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Nickname for students with same name

Nickname for students with same name


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.

New Member


Community Participant

I know it doesn't resolve the issue with the names in groups, but if you display the Login with the student name in the Gradebook, it can serve as a quick reference for which student is which.  It is located in the options menu in the student column - click Secondary Info and then toggle on the Login.

But yes, I agree, it is difficult to differentiate the students while in the groups list.  Being able to view the login id in groups would help, then there is no risk with name issues/preferences.  Had this come up just this morning.

Community Member

Students should have the option to control the NAME THEY PREFER. Therefore, the "display name" name should populate in the gradebook, attendance/roll call, discussions, groups, etc. rather than the "full name" or "sort name".  It would be so much more helpful for faculty to see the "preferred name" in the attendance/roll call (especially with the seating chart), and in the gradebook (see screenshots attached). 

This is a great way to add a layer of consistency, allow students to make their name preference known, and enhance student-teacher communication! 
Please make this change asap--this is low hanging fruit that can be accomplished with a fairly simple program change!


New Member

Just adding my support to a very obvious feature that would take little time to implement.  Yes, students can change their prefferred name, but they often don't, and even in my small classes, it takes me awhile to learn names.  Just let us edit the name!

Community Champion

If students have common names, there can be multiple students with the same name in a course and it's impossible to tell them apart in many areas of Canvas.

You can turn on a secondary identifier in Grades, but any other time you need to pick a student (i.e. starting a conversation, setting up groups manually, adding a differentiated assignment due dates, etc.) Canvas only displays their name. 

Can you please display more information about students when instructors need to identify and select them?

New Member

Dear Colleagues,

Inclusion and diversity are obviously important topics. I think this "feature" is also tied strongly to student identity for all students, and making our students comfortable in class (especially online classes), which facilitates their learning too.

I have used the "gradebook notes" workaround for years... but it is clunky, inconsistent, and very labor inefficient.

I believe the "having the same student with the same name" issue is  red herring.  In computer science, we call these a "namespace conflicts".  There are many well-known solutions and the canvas engineers can certainly figure it out.  See:

The bigger challenge is that this request does not appear to be on the "canvas roadmap" even though this is a multi-year thread.... See:

How can we get it there?



Community Member

Perhaps a class action lawsuit from the LGBTQ community would change some minds.

New Member

Showing more information to distinguish students with the same name across features is important. We ran into the problem this week of not being able to distinguish which student to schedule for a quiz due to inability to se ID #'s or other unique identifiers in the assignment/quiz scheduling tool. Apparently ID #'s can be used for extensions in Quizzes / Moderate feature. This problem seems like another example of how Canvas is not designed with large courses in mind.

New Member

NIcknames are so important, especially for our students who identify as something that doesn't align with their given name.  The official name should be listed, along with the nickname that either student or instructor can set, and both should show up in Speedgrader and Canvas Messages.

When teaching online, addressing students by their chosen name is one of the most important ways of developing a relationship with them.  


New Member

The ability to set a nickname for each student just like we can create a nickname for our courses would be awesome.

I see this being especially useful when taking attendance / using the seating chart. Being able to call out the student's preferred name would be great.  Actually seeing their preferred name over and over would help me to remember that name as opposed to repeatedly seeing their given name and trying to remember their name preference.

Community Contributor

I'd like to re-emphasize that this is really a problem in the Groups interface.

New Member

Dear Colleagues,

I have a suggestion….

CanvasCon is coming up in early Oct. Sign up.

We should raise this issue at all of the diversity and student-centered learning events, and with any employees of instructure at CanvasCon. Point people to this thread too.

Maybe we can:

1. Get an official response on this thread.  communication to users is a good thing.

2. This bug fix to be added to their development road map before all the other unimportant new features in plan.

Students can change their name at the account level. But, it does not propagate everywhere properly, and name conflicts need to be handled properly too.

New Member

i would love to be able to add nicknames and also preferred pronouns. 

Community Contributor

@Sloth - are you requesting pronouns display in a certain interface?

They are available if configured for your account, but may not display where you're wanting them:

New Member


I added the pronoun remark without much thought. I do see pronouns in some places which is adequate.

What appeals to me is a column in the grade book interface or people interface in which I could add a variety of student specific information, including nicknames, ADA accommodations, etc.  

I suspect there are lots of uses for such a column that would be visible to faculty/instructors/TAs, but not students.  It would facilitate remembering students and responding to individual needs.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

@Sloth  That describes the Notes column to a T:  How do I use the Notes column in the Gradebook? 

New Member

I vote for this functionality, there are students in class who prefer to be called by different names for all the reasons stated above. Right now I manually have to convert student participation by memory to the official roster name, with a mental or offline name conversion. Should be built in. Request this feature please!!

Community Participant

While it is helpful that the SIS ID is added to the name when selecting students for differentiated  assignments (as an example), no such visual aid for distinguishing students is provided for the quizzes moderate view (at least in classic quizzes). Maybe I am missing something?

I hope we see some way to be able to add a nickname or some other feature that will help distinguish between students with the same name.

Community Member

If you have two students with the same first name and last name but different middle initial such as Jay K. Patel and Jay S. Patel then two problems occur in speedgrader:

1. the names are identical in the assignment list (Jay Patel)

2. the order is not necessarily alphabetical and there is no way to confirm it except by making the following assumption

Currently I assume (not a good idea) that the order in a speedgrader list is the same as the order in the gradebook. In the gradebook I can identify the ssid as a secondary display and recognize that the students are not in alphabetic order.

This is a hack because if I forget when using the speedgrader about the incorrect alphabetic order I end up swapping student assignment information.

Community Member

I am hoping that this is somewhere in the works. This would have multiple benefits.   I have more than one student who prefers to go by their middle name or a nickname not related to their first name. I also have students that are trans and can't change their names in our SIS for one reason or another.  I can understand, to a point, not letting students have the ability to change their names, I am a middle school teacher and could see some students taking advantage of that to be funny, but teachers should be able to.