can be live and reflected to students. 

In more detail... I want to calculate the midterm and final grades differently, based on what they cover.  (Manually "snapshotting" the midterm grade and then only being able to calculate the final grade is a poor substitute.)  I'd like first-half and second-half subtotals for things like homework, quizzes, and labs, so students can compare their earlier and current performance.  But I'd like the final to be based on the raw assignments, so I don't have to keep track of the precise ratio of points in the two halves.


As we start to near the end of the school year, and more teachers are using Canvas, and using it more heavily, they discover things that need improvement.  Here is an example I received today from a teacher:

Canvas gradebook doesn't have a separate final exam grading period separate from the quarter grades. This presents a challenge -- not an insurmountable one. 
I actually gave a semester exam to my AP Economics students last month and placed the results of the exam in the 4th quarter once students completed the exam. This allowed me to keep the semester grade separate from the 2nd quarter grades. However, once I get to the 4th quarter, I will need to move these grades -- as well as the rest of the final exam grades -- someplace else. 
I suppose that I could recharacterize these virtual exams as "practice exams" and then record the results in the final exam period of Synergy. But this would be messy.
Is there anyway that we can have a final exam grading period added to Canvas gradebook?
New Member

Canvas should provide a way to apply formulas to calculate a column in the gradebook (i.e. from other columns). 

While the calculated gradebook column could be optionally associated with an assignment, it would be best if the user could also create standalone gradebook columns.  The use case for this is the creation of interim calculations.


Ideally, the calculation formula should allow the use of basic mathematics functions (e.g. max(), product(), add(), min(), mean(), sum(), power() .... nothing too elaborate is needed here).

The current process of creating and weighting dummy assignments is too cumbersome for many use cases. Additionally, the process of exporting grades and re-importing calculated grades from a spreadsheet application, while a workaround, is extremely inconvenient.


Community Participant

I want to be able to set up assignments like this: 

Assignment Group 1 = WORTH 100 total max

Assignment Z = 20 pts

X = 25 pts

V = 25 pts

M = 15 pts

N = 20 pts. 

See how that adds up to 105? There's built-in "extra credit" but it's not actually extra and nothing is worth only 5 points. 

This is simple, straightforward, and not possible in Canvas. If I assign 105 points, Canvas averages from 105 points, and I can't make my own calculation or even hide the percentage from students. 

New Member

I was surprised to find there is not much flexibility in the grade book.  I was trying to have the following weighting for my class:

  • 40% Assignments
  • 60% Tests (Final 100 points, Midterm 100 points)

    Tests = Max(0.7*Final + 0.3*Midterm, 0.3*Final + 0.7*Midterm)

The idea is if a student scored better on the Final than the Midterm, then the Final will be given more weight than the Midterm.  Similarly, if the student did better on the Midterm than on the Final, then the Midterm will be given more weight.

When I asked about this in the general forum  (original question), the response was to use Excel and override the grades.  I like the idea of having a limited number of functions available (sum, min, max, mean, etc) for custom scoring.