Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Community Member

Using the Tab Key during Essay Question = Ends Test Time?


I am receiving complaints from dual credit schools that when students are in an essay question on a Canvas test, they cannot use the tab key without the test automatically ending.

Surely, this is not the case...? It's nearly 2020, after all. 


If this is a genuine problem, then it must be fixed. How is it that programmers have not caught on to something that has been standard formatting since before the age of the computer? Even typewriters had tab keys that were used for indentation. I am a college instructor now. Students are taught far before reaching my courses that they should use the tab key to indent paragraphs. Previously, I used to work for a technical writing consultant company that worked for major companies, including Microsoft. My consultant company fired people for being "inept" and "slow" with work when they did things like use the spacebar repeatedly when a single tap of the tab key would suffice.

3 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach


Welcome to the Canvas Community!!!

The tab button in an online environment is programmed to behave much differently than it is in a word processor or on a typewriter. When a user hits the tab button in a browser, they are activating an accessibility setting that allows the user to navigate the page without a mouse.  The tab button in a browser will move the next focusable item on the page.  I have a feeling that the next focusable item on the page for an essay style question is the Submit button.  So what is happening is that the students are tabbing to the Submit button and then hitting the Enter key on the keyboard which submits the quiz.  This is not totally a Canvas thing as tabbing is built into the browser, but Instructure might be able to look into the next focusable item after the text box (but that may even be an accessibility issue).

Hope this helps!!


I have heard that response before.

Simply put: The programmers at Canvas must make the system smarter when students are in testing. Once a typing box is active, there must be a way to ensure that all standard keyboard keys behave AS EXPECTED IN THE REAL WORLD beyond programmers. This is what happens when programmers design something that has not endured a proper quality control.

We've had this same problem and had to give retakes to students because they didn't mean to submit.

What we've done to avoid this issue is to add a MC question at the end of the exam worth 0 points, asking the student to be sure to review their exam prior to submitting it. It actually has helped with other areas, too.