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Canvas Release: Student Assignment Enhancements (2020-01-18)

Canvas Release: Student Assignment Enhancements (2020-01-18)

This document introduces the student assignment enhancements as noted in Canvas Release Notes (2020-01-18) 

For additional feature updates, please refer to the Student Enhancements User Group

Supported student assignments display an improved interface and submission workflow. This change improves the student experience in completing and submitting assignments, viewing rubrics, and locating instructor feedback.



Feature/Integration Setup

Feature Options

Assignment Enhancements - Student

Student assignment enhancements involve the Assignment Enhancements - Student feature option, which can be allowed on a course-by-course basis or turned on for all courses across the entire account. By default, this feature option is set to Off. Canvas admins can manage this feature option in Account Settings.

If this feature option is not already turned on for the entire account, instructors can enable the Assignment Enhancements - Student feature option for a course in Course Settings.

RCE Enhancements

New assignments is designed to be used with the New Rich Content Editor, as it includes enhanced functionality that may be needed to submit coursework. However, the existing Rich Content Editor can be used for student submissions.

The New Rich Content Editor involves the RCE Enhancements feature option, which can be allowed on a course-by-course basis or turned on for all courses across the entire account. By default, this feature option is set to Off. Canvas admins can manage this feature option in Account Settings.


No additional permissions are required for this feature and inherently affects users with student roles.

Release Schedule

This feature was made available in the beta environment as of 2019-12-23. Additional enhancements will continue to be made to this feature as announced in future release notes.

This feature can be used in the production environment as of 2020-10-17.


Supported Assignment Types

When this feature is enabled, all existing currently supported assignment types automatically convert to the new assignment type. No data conversation is required, as this feature change only affects the Canvas interface. Assignments are only updated in active courses; concluded courses are not affected. 

Supported assignment types:

  • Online
  • External Tools

Not currently supported

  • No Submission, On Paper
  • Group Assignments
  • Peer Reviews

Any assignment type that is not supported is redirected back to the existing assignments interface.

Submission Details Page

This feature currently only enhances the view of individual assignments. It does not affect the Submission Details page, which students can view via the Grades page. For supported assignment types, the Submit Assignment or Re-submit Assignment button redirects students to the new assignments view.

Backward Compatibility

After new assignments have been enabled, they can be disabled at any time but submission data is affected if a student has made multiple submission attempts. Reverting to the existing assignments workflow groups all comments into the latest submission.


Course-Level Features

Individual Assignment Overview

The individual assignment page for students offers clarity on submission workflows. Additionally, the following enhancements are available:

  • The assignment summary header are always visible when viewing the assignment and floats at the top of the page
  • Submission process is summarized in a status timeline at the top of the assignment
  • Assignment details can be minimized within the page
  • Submissions can be drafted in the assignment without requiring an immediate submission
  • History of the submission type, comments, and the assignment rubric (if any) are located in their own tabs
  • Submission types, comments, and any rubric grading is retained with each attempt and viewable by both the student and the instructor
  • For instructors, SpeedGrader displays comments based on submission attempt


New Assignments workflow


Assignment Summary Header

Supported individual assignments load the new assignments interface with an assignment header, which includes the assignment title, due date, availability dates, point value, and calculation method. A timeline indicating each phase of the submission process is also visible at the top of the page. 


Assignment summary header


The assignment summary header is always visible and accompanies page scrolling. The header floats at the top of the page with a condensed submission timeline.


Assignment Summary Header floating at the top of the page


Timeline Status

The timeline can indicate one or more statuses of the assignment via color and icon:

  • The assignment is currently unavailable because of a module prerequisite (red lock icon)
  • The assignment is no longer available because of an availability date (red lock icon)
  • The assignment is available and ready to be submitted (green check mark)
  • The assignment is missing (red missing label)
  • The assignment is late (gray late label)


Assignment header with locked and missing statuses


Assignment Resources

Assignment Details

Below the header, the assignment displays the details of the assignment. The Details section is expanded by default but can be collapsed when needed.


Assignment details



If a rubric is provided for an assignment, the rubric can be reviewed by students to help them define their submission. Rubrics can also be viewed after the assignment is submitted.


Rubric tab



The Upload status in the timeline indicates the submission can be uploaded by the student. The term Upload in the timeline represents any submission type supported by the assignment.

A submission can be uploaded in the Attempt tab, which indicates the attempt number. Currently students can have unlimited submission attempts.


Attempt tab


Submission Types

The submission type set by the instructor displays below the Attempt tab. However, if an assignment supports multiple submission types, the Submission Type menu will display in the page for the student to select a submission type.


Attempts with multiple submission types


For all online submission types, students can draft a submission by creating/uploading the content for the submission type. Files can be dragged and dropped from a computer or uploaded from Canvas. 

Canvas will retain the submission content until the submission is submitted via the Submit button. File upload, text, and media submission drafts can be deleted and re-created; URL submission drafts can be changed by updating the website URL added to the URL field.


