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Nickname for students with same name

Nickname for students with same name

(14)

At the University of Wisconsin - Madison, we frequently have courses with over 500 students. With those numbers, we frequently get two students with the same name. When you're working in the gradebook, or in Speedgrader, there is no way to confirm which student is which.

Additionally, with a large population of foreign nationals, many will adopt Americanized names (e.g. "Frank", in lieu of "Zhang").

For these two reasons, (and there may be others) I would like to see a "Nickname" option for each student. A field (my thinking) in gradebook that could be toggled on/off as needed. Once the field is on, it is left blank for the all students. But, the instructor can custom populate that field for each student. Whatever is shown there would be used "in place" of the student's official name within the Gradebook, or SpeedGrader. If this field is left blank, then the official student name is employed as-is.

30 Comments
jimweinrich
Community Member

Before I learned that it wouldn't work, I tried adding a nickname to a student's record in the Attendance area. If I click on the name of the student, a window pops up that shows me information about that student. There is a field with the student's name there, and it appears to offer the chance to select the name, parts of it, or click in the middle somewhere. Then when I typed, I was disappointed to discover that nothing can be changed.

This would be a natural, nearly self-evident way of allowing us to customize students' names.

hasti
Community Champion

The University of Wisconsin-Madison also has a Preferred Name Policy, which means that if students have set a preferred name, that is the name that shows up in Canvas as well as the official rosters. I find that students who have set a preferred name often still submit work (e.g., on paper or on their scantron sheet) under their "official" name.

So, I can have Elisabeth Taylor, Eliza Taylor, and Burgundy Elisabeth Taylor all in my class and they can all set their preferred name to "Liz" and now I have three Liz Taylor's in my Gradebook (and Speedgrader).  In the Gradebook I can tell these students apart by their email addresses, which is something my institution has added to the Canvas Gradebook (but is not accessible in the Speedgrader).

If given a "nickname" field, I personally would fill it with the students' official email addresses (which are unique and which I routinely ask students to include on their work) and I would use that exclusively in the Speedgrader.

gerlach_matthew
Community Member

There's gotta be a way to give our students nicknames (the ones they tell us to use) in the Canvas course, without this changing anything in the SIS. Example: Mary Jo goes by the name "Jo" and yet all her discussion partners keep calling her "Mary" because that is what the system shows them, week after week. I have one course where this happens now weekly with several students. Then if one person remembers (i.e. me), there are two names being used, one of which the students may not recall being the nickname of the person, so the person who remembers the nickname looks foolish. 

rcragun
Community Participant

For now, my (incomplete) workaround is to go to the grade book, select the gear icon, and hit "show notes column". I then put the nickname in "notes" in the grade book by matching nicknames to the student ID. The notes do not show up everywhere (SpeedGrader, for instance), but at least I can keep the grade book open while working in SpeedGrader to verify the order of names.

Correction: the work-around that I proposed is very risky. I verified today that the order of students with the same name in the default grade book is not the same as the order of students in the learning mastery grade book, and the learning mastery gradebook does not show the notes column or student IDs, so the only way to verify this is to check students' grades against your records. I have no idea what determines the order of students in each case or whether the order of students would ever be different between the default grade book and SpeedGrader (in my case these are in the same order). 

Relying on Canvas for grading when your students have the same name is a good way to accidentally violate FERPA.

novaka17
Community Member

This would also allow for us to put in students' preferred names for gender inclusivity! 

novaka17
Community Member

It would be helpful if this is on attendance not just grade book for when we take attendance as well. 

stacy_read_007
Community Member

I am upvoting for this reason, as well. I don't want Canvas to accidentally "out" my trans students to their peers, so I keep attendance off the overhead while I am taking roll. I didn't even think about group assignments until I read someone else's comment. That will make it a challenge to maintain their privacy!

novaka17
Community Member

Ah, I didn't even think about groups. I've already assigned. I did ask the students to update their personal settings for name display, which should change how it appears for discussions, but I don't know about groups.  

andrew_surmani
Community Member

Please do this. Students want this and go by different names than their formal first name.

jxbansal
Community Member

I have a lot of transgender students, and I would LOVE this functionality. Without it, I am trying desperately to remember (in the first few weeks, while I am still learning student's names), that someone who is listed in attendance as a traditionally masculine/feminine name actually goes by a different feminine/masculine name. And students can be extremely offended if I call the official name on the role if they don't want classmates to know about their transgender status.

