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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.

I put this comment elsewhere and was told to add it here, so one last time....

The feature I like the least on Canvas now (as a University Faculty user) is the Attendance module.


Here are my simple suggestions:

1.  Add a counter at the bottom for the total number of students.  (Often it is easier to figure out from a list who was not there.  My student count may change in the first few weeks.  If Canvas tells me on the attendance list that i have 35 students registered and my sign-in sheet has 34 students, I can look first for the student who never shows up...).

2.  Make it clear and easy to keep attendance Un-published.  I use the attendance for my own use for part of a participation grade and don't want 30 emails from students in the week before finals saying that they must have forgotten to sign in during week 3 of class, but they are pretty sure they were there that day.  Attendance helps me with a participation grade, but it doesn't solely make the grade and I want to use this feature privately.

3. Create a way to switch the date after completing attendance.  On multiple occasions, I have completed the attendance chart only to realize that the date is not the date from class.  (eg T TH class and I inadvertently used T and Wed).  At present, there is no way to change the date.

4. Even better (on #3 above), can I exclude all non-class dates?  eg if my class is Tue and Thur 9-10:15 am for 15 weeks, can you give me the option to set only the days of my classes for attendance purposes?


I haven't done a report at the end, so I don't know how robust the system is for percentages and reports, but implementing these suggestions would make the lives of faculty members much easier.   Thank you.

Surveyor‌ make sure you mute your roll call attendance assignment.  This will suppress all notifications to your students.  Also set it worth 0 points if you don't want it to effect the grade.

I echo points #1 & #2 

Surveyor II

Currently the attendance feature lacks a number of useful resources.  This feature could be used successfully for student retention but currently it does not function in a way that is helpful to faculty or students. I will first highlight the issues and then suggest the new features.


Current issues:

No way to keep track of absences by number only percentage. 

Rationale for issue:  Almost all schools & class policies on attendance revolve around the "number" of classes someone can miss per semester (year) but canvas only reports a percentage.  Reaching out to struggling students mid-semester is a key factor in increased retention and missing classes is a key sign of a struggling student.

Example in practice: 

1. My university asks faculty to report (in another system - Mapworks) mid semester students who have not been attending classes and asks specifically for "number of classes missed" - the only way to gather this information for a student when using the attendance feature in canvas is to scroll through the day by day attendance and log when each student misses a class.  This would take hundreds of hours and would never be possible.  When I have tried to do this just for one student in one class (as I knew there was a big issue with attendance) it took a long time - just for the one student.  

2. Every semester students come up to me after the first week or so into class and say something like 'I don't understand why I am getting a 50% for attendance?' and I have to explain 'we have only had 2 classes and you missed one of them so canvas is calculating your percentage based on two total classes and so you have attended 50% of the classes to date but not of all the classes'.   This makes the feature pretty much unusable to track numbers of absences.



1. Allow tracking of attendance by numbers as well as percentages.  This will give students and faculty alike a clearer (and more accurate) account of actual missed class numbers and attended class numbers. 

2. Allow a "message all students not in class today" feature so a faculty could quickly email all students who missed class and provide them a message to make sure they don't miss key content and/or to simply reach out and make sure they are okay. 

3. Allow a "message all students who have missed (X) number of classes" so that faculty could send out reminders about course policy around attendance as well as to check in with students to see why they are missing classes.


Thank you,

Julie Kiernan


Salem State University

Surveyor‌ I have been playing with a report that would likely fit your needs.  It does require admin access. 

As an Admin, you can run an attendance report for all courses in a sub-account for up to one week.  Put this report in Excel and add a new column called "absent",  Set this equal to 1 if they were absent, and 0 if not (I use an if statement).  Then create a pivot table with calculations for each student of the sum and count of this absent column.  This gives you the number of times attendance was taken in a course that the student attended and the number of times that the student missed class.  Now you have an easy report of who missed courses (that took attendance) across the whole institution.

(Someone savvy in Excel will be able to do this without difficulty).

You could also run this report for a single course if necessary (which you don't need to be an admin to do).

I agree, this should be doable right in the user interface without needing to jump through hoops.

Also, I should have a simple API call to do this programmatically where currently I need to remember to do this manually once a week.

Community Member

I'm not sure if someone else has added a comment about section-based attendance and how the gradebook will only show the grade for the section where attendance was last taken, so I'd like to add my request that this be addressed in any updates/improvements to the tool. This limitation is not mentioned in any of the documentation for the Attendance/Roll Call tool, and it causes a significant support burden to untangle, especially at the end of the term when there is a semester's worth of attendance data to painstakingly move/delete/recalculate.

This comes up often for our instructors of large enrollment courses. It seems pointless to even allow users to take section-based attendance in the first place if the grade is not going to be calculated as a cumulative throughout all sections.

If this is not going to be addressed in any updates to the tool, if a warning message could be added to the tool to let people know about this bug/limitation.

Community Member

I would really like three things from Canvas attendance:

1. A semester view with student names in rows and date of class in columns like the traditional attendance book.
2. Students to record their own attendance with a smart phone and a unique code given to them each class.

3. Ability to drop absences from grade calculation like we can with quizzes.

Surveyor II

It would be nice to have an Excused Tardy option as well.

Community Member

We came across another area of improvement. A student inquired why she received daily Grading Notifications for attendance. We confirmed that attendance was not updated for this student during this period. Although the Roll Call module supports sections, Canvas Notifications related to Roll Call do not. For example, if Section A has attendance taken on Monday, Sections B, C, and D get notified about it via a Re-Grade Notification. 

Community Member

Please make it a priority to improve the attendance reports.  I have very large classes (almost 100 students in each) and I want to see at a glance if absence and tardy patterns are developing.  I’d like to view it like the traditional paper way of taking roll from a roster.  It is quick to see a students name on the roster column and the entire row shows every days marks of present, absent, or tardy.  I’d like to view this in Canvas, not having to export a file to then learn complicatd excel functions just so I can view my student’s patterns.  The current exported file in excel is a mess.  Viewing 100 students attendance one day at a time is useless.  On a positive note, I llove being able to take attendance quickly and easily on Canvas.  I just learned how to use the seating chart for attendance and it works great for my large classes.  I hope the investment can be made soon to improve our viewing of these attendance records.

Community Member‌ - I'm not one to usually point people to things that I wrote, but since you said the magic words "excel is a mess," you may be interested in a document that I wrote a few months ago that uses Google Sheets: .  All you need is your own Google Drive account and copy/paste what Canvas gives you into the template I provide.  Not a total solution, of course, but perhaps a band-aid until Canvas solves the main issue.