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Attendance Overhaul

Attendance Overhaul

Right now attendance in Canvas isn't that useful/effective. Below are the ways it could be improved:
  • When viewing a specific student's information allow faculty to see a snapshot of the whole semester, including the specific date that a student was present, absent, late, etc. Knowing the number of days a student has been absent is useful, but for financial aid and other state regulated things we have to provide the specific date of last attendance. Right now this is very clumsy and time consuming.
  • Allow for additional states other than present, late, absent - ex: excused
  • Allow students to view their own attendance report. Right now students can't see their attendance information at all. Make it an option for faculty to allow students to view their own attendance for a semester by date. It would also be useful if there was an option to let students mark their own attendance - ex: they enter in the code for the day to show that they are in class.
  • Provide a print/save option for the entire roster that shows the attendance information by student and date.
  • Provide a more user-friendly data file of the attendance information. As it is right now it is quite messy and unless faculty are comfortable and familiar with excel they have a difficult time doing anything with the data file.
  • Make it an option whether or not attendance information is automatically added to the gradebook. Yes, I know the Roll call attendance assignment can be turned off, but it is confusing and many new faculty don't realize why it's there or what to do with it.
New Member

This is a very thoughtful suggestion offered by one of our Business Faculty:

Absent, No Excuse - the student does not attend the class at any point with no legitimate excuse.

Absent, Excused - the student does not attend class, BUT the student has a valid reason, such as participating in a university-sponsored function or provides a medical excuse after the fact (I current track this using the Excused category in our BB widget).

Late, No Excuse - the student enters the classroom after attendance has been taken, but before the end of class, with no legitimate excuse.

Late, Excused - the student enters late but has a legitimate excuse (I cannot track this using our current BB widget, so I mark them Present).

Leaves Early, No Excuse - In this case, a student was present for attendance, but left the class early without excuse (I currently keep track of this with our BB widget using the Unexcused category).

Leaves Early, Excused - A student leaves class early with a legitimate excuse (I cannot track this using our current tools, I mark them present and do not change it).

[He'd also like to see radio buttons for these, so you don't have to click a separate pop up for each student.]

He also remarks:

If I were developing an attendance tool to provide the most usefulness, I would offer default categories of Present, Absent, Late, and Left Early. I would further offer a modifier for all categories other than Present, which allows the category to be designated as excused or unexcused. Any reports generated should separate the categories by excused and unexcused as appropriate. Instructors who do not wish to use the Left Early category don't need to, because there is still Present, Absent, and Late. And if Canvas would like to get really efficient, they would allow one choice in both Late and Left Early to be simultaneously checked, since that could happen in a classroom. Otherwise, Left Early alone means the student was present at roll call, and Late alone means the student stayed to the end.

Having a tool like this would provide data currently unavailable to me, and frankly, data that has never been available to me using any LMS. It would allow me to use the attendance data as an audit tool. For example, I have occasional disputes with students who claim they did not receive instruction for a certain task. If I know when I gave that instruction, a good attendance tool would help me in determining whether they were actually not present, or whether they were present and simply not paying attention.

Also, occasionally I am contacted by administration to ascertain a student's attendance patterns or physical presence in the classroom. Currently I cannot tell the difference between a student who was physically present for the entire class, or entered late with an excuse. I also cannot tell if a student left early with an excuse, and therefore was legitimately not present in the latter portion of a class session.

New Member

Thoughtful feedback indeed! Though if I were improving upon the feedback, I may find a way to roll "Late/Left Early" into one option. I don't imagine one would impact a student's grade differently than the other, and I find that sometimes it's problematic when you give folks TOO many options and the UI becomes cluttered/claustrophobic.

New Member

The distinction between late comers or early leavers is not merely a matter of non-differing grade impact. More substantially, it's a matter of having a record of what portions of a class a student missed--it gives a more precise way of mapping the limits of that student's learning experience, which, when explaining to that student the impact of having missed something specific that was important, becomes more pedagogically compelling. The issue of "too many options" (an arbitrary determination) can usually be solved through thoughtful design. That's what HCI designers are for.

New Member

This is one of the top challenges we face. Roll Call is limited and, in our experience, not really fully supported. Whatever gets produced, we need Canvas to fully own and support it.

New Member

"...but for financial aid and other state regulated things we have to provide the specific date of last attendance."

We are experiencing this currently and faculty are increasingly frustrated due to the limitations in Roll Call.

Community Contributor

I want to emphasize Kael's point.  I ran a custom report to look at how Roll Call was used by instructors.  It is often setup incorrectly in ways that effect their grades.  This is a serious problem!

Because the assignment is created after the semester starts (when they first take attendance), there is no way to pre-setup the assignment in a template.


Great suggestions  @kona ​!

If any of you are having issues concerning the attendance tool (roll call) with cross-listed courses, please be sure to check out and vote up the idea from  @leward ​ over here -

Voting will open on June 3 for that idea. Be sure to use the bookmark tool (top-right on the feature idea page) as a reminder to come back and vote up the request!

New Member

A professor ( @rmiller ) at my school commented this on the old forum:

Please not only add an "excused absence" to the standard icons, but also allow us to add badges AND assign value to them.  Because of this lack of functionality, I can not use the attendance feature in Canvas successfully.  When I do use it, students are continually stressed because an excused absence does not appear on the roll.  I would also request that Canvas allow us to have flexibility in roll call.  We need the ability to do things such as give partial credit for late attendance, set values and points for attendance etc.

