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Community Member

Program Learning Outcome and Course Learning Outcome

As the department's assessment coordinator, I would dream that my colleagues could use outcomes and link them to specific assignments/quizzes/projects in Canvas. However, we've run into the following problems:

1. In terms of the connection between outcomes and assessment measures (e.g. quizzes, tests, projects, discussions, etc.), Canvas requires an outcome to have a criteria with performance levels, pretty much like a type of rubric. However, a grading rubric is usually used for evaluating student performance for a specific assessment measure. So each learning outcome may have several assessment measures (per our accreditation standards, it requires at least 2 measures and 1 has to be direct measure). In this case, assessing the learning outcome should really be the summary of results of these assessment measures. But in Canvas, if you want to associate an outcome with a specific assessment measure, it has to be part of the grading rubric, or simply be the rubric (with only 1 criterion!). Besides, in determining if an outcome is achieved, we usually set an minimum standard and target, e.g. "80% of the class has to be 80% or better for the assessment measure". This is not possible with the current settings of Outcome in Canvas.

To give a specific example, let's say I want to assess oral communication as an outcome, and use a project presentation as the assessment measure. Then I've got a whole grading rubric with 5 criteria and 5 levels of performance with a total of 100 points to assess students' presentation. In this case, I don't really want to use the "Oral Communication Outcome" as the rubric, instead, I'll use the grading rubric to grade students, and summarize their performance to see if 80% of the students scored 80% or better to determine if this Oral Communication Outcome is achieved.  

2. In terms of the mapping between program outcome and course outcomes. There is no direct mapping mechanism available for the two. I read some previous posts that suggesting the account outcome could be the program outcome, but even that, there is no direct mapping between the two. In most accreditation scenarios (e.g. ABET, ACCE), accreditation standards and learning outcomes should be mapped with course outcomes, and assessed at course level. How Canvas can help address this?

My questions are very specific and quite wordy, I apologize for that. But any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. 

2 Replies
Community Participant

Hello Wei Wu. I'm not sure if you already have the answers. I just started to explore the Outcomes tool and want to share some ideas.

For the specific example in your 1st question, you can build an outcome with 2 ratings: Meets Standards (1 point) and Does Not Meet Standards (0 points), setting Mastery at 1 (point). For the project mentioned in the example, you can still use the rubric with 5 criteria and 5 level of performance, but add the outcome just created to the rubric as the 6th criterion. When grading, you should be able to see if students get 80% from the 5 criteria, and decide if they meet standard or not (for the 6th criterion).

For your 2nd question, my understanding is that the Outcomes tool is best used when you implement it at the college/department level (in the sub-account). Your Canvas admin can import the outcomes at your program/department sub-account. Faculty in the program can use those outcomes in their courses.

Hope this helps.


Community Participant


I have a similar task. I think Wenzhen's suggestion is a great solution. It would allow you to easily adjust your benchmark to a different percentage on the original assignment rubric by communicating the new benchmark to faculty, or including the percentage in the friendly name. Name the outcome "OralComm01" and the friendly name "Oral Communication, Mastery, 85%." or something like that.

My other "slight" frustration with the outcome system in Canvas is that there are no "long descriptions" for the outcome ranks. I'm the assessment director for our QEP, and our QEP outlines 5 learning objectives with 4 mastery levels each. We have detailed criteria for these ranks, but you can't add the details to an Outcome like you can to a Rubric.  My solution was to put the long description of the ranks in a rubric criteria, and immediately below the rubric criteria, add the associated outcome.  The instructor simply decides the appropriate rank in the rubric criteria, then selects the same level from the outcome immediately below.

We are just starting out with Canvas, and I'm hoping to get our faculty comfortable with the idea of tracking program outcomes through Canvas.  I went through some effort creating the appropriate nesting of outcome groups (University Domain>University SLO>Program SLO>Outcome), but I'm not seeing the benefit of this nesting when running the outcome report. I would think that I could run a report from the root on a top level outcome group (one of the University SLOs), and get a CSV with all descendants of that group. But it appears outcome reports will only export the outcomes without reference to the parent.  I would have to run a VLookup or equivalent to pull the ancestor outcome groups into the sheet.  I guess a possible solution is a carefully crafted naming scheme for the outcomes that would allow sorting by outcome name. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

I'm not adding much to this question! But thank you for letting me share my thoughts on this topic. 


Reinhardt University

Waleska, GA