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.
Community Novice

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.

Community Contributor

 @timothy_allison ‌ 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 

Community Member

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

Community Contributor

 @jkiernan ‌ 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 Novice

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 Novice

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.

Community Participant

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

Community Novice

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 Novice

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 Champion

 @tiffany_andrade ‌ - 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.

Community Participant

Sadly scottd's suggestions back in 2015 that a great opportunity for someone to build and LTI to me sounds like a cop-out for Instructure.  Attendance is a basic and VERY much needed feature of any LMS offered.  When we transitioned to Canvas years ago they talked about improving it and taking suggestions to fix it and years later... crickets and no changes.

Community Novice

Every term we end up having to clean up grading errors in a class or two because, despite our best efforts to reach everyone, faculty have improperly handled the Roll Call Assignment.  We, too, hope that this tool is upgraded or replaced soon.  In the meantime, it would be helpful if the assignment default was set to ungraded.  Thanks.

Community Novice

The attendance window show one day at a time.It wold be nice to see several weeks and have the ability to scroll horizontally. I like to have the attendance history as in a calendar or dated columns.

I t would be also nice to be able to choose the working days of the week the class meets on that calendar I was suggesting.

aattendance page in grade keeper

Community Contributor

Folks, it was recommended to me that I add my idea to this thread, so here goes Smiley Happy

I see that the attendance tool (Roll Call) allows data entry based on date selection from a calendar. It would be nice to automate a list of dates that a class meets, so that scrolling through the dates only provides the possible dates rather than all dates. Additionally, one might need to add or delete individual dates for class meetings.


I suggest a process that takes into account the term that a section belongs to, then prompt the user to "setup attendance" by selecting the typical meeting pattern (a series of check boxes for Sun, Mon, Tues, etc.) -- for instance, MWF. Roll Call would then take that information and create a list of dates during the term that land on the days-of-the-week selected. A different protocol could be used for institutions that rotate two different schedules each day -- so, one week the class meets MWF, the next week TTh, and maybe the next week as well because of a vacation day.


Then, this list could be edited to add or delete specific dates as necessary.


The attendance tool could look like a gradebook, with columns for each meeting date.


Thanks for your consideration!


Hi there,

My name is Brett, I'm a representative from aPlus Attendance.

Firstly, apologies if this is not the best place to post this, we figured that because this thread was being used to collect feature ideas and feedback for attendance in general, that it as a logical place to post.

We have a fully featured attendance system that caters to almost every feature requested in this thread. We are currently fine tuning an LTI integration with Canvas that allows attendance recording similar to Roll Call, but with the extended features of a full attendance platform. There are a couple of points that we would appreciate some feedback on if possible:

 - Currently our integration can pass attendance back as a weighted assignment. This is in addition to the configurable  reports that can be accessed directly in the attendance system. Are there any preferences for viewing attendance back in Canvas other than as weighted assignments?

 - One of our automated attendance features (in addition to scanners and kiosks), is a student self registration portal. Where instructors distribute a unique code that students have a few minutes to enter in their student portal, proving that they were in class (geo-locked for security). Ideally we would want students to access this portal through an existing login rather than introducing an additional set of credentials. We would be interested in hearing about how you would envisage students signing in to such a portal at your institute. Our experience in the market has been that it varies greatly, with some preferring students to enter from an LMS, and others using an existing university intranet. This helps us to determine if a Student user should have their own attendance link in Canvas that points them to their portal.



Community Novice

Hi Brett,

Personally I do not give credit for attendance, so if you put a weighed, I can always put 0 for the weight

As I have small classes (around 30), I will not be interested in automated attendance. It takes away a important part in knowing my students and remember how to address them.

Thank you for your effort to introduce a better attendance system as long as the basics look like Gradekeeper or easygrade pro.


