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Improve student experience when using assignment availability and due dates

Improve student experience when using assignment availability and due dates


In a recent review of assignment set-up and structure within Canvas at our institution, we have seen an increase in limiting the submission availability window for file-upload assignments to not allow for late submissions and setting the assignment available until’ date and time to be the same as the due date and time. 


While this is advice provided by Canvas as a way to systematically reject late submissions, it can pose difficulties for students participating in assignments with small submission windows (for example 1 - 24 hours) where they may have been expected to download an assignment, complete the assignment and then submit in the last couple of minutes of the submission availability window.   


This type of assignment set-up does not consider factors that students may inadvertently encounter in an online environment - such as latency issues or the time it takes on a computer to locate a file for upload. When these factors are encountered and it takes the student longer than expected to upload their submission, it may push the student submission time past the available until time and close the assignment submission window in the background without refreshing the page to show the assignment as closed. As the assignment won’t allow late submissions, it will instead present students with a submission failure error.  


Assignment set-up demonstrating the problem scenario is below: 


Canvas views and scores the above assignment set-up as follows: 

  • Canvas opens the assignment to all student submissions on May 5 at 14:00 
  • In the Gradebook, the assignment is on time if submitted by May 5 at 15:00  
  • Canvas closes the assignment to all student submissions and student submissions will fail to upload from May 5 at 15:01 
  • Students who submit in the last minute and their upload time passes the threshold submission time will be presented with this advice which can lead students to misbelieve there is a technical error 


My request is:

If the availability window passes while a student is on the assignment page and the assignment closes, please remove/ change the submit button (real-time) so they cannot submit and it reads ‘This assignment is now closed’ or similar. If this cannot be achieved without a page refresh, please instead update the wording used on the error message shown to students if they submit and this scenario occurs, for example, something along the lines of: "This assignment is now closed" instead of 'Submit failed, please try again'. 

Note: I have also asked if the guide What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates? could be updated to share the advice given by Canvas support that when using this assignment setup to not allow late submissions, students should be asked to submit a minute or two early to avoid the assessment closing while they are in the upload process.

Thank you


Community Team
Community Team

 @jayde_colquhoun ‌, thank you for this comprehensive description of the use case and the issue. Would you please review ? We believe it addresses what you're hoping to see. 

Turning to the request for an update to the wording on the lesson, we've brought that to the attention of our Doc Team, and would appreciate it if you would post that as a comment under the lesson itself as well.


Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hi Stefanie, 

Thanks for the reply.

I don’t see these as the same. Referring to similar functionality, yes, but different assignment types and different scenarios and outcome. Are you able to share why you think it addresses the issue so I can confirm? 

Happy to add the request for documentation update to the guide. 

Community Team
Community Team

 @jayde_colquhoun ‌, the linked idea is requesting functionality around assignment availability dates, yet we can see how your idea differs. We've opened it for voting as an associated idea.

Thanks for working with us on this, Jayde. Stay safe, and be well.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Wonderful, thanks for that Stefanie appreciate it and you too 

Community Participant

Hi Jayde, we are also experiencing issues with students submitting at the last moment (even though our instructions say to submit earlier than cut off). We have decided to implement a short grace period to allow for technical issues during submission by extending the availability date past the due date (the assessment will also be flagged as Late). 

I agree that the message to try to submit again is not helpful if the assignment has closed and should be updated.

Community Member

Brilliant Idea!