File submission with draft uploaded document


Multiple Submission Types

When an assignment allows multiple submission types, each submission type has a Submit button. The active submission type where the student clicks the Submit button is the type that will be submitted for the assignment. Drafts of other submission types will be deleted.

For example, if a student creates a text entry, changes the submission type to file upload and uploads a file, then clicks the Submit button, the message will indicate that a file submission is being submitted and any other submission (text entry) will be deleted.


Submission warning message about multiple drafts


Submission Confirmation

After the student clicks the Submit button for the submission, the timeline updates to verify the assignment has been submitted. 

A preview of the submission displays in the page. If multiple files were submitted for the assignment, all files display and can be selected individually for viewing.


Submitted file with preview



Comments can be added to the assignment after the assignment has been submitted in the Comments tab. 

Submission comments are paginated after 20 comments.


Comments tab


Grading Status

Until the submission has been graded, the timeline indicates the assignment has not been graded. Once a grade is received, the timeline updates to Graded, and the assignment header also displays the score.


Graded timeline entry


Multiple Attempts

If students want to make another attempt, the can use the timeline to click the New Attempt option. Attempts can be submitted before or after the previous attempt has been graded.

Clicking the New Attempt button resets the timeline for the next submission attempt. The previous attempt can be accessed by clicking the Previous icon in the timeline.


Timeline with multiple attempts


Students can repeat the submission process with the new attempt. For submissions that contained multiple submission types, Canvas will automatically select the previously used submission type. Any comments added to the attempt are retained with the attempt.

SpeedGrader Instructor View

When student assignment enhancements are enabled for a course, SpeedGrader displays comments based on the submission attempt. Any replies to comments are also displayed to students within the attempt being viewed by the instructor.


Comments view in SpeedGrader


Community Resources

Future Enhancements

This document outlines existing functionality included in the initial release of this feature. Enhancements will continue to be added over future releases as indicated in Canvas Release Notes. Please follow the release notes for future functionality updates, which will be indicated by the assignments tag.

Customer Feedback

Community feedback for this feature is welcome per Canvas Community Feedback Guidelines, which outlines general feedback, broken functionality, and feature enhancements.

User Group

Feedback is also welcome in theNew Student Enhancements Users Group.

Feature Documentation

Documentation for this feature will be available on 2020-01-25 per the New Student Enhancements Users Group.

Lessons will also be updated with all future enhancements as indicated in release notes.

Labels (1)

This looks great, but we have a few minor points:

- When scrolling down, the progress bar condenses into four green dots, but it's not clear what these represent. If you hover over them, there's no text, alt text would be really useful here.

- The 'Most Recent' link at the top of the page seemingly goes nowhere

- Once work has been graded and a comment added, the student is able to view a notification badge in the comment tab, which denotes that a comment has been added. The same is not available in the rubric tab to denote that there is new information available.

- If you access the assignment via the grades route, it displays the old view, will this be updated to the new view for consistency?

I have a few questions related to this announcement.

We attempted to test this in Beta but since our actual "students" aren't allowed to access the Beta environment, we were unable to do so accurately. (How did test as a student??)

What we saw as admins while testing using the test student feature was that the option to re-submit an assignment is not clear. Instead of the traditional blue button, there is a timeline option that says "New Attempt". This is not consistent with what students currently see nor is it similar to what they see when they initially submit. Could be confusing.

I also thought that one of the features that would be available with this release would be the option for students to see comments left on any attempt. Right now, they can only see comments left on the most recent submission. We created and then tried to submit a Studio video as a test student and, although it appears to embed, "null" appears in the Speedgrader. We were also unable to use the "Previous" option that appears on the timeline after re-submitting to go back to the first attempt.How would a student see comments left by the instructor on a previous attempt? Although we could wait until the feature is available in production, we like to test as much as we can first.

Finally, it took a ridiculous amount of time to upload the docx file we tested (as well as the Studio video but maybe that is because test students aren't really supposed to have media in Studio??). 

If anyone can help me (if it's user error) or explain how it's supposed to work, I would appreciate it!‌ - While I cannot speak for what Bethan did, I can say that someone with top-level administrative rights can "masquerade" as a student.  You are quite right that actual students cannot access Beta, but the ability to login to Beta as an administrator and then masquerade as a student will work.  (That said, I would still heartily recommend having a few "phony" student accounts handy on Production so they also carry over to Beta/Test; I will use those even in Beta or Test rather than a real student when masquerading whenever possible.) As for the time it took you to upload, that is not that unusual, especially if it was a large file.  Both Beta and Test servers can be very, very s-l-o-w at times.

I'm curious how either of you are able to test the new feature. I turned the feature on but I get an "Sorry something broke" error when I try to open an assignment from Student View. There were some comments from some others on the 1/18 Release Notes who are experiencing the same issue.

