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Differentiate Assignments

Differentiate Assignments

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It is easy to assign an assignment to select students. However, rather than just show "everyone" on assignments, it would be great if it could list all students in the course with a check box next to their name. It would be so much faster to deselect all or only deselect a few rather than having to type in 70/80 names for the mainstream assignment. 

Community Team
Community Team
Status changed to: Open for Conversation
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From my other idea suggestion, archived by @Stefanie with the following comment:

Thanks for sharing this idea. We have a conversation underway aimed at the same use case that proposes a different solution: . Please add your additional suggestions as a comment under that idea; that will keep user stories unified in one place and allow our developers to engage with all the possible suggested remedies. We've archived this one to facilitate that unification.  🙂


Allow multiple 'Assign to' on Assignment to filter by SIS ID or Login ID (Students with same name)


When creating an assignment, you are able to 'Assign to' specific sections or students. Unfortunately the search box only filters by first and last name, so an instructor is unable to differentiate between two students with the same name.

Using sections is a workaround but not sufficient, especially if the Assign to function is being used to grant allowances for students with additional needs. As sections are not fully 'anonymous', other students could work out section names and members.

You are also unable to add multiple students, from example, a list of comma separated student numbers or other unique identifier, you must add each student manually.

The Gradebook already allows filtering by Login ID.

Features proposed:

1. Facility to add multiple students to the 'Assign to' field at once via comma or semi colon separated login IDs

2. Facility to 'Assign to' on the basis of Login ID or SIS ID so that students with the same name are not inadvertently assigned something they're not supposed to see. 

3. Alternatively, simply allowing for 'secondary' information to be visible on the 'Assign to' area: First Name, Last Name, Login ID would mitigate this issue.

Currently the lack of these features is severely limiting the ability to instructors to effectively manage their assessments, especially when dealing with larger cohorts.

@s_j_beale @m_c_johncock 

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removed comment as duplicated post

Community Member

Could the real Slim Shady please stand up? 

We have many students on our courses and it is not unusual to have two or more students with the same name on the same course. If one of these students needs be be assigned an assignment individually it is impossible to tell which of them you're assigning it to! Why doesn't the interface show the Login ID or SIS ID at this point to help teachers differentiate between students? 

Community Member

What Julia points out here is a real problem. We are running courses with over 350 students. In our experience, there is always at least 1 pair of students with exactly the same first and family names.

Community Member

The assign-to feature is challenging to use if there are selected students (only part of the students are receiving the assignment) within a section that need an assignment. Additionally, it is cumbersome to modify due dates, available from, and until (these are buried at the bottom of the assignments page).


Our sections are created and managed by our SIS.  Teachers do not have the ability to create and manage their own sections (which, as near as I can tell from what I have seen on Canvas Community is pretty common). 

Additionally, sections lack the fluidity of the day-to-day management needed by some teachers.  For example, I am an elementary teacher.  On any given day, I have, at minimum, the following using assignments in my Canvas course, and each of these may have a different assignment or due date:

  • Some students that are 100% online for the entire term
  • Others that are sometimes face-to-face and sometimes online (because of the pandemic they may be face-to-face unless there is a necessary quarantine or isolation at their home)
  • Students that are 100% face-to-face

All of this means a very quick and fluid solution for giving assignments is needed that is separate from sections.  Something that would allow teachers to very quickly modify who will and who will not be given an assignment, along with separate due, available from, and available until dates.

Proposed improvement:

  1. Choose a section that will be given the assignment
  2. When the section is selected, the "Assign To" defaults to everyone in the section (it already does this), but there is a button to click that opens a pop-up window that has a section selector at the top and checkbox list of the students filtered by the section.
  3. In the pop-up window, there are buttons to select all students and deselect all students.  The teacher can also check the boxes next to the names of individual students within the section to whom they would like to give the assignment.
  4. Click "Okay" and the "Assign To" box populates with the selected students.  You are then asked if you would like to give the assignment to students in other sections or give other students in the same section a different due date (buttons to click).  If you click yes, then the process is repeated for another section (instead of having to click "+Add" at the bottom").
    • As part of the pop-up the due, available from, and until settings could also be modified
  5. It would be over-the-top amazing if this were implemented AND "Assign-to" were added to the context menu on the assignment page or the module page.  Instead of opening the entire assignment to change who it is assigned to; a teacher clicks the kabob menu, chooses "Assign To" and only the "Assign To" dialog opens.
    • This improved "Assign To" could include the ability to more quickly and easily change due, available from and available until dates.  (Right now all of this is at the bottom of the assignment page, so teachers have to open the page and then navigate to the bottom to make changes.  It would be awesome to go straight to that section and be able to quickly make modifications.)


The Everyone feature is still the default.

Teachers wanting to give the assignment to all except a few students can "Select All" and then un-check the few students the assignment is not assigned to.

Teachers wanting to give the assignment only a few students can select those few students.

The assign-to, including dates (which for many teachers is the most edited part of any assignment) become more easily accessible and faster to modify.