None of it is really my business, I just need to be able to take roll for my class without having it become a problem, and being able to enter the name students want to use in Roll Call Attendance would really help that.

mcambone
Community Member

I just tried to do the same thing before I came here to see if there was a way to do this! It would be great to have this feature. Right now, it's a pain to bring a paper copy of the attendance roster to class with the students' nicknames written on it. 

jedington
Community Participant

Why isn't this already a thing?  I hate to rant, here is another example of something that shouldn't need to get x-upvotes to make happen.  Canvas - invest in an R&D department; put together a faculty focus group; allow faculty to give you ideas that go through the focus group and your R&D department.  Quit making us spend time lobbying and advocating for features that should just 'be' and are not difficult to implement. /end rant

michael_mj_john
Community Member

Groups are presently nearly impossible to set up if you have students with duplicate names, due to the absence of this feature.

michael_mj_john
Community Member

Hard to believe this request is 15 months old and still not addressed. It's such a light lift for what is a genuine flaw in Canvas.

venitk
Community Champion

This would also be helpful to help students who would like to be called by something other than the name they're registered as--for example, if they're beginning social transitioning and haven't legal changed their name yet. Dysphoria is a major health problem for trans students, and allowing them to go by the name of their choosing saves lives.  

evansall
Community Member

Some way for students to self-identify what they want instructors and other students to call them would be fabulous!  I have students who go by their middle names, which reflect their cultural identity that their "first" and more "American" name does not.  They prefer their middle name, but their fellow students cannot know that.  In a class of 35, other students are simply not going to read through and remember what all the other students say in their "getting to know you" discussion board.  It would be best if this was not an "add to your official name" item for transgender or transitioning students.  Although something like Jonathan Jones (Kahale) or Jonathan Jones (Jonny) works for someone who identifies as their birth gender, Jennifer Smith (Jonathan) is potentially a very poor solution.  The best solution would be to replace the first name with the desired first name, while allowing instructors access to a separate listing that listed "official" names.

arovner
Community Contributor

Great ideas here! We have a college process to assist students who want to change their viewable name in Canvas but I definitely agree with the other posters that this is an equity issue. We continue to struggle with student nicknames for our ESL classes and International students. Students adopt a more typical "US Name" which has no relation to their formal, given name. This makes it difficult for faculty when they want to enter grades into Canvas (for work submitted in class) because currently there isn't a way to sort the grade book that is helpful. They need to continually cross-reference the name on the paper with the nickname stored in the Notes column and keep hunting through the list of names. Ideally, there would be a "nickname" field as requested above and it would be included in the New Gradebook sortable options.  (Or at least provide an option to Sort using the Notes column.)

Thank you!

Stefanie
Community Team
Community Team

 @arovner ‌, if you haven't yet seen https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/15144-ability-to-sort-notes-column-in-new-gradebook , please add your vote and comments to the idea.

arovner
Community Contributor

Hi Stephanie -

I hadn't!  Thank you for the redirect!  Will share with my faculty.

Best,

Amy

dannyfalero
Community Member

When composing a message from a teachers profile and choosing students, It would benefit a lot of our administration staff to have a way of differentiating students who have the same name. Students with the same name are hard to differentiate due to the fact that canvas does not show their email address nor sis id nor their profile picture.

 Will hopefully prevent private messages from going to the wrong student.

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