Making feedback more visible to students

This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas

For more information, please read through the  Canvas Release Notes (2021-11-20).

I'm teaching a course using Canvas. This is the second semester I've used it. I like Canvas overall, but I've discovered that my students have a difficult time reading the feedback that I provide on their online assignment submissions because the feedback is split into three different locations, and when student view an assignment that I've graded, there is no visual indication of whether feedback is present, and no unified display of that feedback. I'd like the feedback to be visible by default, or else some kind of visually loud indicator present to show them there is feedback. Let me explain:


  1. Say I grade an assignment that a student submitted. They go to the assignment, and can see straight-away a general comment on the lower right-hand side. That's visible by default. Fine and good.
  2. But what about all the comments embedded in the document view? Those are not automatically displayed, and there is no marker to show that such comments have been embedded in the document. There should be at minimum a big icon saying feedback is embedded, for sure, so go look at it. Currently, "View Feedback" link is always present, regardless of whether feedback has been embedded or not.
  3. Furthermore, the rubric grade is displayed in the upper-right corner, but the detailed rubric view is hidden until students think to click "Show Rubric"... yet even then, the written feedback that I have provided on each rubric criteria remains hidden from view! Students have to hunt for that feedback by clicking the easily-overlooked speech-bubble icon one-at-a-time for each criterion. But I don't necessarily write a comment for each criterion, and there is no visual sign or indication that a comment has been written or not.


How are students supposed to know and remember to check all of these various locations to receive the complete set of feedback provided by their instructors? It is utterly inefficient and defeatist because students don't seem to realize that all this feedback is sitting there waiting for them--and they don't know to look for it.


Now, from a student point of view, I don't want to have to click in so many different places to hunt (perhaps fruitlessly) for feedback that my instructor might or might not have left for me (since there is no indicator signalling the existence of written comments).


The fact that written feedback has been given within the submitted file and within the rubric should be foregrounded--it should be made highly visible to the students checking their grades. That feedback is part of the learning process. It is essential for students to read that feedback in order to improve their work. If they don't know it is there, what is the point?


Don't force users to guess and hunt for feedback. They won't do it. Make it obvious that the feedback has been given by putting some kind of big symbol or message next to the assignment doc (or by displaying the assignment by default so students can see that margin comments etc have been embedded in the file) and also by automatically displaying the rubric WITH the written feedback already visible. Don't make the students click in three hundred different places to get all their feedback for a single assignment. Please.

Community Explorer

Bug in student feedback view – (NOT) updated for 2018


In February 2017 I added comments and a video to this feed raising the issue of a design flaw (read “bug”) in the student view of Speedgrader feedback.  Since then I’ve received over 100 email updates from the Canvas Community as the numerous issues of Speedgrader feedback have been repeatedly flagged and discussed.  One of these issues (the size and location of the “View Feedback” link) these is listed as the #3 Priority in the “Project Khaki list.  Despite that, the buggy behavior remains unchanged almost a full year after the first time I posted about this.  This is an issue that greatly impedes communication between instructors and students, with a strongly negative affect on the students’ user experience and students’ learning: It urgently needs to be resolved.


I took this screen video on February 5, 2018:


This screen video was posted on February 23, 2017:


Extract from my comment on Feb 23, 2017:

In the Teachers View the comments and feedback appear in a large, easy to read window.  In the students' view, they appear in a smaller box which can be resized and moved around inside a large grey frame-area.  Resizing does not always work efficiently and sometimes (e.g. in certain browsers) the box refuses to stay in a fixed place and follows the mouse around.  But more to the point, there is really no advantage or reason why a student might want to shrink down the view to see the background box behind.  In the teachers view the preview with comments is always fixed to the size of the frame -- it should be the same in the students' view.  


If I were using Crocodoc and making comments, but had to deal with it as the students do, I would just simply never even touch the comment feature.  But since it works so well for teachers, it should work even better for the students: their learning depends on reading and processing feedback.



Community Member

This MUST be addressed.  It makes the entire grading system a waste of time and shows how little programming attention is paid to humanities-based courses.  Why should I or my TAs put time into annotating these pdf papers if students have to hunt for the feedback, click on the file, and then have to resize a window (for what purpose?!).

Community Novice

It's a real shame students have to go through extra steps to view feedback--and a shame that teachers spend all this time providing feedback that never gets seen. I find it odd that this issue is not more of a priority. It sounds like such an easy fix--make all the comment visible when the document is opened.

Community Contributor

Whoops. Looks like in an attempt to make commenting on essays "sort of" work, something was done to submitted assignments that now converts them into PDFs. That's cool, unless I'm trying to do a plagiarism check and cutting and pasting text--something I currently can't do with the PDFs in the drop boxes. I'm still not commenting directly on the students' essays, but now if I suspect plagiarism, I have to retype the language I'm looking for. Is anyone using the current "comment on essay" function, or did we all learn to use the comment box, or some other work-around? Is this new submission style any better? 

Community Member

Agreed. I get so tired of telling students "you need to change this for the next assignment" and then clearly they haven't read the comment and do the same wrong thing on the next assignment.

Community Novice

Additionally, when a parent gets a notification that an assignment has been graded, the link in the email should not be to the original assignment, but to the graded work with all the feedback.

As a teacher, I had no idea how hard it is for students and parents to find assignment feedback until I realized that as a parent of a child at a different school with Canvas, I realized at the end of the semester I thought she was getting full points on assignments, when all along I'd been looking at the assignment rubric with the points total (!!!). In fact she was failing a class I thought she was doing well in (because the school policy was not to put in points or grades until the end of the semester, just sent out rubrics with comments). The point isn't to solve my daughter's school's policy, but to point out that as a parent (and a student) it is really not obvious that a teacher has made comments, or where to find them. 

Community Novice

I wish there were a more obvious button for viewing feedback. When a student checks a grade, she has to 1) click on the assignment to see any overall comments but then 2) has to locate the words "view feedback," only written in blue without any sort of button, to see more extensive margin-note feedback. I have had many students claim there was no feedback on an assignment when there was tons. Making that "view feedback" term a boxed button would indicate more clearly that there is more to see. 

Community Team
Community Team

The Radar‌ idea stage has been removed from the Feature Idea Process.  You can read more about why in the blog post Adaptation: Feature Idea Process Changes.

This change will only impact the stage sort of this idea and will not change how it is voted on or how it is considered during prioritization activities.  This change will streamline the list of ideas 'open for voting', making it easier for you to see the true top voted ideas in one sort, here.

Community Participant

 @Renee_Carney ‌ it does seem very odd that such an important link has been left so obscure in the UI. Is this not a simple CSS change? It's been over 2 years now and still we are waiting for a cleaner path for students to get their feedback. 

The number of times I have instructors say that their students "can see their feedback" after hours of marking, only to find out that it's because students can't find where the feedback link is!?

Can you give us any indication of a timeline for this "feature"?



Community Team
Community Team


I can promise you that this idea is not falling on deaf ears.  It has existed for some time because it is not as simple as it may first appear.  Take a look at #3 on the Khaki 2017: Priorities & Related Ideas‌.  And then take a look at Khaki 2018 Update‌.  You'll see that the feedback view for students is still something we are seeking to solve.