New Member

We need an Attendance API in order to automate access to attendance data for all students in all courses.

Community Contributor

Right now Attendance is a separate LTI tool from the core of Canvas...  while Instructure probably intended this as a proof of concept of how powerful LTIs are, it has led to some issues (as highlighted above).  The need for an API is one more reason why this needs some rethinking.

New Member

I agree that Roll Call definitely needs an overhaul.  We have Roll Call built into our system integration with our SIS.  I agree with many of the items suggested already but we have a couple new ones not mentioned above.  We track all of our system data by the programs in which our students major.  Since our SIS (CampusVue) is not setup this way we accomplish all of this via our system integration.  Our integration creates programmatic sections, in Canvas, for each unique campus/school-of/program combination for the students registered in a single CampusVue course and then we cross-list those sections into the single course represented in CampusVue.  This means some of our GenEd courses might have 20 or more sections.  We make the section name as short as possible but this can make using Roll Call an absolute nightmare.  Once you exceed about 6 or 7 sections the sections buttons begin to overlap each other and the calendar as you can see here.

Roll Call Example.png

This can make using the interface challenging for some of our instructors.

I would ask that all options (present, absent, late, left-early, etc) be configurable or at least selectable via an administrative console.  The only options we allow are present and absent so our integration has to filter out "late" entries and it sends emails off to those instructors who chose it informing them that they have to now enter that attendance manually into CampusVue. It would be great if I, as the admin, could turn-off the late (or any other additional) options.

We also desperately need the Roll Call api to be built so we can complete our automated attendance integration.

Thank you Instructor for all you do to offer such an amazing product!!

Community Contributor

Thank you for this detailed Idea. Especially, adding the extra types of absences and the gradebook options.

I'd also like to see an option for either allowing the Teacher to create an absences reason (i.e., work study) or a field pre-labelled as "other".

Community Member

I get that the Attendance Tool is an LTI so that makes APIs for this tool difficult, but even a way to programmatically download the CSV file (from the course or from any sub-account level...) would be a big help.



Community Contributor

Some of this need could be filled by providing a field for faculty to add notes to the record, e.g., "Arrived at 10:03, left at 11." Or "Missed explanation of midterm." Or "basketball away game" or whatever. 

Community Contributor

Yes, please offer an option to NOT send an email after every attendance update.  Faculty may mark someone as not attending, but then the student comes in late.  If the faculty is not tracking late then the student gets an email about non-attendance and another when the faculty changes.  Students are complaining about the many notifications they are getting around attendance.

Community Contributor

I agree.  We also created instructions for downloading the data and using pivot tables to get the exact information needed.  This should be a built in report.

New Member

I'd add too that the download should contain data for all dates of attendance.  Right now when you download the data, but have excused a student using the greyed out icon, and then you download said student's attendance report, there are no rows for attendance excused in this manner.  The first time this happened to me, I thought I had missed entering attendance because I was off by a day or two when trying to match up counts.

Community Champion

Here is a link to a document that I created from other documentation I found online about other products (nothing proprietary).  We had a group of students attempt to make improvements to the LTI tool created by Texas State but it didn't really work out.  That's why I created the document that I attached.   Hope this helps us to make this a more useful tool!

Attendance Tool Ideas

Feature Requirements

Class Setup

  • Ability to set up class meetings ahead of time (much like blackboard setup screen) - Set up all class dates ahead of time (class meets m/w from January 12-May 5).  Ability to remove one or more of these dates for a holiday (January 19).  This is important in order for instructors to be able to see the percentage of meetings missed for the entire term.
  • Ability to set up custom fields

Taking Attendance

  • Ability to click on fields to take attendance – modern buttons with icons vs. text tables with radio buttons/drop downs
  • Ability to view roster images from attendance screen
  • Ability to mark all as present/absent and then modify individual students all on one screen
  • Ability to see list of users and quickly mark as present/absent
  • Ability to enter states other than present/absent


  • Send a grade to the assignments area and have the ability to change all settings like other grade items. 


  • Specific date of last attendance
  • percentage of total class meetings missed/attended out of entire term
  • some sort of visual indicator of students who have missed > 10% of total class meetings for term (such as background color for field) – some schools might have a different threshold
  • table view (much like gradebook) of dates and status for each status/date
  • export data to CSV
  • Ability to see dropped/withdrawn students who are no longer on roster in LMS (like on people -> view prior enrollments)


  • Ability for students to see their own attendance (might already exist)
  • Ability to change permissions for various roles in class

Wish List

  • Ability to classify items as “lab” vs. “lecture”:  for example, nursing lecture vs. clinical.
  • iOS App
  • Android app
Community Team
Community Team

We see the need for a comprehensive attendance solution, especially for K12 schools and we are aware that the Roll Call LTI app falls short of some of those requirements. Unfortunately, this is not something we will be able to tackle on a large scale until the first half of next year at the earliest. In the meantime, you can help us by continuing to add ways you think we could improve the attendance experience to this thread (which is already a gold mine). 

The could also be a great opportunity for a 3rd party developer to create a robust attendance tool LTI integration.  If anyone following this thread is aware of a good potential fit, please have them post here so that we can get them in touch with our partnership team.

I will archive this idea for now.  We will refer back to it in future planning.  In the meantime, the idea being archived will not prevent further comments and conversation.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Thanks for the update! I know this is a big request, so I understand that it might take a while to implement. Hopefully there's a 3rd party out there who is interested and would fit with what the community is wanting!