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Thoughts on the Similarity Score icons

Community Member
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We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on the similarity score icon changes that will be going to production with the next release. Some questions have come up about how many different icons we display, the nature of the icons, and the purpose behind the changes. I’d like to address some of those questions in this post. 


What were the goals of this project?

Our goal with the current icon changes was twofold. First and foremost, we wanted to make the icons that we have accessible. The previous icons all had the same shape and were distinguished only by color. Second, we wanted to bring a bit more consistency to how and where the icons were displayed throughout Canvas. Depending on the integration method and the plagiarism detection provider, icon behavior could vary.


What’s changed with this project?

The three “bands” or levels of similarity scores have remained unchanged. The change for this release simply modifies the iconography to be accessible and a bit more consistent. This objective was the extent of this project’s scope.


What can be changed in the future?

We’ve received fantastic suggestions about how we can make our icons more useful by adding additional granularity. This is something we’ve been considering as part of a separate, larger and more complex project. Some of that complexity comes from the varied interpretations of similarity scores. Some users see a 30% similarity as unconcerning, while others want to investigate anything that is above 10%. Some see a very low score as a red flag, while others do not. Factors can vary based on class size, assignment type, subject matter, institutional practices, and a host of other considerations. 


Another layer of complexity comes from the nature of a gradebook. By definition we’re trying to convey as much information as possible to graders, while keeping the gradebook easy to use, navigate, and understand. Changing information that is being displayed in every cell of the gradebook has the potential to introduce something that will be distracting. We also need to be careful to always keep the actual score at the center of the gradebook. While other information is important, we want to be sure that the various status and icons don’t overwhelm the assignment grade that was given.


We didn’t want to wait for this larger project to be ready to make the similarity score icons in Canvas accessible. So we broke it up into two parts. This first smaller project keeps the underlying logic unchanged, and we were able to place it on the roadmap much sooner, with the emphasis focused on improving accessibility. The second project will be more complex and introduce more granularity. However, we don’t yet have a timeframe for the larger project.


As always, we deeply appreciate the feedback that’s been shared. If you’re interested in giving feedback on designs for the future similarity score project, keep an eye on the Ideas space for opportunities to contribute when available.