This might be overselling, but perhaps this would even lead to a better world 🙂

Community Member

I have 75 students that I prepare quizzes for.  I have a handful of kids that need modifications. As of now, I Copy my original quiz and retitled it. 

When I assign the modified quiz, I can pick those specific kids, but the "Standard" quiz also shows up and the kids get confused as to which quiz they are to take. (I have the "Everyone" button when selecting the unmodified quiz...or i have to enter the 75 kids individually)  

With a "Do Not ADD to" button, I can make sure my modified quizzes only go to those that need it and no doubling up of assigned quizzes.

Community Member

Please add a way to quickly assign work to specific groups of students. As a middle school teacher with heterogeneous classes I have many versions of any given assignment. 
It is incredibly time consuming to have to type in all 125+ students names on the correct version in order to assign them work for each assignment.


I'm looking for either an option to check/uncheck the enrolled students when assigning OR be able to form groups that I can assign to without making it a "group assignment" so they each still get their own and complete it individually. 

Community Member

For creating assignments, the "Assign To" search bar seems inefficient, displaying just two sections and a few random individual students. I have multiple courses and multiple sections, which requires a lot of typing and memorizing Skyward-assigned course titles. This search bar should be replaced with a drop down menu similar to the one in the Inbox, in order to more quickly select courses, sections, groups, individual students, etc. beyond having to type them individually.

Community Member

As a high school social studies teacher, I do many modifications. I would like to have an assigning task for all the students except. This would allow me to make an assignment for everyone but the few that need modifications for IEPs. This allows specialization when classes have been grouped into one course.


Community Member

I have found a bit of a workaround for this which requires a windows computer and the use of an external application.

The application is called ClickPaste, and it simulates typing the text from a keyboard rather than pasting the whole thing at once. Download and extract the zip file from here, and then run the clickpaste.exe application to load it up. Then, if you copy and paste a list of students from a spreadsheet, it will work as you all hoped for.

I also added the application to my startup items and made sure it was always visible in the system tray.

If that all sounds confusing to you, you can just watch this screencast I recorded of the entire process. It's really not too bad.


Community Member

Yes, please.  This would be great.  It seems like an easy fix.... provide a dropdown with a list of students with checkboxes, so we can easily select/deselect them when assigning quizzes, discussions, and assignments.  This would make life so much easier.  Thank you for considering!

Community Member

Where you have students with the same name, the work around for that we use is to create a group in canvas and assign the same named students to different group sets and groups on their own. You can search using their SRN number. The people area allows you do that. Note only the student will be in that group. When sending a message via Inbox,  the staff can the differentiate who the students are by sending a message to the "group". For assignments, you can set up an "group" assignment and assign it to just that one student group. Here's a video that explains this:

Community Champion

@JeffConner thanks so much for the information on ClickPaste.  I tested it out and it works like a charm!  (I found a keystroke paster on github for the Mac too, but it looks much more complicated and difficult to set up and doesn't work in some versions.)

Your youtube screencast is so thorough, even explaining how to get the shortcut into the startup folder.  Thank you for your brilliant idea and all your work to share it with the community.

It is a workaround until Instructure comes up with a solution within Canvas.  Until we can use groups to differentiate assignments, or a checkbox or other feature for selecting the Assign to's, this will save a lot of pain.  Not to mention if there are 2 students with the same name, which has happened to me.

Community Member

I  also asked for this feature last year

Community Team
Community Team
Comments from Instructure

FYI: The Assign To field displays secondary information to differentiate students with the same name. This change provides additional information to differentiate students with the same name who are being added to an assignment.

For more information, please refer to the  Canvas Deploy Notes (2021-09-15).

Community Member

It would be great to be able to have a dropdown menu that loads all my students when assigning so I can unclick certain students that need a modification or multiple attempts on a quiz. Typing in everyone in the class but two students make it very difficult and tedious. 

Example: I have a quiz that all students have on attempt and then they are done. However, I have 2 students with accommodations that need a second attempt for corrections. I would like to create the quiz and assign it to all students except for those 2 students, then make a copy of the quiz and open up attempts then send it to those 2 students. However, typing in each student from the large class makes this extremely tedious. I'd love if the class would load with boxes next to their names and I could select all, then go through and unselect the two students I'd like to not receive the original quiz, then make a copy of the quiz with more attempts and only assign it to those two students. 

Community Champion

Hi @jennifer_neubar,

It sounds like you may not be using the intended workflow for this situation.  I believe what you should do is setup the quiz for everyone, then go to the Moderate section of the quiz, and give the specific students an extra attempt from there.  This should work quicker, and should also clean up your gradebook a bit (no multiple copies of the same assessment to worry about).

There are guides available at:

Hope this helps!


Community Member

One feature that would be nice is a way that when you click assign to "Everyone" there is a way to quickly remove one or two students verses having to add every student manually except the 1 or 2 that you do not want the assignment to go to. This is particularly useful when managing assignments and creating modifications for students with an IEP.

Community Member

@chriscas Thank you! Thank you!!!! Exactly what I needed!!!