Since I can't test, can someone clarify this statement: "Canvas will retain the submission content until the submission is submitted via the Submit button. File upload, text, and media submission drafts can be deleted and re-created; ..." Does this mean that Canvas will auto-save text entries if a student leaves the page?‌ I used the student view to test this. You're right about the 'new attempt' button, it's a bit out of the way, and if you scroll down the page, this option disappears. Not great for students looking to re-submit but have scrolled down the page. This would be much better as a separate option.

I hadn't got round to testing the re-submission process, I was unable to re-submit using the student view - an error popped up whilst trying to do this. I also tried masquerading and submitting but there was no option to upload an initial assignment for some reason and clicking on the 'new attempt' button caused the same error to appear on the screen.

When masquerading as a student on a separate assignment, I was able to submit an additional attempt, but the 'more options' button presented me with a something broke error. It seems a little buggy at the minute. When I finally was able to submit and mark work, I was able to add comments to both attempts and these are presented to students alongside their respective attempts. But it's not all that clear how you access previous comments as a student, you have to click on the 'previous' option on the timeline, which loads a new timeline for the previous attempt, and this in turn loads the attempt and the associated comments in the 'comments' tab at the bottom.

assignment submission attempts and comments

Thanks for your input as ever‌!‌ it sounds like a draft or auto save feature, but further clarity on this would be greatly appreciated. Maybe erinhallmark‌ can clarify?‌ thank you for this idea. We do have test accounts and I will masquerade as one to see what happens. It is also helpful to know that I am not the only one with long load times. Although the Studio video was only a few seconds long...‌ thank you for the details about the "previous" button. When we clicked it, nothing happened. I wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that the first submission attempt was 1. under Test Student and 2. that it was a Studio video that resulted in "null" in the Speedgrader (again, I think because this is a test student). My institution has many assignments requiring more than one submission. Many times, it is a Studio video and a docx file, which cannot be submitted simultaneously. Looking forward to making sure that this option solves the problem of students not being able to see comments left on their first submission. Glad you tagged erinhallmark‌. Ultimately, looks like we will have to wait for this to be in Prod before we can fully test. 

HI Audra

I haven't been able to either. I submitted a case yesterday and somebody is looking into it. 

Hi, Audra,

Yes, if a student uploads content but hasn't submitted it yet, the uploaded content will remain until it is submitted. This behavior is different from current behavior, where leaving the page will also remove any uploaded files before they are submitted.



I've also just noticed that students in the enhanced version cannot add comments for new submissions whilst an assignment has a manual post grade policy applied. Students using the original workflow could add a comment as part of the assignment submission process regardless of whether the assignment was muted or not.

This provides a different experience to students depending on which policy is applied. Students should still be able to attach comments to a submission regardless of post grade policy.

I can see the new assignment enhancements in student view now but when I click the rubric tab as the student I get the error message that states something is broke. I already have two support cases on this. The first ticket was closed.

- When scrolling down, the progress bar condenses into four green dots, but it's not clear what these represent. If you hover over them, there's no text, alt text would be really useful here.

Taking a little guess here...but if you take a look at the first screen shot (above), you'll see the four dots for Available, Upload, Submit, and Not Yet Graded.  As you scroll down, they condense (as you've indicated).  There is text just to the left of the four dots which would seem to correspond to the four dots that are viewable in a more expanded view when you're at the top of the page.  I do agree that having a tooltip when hovering over these dots may be helpful, but I'm assuming this text to the left of the dots will also change based on your progress.

Assignments for Students

- The 'Most Recent' link at the top of the page seemingly goes nowhere

I can replicate this as well.  The mouse icon changes to a text input icon (I beam icon) that seems to be inconsistent with a normal pointing hand icon to click on links on the interwebs.

- If you access the assignment via the grades route, it displays the old view, will this be updated to the new view for consistency?

I cannot replicate this.  Keep in mind that this is an update for students.  I'm an admin, and if I masquerade as a student, I can click on the name of the assignment (via "Assignments") and see the new interface.  As a student, if I also go to "Grades", click on the assignment name, and then click on the "Submit Assignment" button, I still see the new student interface.  If, however, I am logged in with my admin/instructor account, I don't see this new interface.

Just update. We discovered that the rubric error occurs when you use the find a rubric and import a rubric from the admin level. Support is looking into the issue. 

Thanks for replying‌! You're absolutely right, it changes, I didn't spot the text to the left, this is helpful, but I think a tooltip on each of these would be really helpful for students. In regards to the old view appearing, I'm still getting this intermittently when masquerading as a student. Sometimes the same student will have submitted to two assignments, one appears as the new interface and the other the old interface. I can't work it out and have been in touch with support about this. They mentioned that having a dual role can be problematic, and it's best to test with separate student accounts.

Hi‌,‌ was right, I did use the "masquerade" feature to test this as a student. Although, as outlined above, this is a bit problematic, and sometimes loads the old interface. Something about having a dual role within the system!

Hi, all,

Thanks for your comments on this document. Since we just released our March release notes, I'm going to close this thread for discussion. Please continue to share feedback and thoughts in our User Group: Assignment Workflow Improvements



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