John Altounji

Physics Assistant Professor

Los Angeles Valley College<;

Community Novice

I agree with everything the original post said. Attendance details need to be more far more transparent. Instructors and students should be able to see the dates that students were absent, and whether or not those absences were excused. I currently use "Badges" to keep track of excused absences, so maybe the students should be able to see what badges have been applied to them. Also, there should be an option to apply penalties to a certain number of unexcused absences. My policy is that they get four unexcused absences with no grade penalty, but the fifth and each subsequent unexcused absence results in a 5% penalty to their overall grade. If they reach 10 or more unexcused absences, they automatically fail the course. If you could make the system implement these penalties accordingly, that would be great. 

Community Novice

Attendance is my least favorite Canvas feature. It takes a lot of duct tape to get it to almost work with my institutions attendance practices. A persistent pain in my side.

Community Member

I suggest that Canvas add an optional feature such that the Attendance score can be reported in raw points, rather than as a percentage. (Canvas already offers this option in the Total column of the gradebook -- but not for Attendance.) Currently, when I change the Total column to "Switch to points," the Attendance column screws up the calculation, greatly distorting students' apparent scores. For example, after two days of classes and one three point assignment, students who attended both days of class see in the Total column that they've earned... 103 points?!? (Because 3 points for the assignment and 100%, not 100 points, attendance.) 


Simply put, I'd like Canvas to program in an optional function in which I can tell Canvas the _number_ of course sessions I'll have in a quarter (e.g., 41 sessions) and then use that as the denominator for calculating the total number of points each day's attendance is worth (e.g., 100 points total for attendance / 41 class sessions = 2.44 points/ class session attended). That way, after two days attendance, students would see that they've earned 4.88 points for attendance, rather than "100(%) points" for attendance. This would then allow the Total column's "Switch to points" function to be useful, rather than a huge distortion of students grades.


Many of my students have low math comprehension and get confused or misled by the display of their grade as percentages (vs. as raw points) for both their Attendance and their Total scores in Gradebook. For example, some students are confused and distressed when, after three days in class and one absence, their Attendance drops from 100% on Day 3 to 75% on Day 4 (because 3/4 is 75%), not realizing that they didn't lose 25 _points_; they lost 2.5 points, which is 25_%_ of the total attendance points so far. Conversely, some students are misled and NOT sufficiently alarmed by their grade when, six weeks into the quarter, their Total score is 80% (so they figure they've earned 80% of ALL the points, not just 80% of the points SO FAR) and start to coast -- and then are rudely surprised when their score drops precipitously after the last major paper. "How could I fail the course? I know I didn't do well on the last paper, but how could that take my grade from an 80% to a 56%?" How? Because that paper was worth 30% of the points for the course. I've had to explain to students, using a sports analogy, that scoring 80% of the points scored in the first half of the game doesn't mean you'll win the game -- and... there's got to be an easier user-interface function that could save us all the trouble, right?



Brett Sellers from aPlus+ Attendance here.

Thank you all, for the feedback about how attendance could be sent back to Canvas. We have now introduced 3 additional options based on feedback in the and other threads.

  • Proportional (existing) - Where the proportion of sessions attended vs sessions taught (to date), is applied
    against a point value for the attendance assignment.
  • Rule Based Percentage Penalty of Total Grade - Where the instructor defines a set of attendance
    rules, which once breached, trigger a percentage penalty against the students’ total grade. lilawakeman‌ this should work for your situation.
  • Rule Based Absolute Points Penalty - Where the instructor defines a set of attendance rules, which
    once breached, trigger a point’s penalty against the student.
  • Raw Points By Session Attended - Where the instructor can enter the number of sessions, and
    define the points value of attendance overall, meaning each session attended makes up a proportion
    of that attendance. Attendance is shown as a proportion of sessions attended, vs all sessions (not just
    the ones that have passed).  @ehamako ‌ this should work for your situation

These are outlined in more detail in a pdf at this link

We also now have a video of how the system looks within Canvas available  here 

We are always happy to help, please reach out to me directly if anyone would like to discuss this option further.