Update assignments navigation for students

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Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

As part of the discovery phase in our product development process, we are looking to improve our Assignment Enhancements beta feature and need your feedback. We want to make it easier to show students where their assignment is in the process of submission and grading while making actionable elements more obvious on the page.

Students also need to ability to edit/adjust submissions before they are graded without having to reach out to their teachers/professors or call support.


Separation of navigational elements from the status bar ("pizza tracker") that allows the student to more easily switch between all attempts, edit current attempts, and create new attempts

  • attempt navigation
  • attempt edit 
  • new attempt action

For more background and history on Assignment Enhancements, please see the Student Enhancements User Group.

The content in this blog is over six months old, and the comments are closed. For the most recent product updates and discussions, you're encouraged to explore newer posts from Instructure's Product Managers.

Community Champion

This does a great job of letting students migrate between submissions and see the feedback from each attempt!  I assume the larger score at the top is the final grade for the assignment (calculated by average in this example) and the smaller score at the upper right of the submission is specific to that attempt.  It would help students to have those labeled, and if highest or latest is used in place of average to calculate the final grade, to indicate next to the attempt score whether or not it is attempt used in the final grade.

I like the way the design concept makes the student progress more obvious for each submission.  It looks like the intention is to allow students to pause between uploading and submitting their response.  That is a great way to increase the utility of the RCE.  However, I can guarantee that I will have students claim that they submitted an assignment on time that was only ever uploaded.  Will it be possible to incorporate auto-submits just in time for the due date and assignment lock dates?  That would protect students from forgetting to submit.

It looks like the assignment instructions are minimized at the word details.  That makes sense after a submission, but until the assignment is submitted it would be better to have the assignment instructions expanded by default.  Otherwise there will be students who simply do not expand the details, and complain that they do not know what to turn in.

Until an assignment is submitted, the rubric should be obvious to students, so they can not miss important details about how they will be graded.  Making that the default tab would accomplish that at the beginning.  Once an attempt is uploaded it is OK to have that as the default, but then after the assignment is graded the rubric and comments should be more prominent than the instructions and submission.  Once grading is complete, it would be best for students to see comments and the graded rubric together.  Maybe the comments could be displayed below the rubric, and that tab could be the default tab after grading is complete?

Some instructors provide feedback within submissions.  It would be ideal for the student view of their submission to display that feedback to students.  If the rubric tab becomes the default view students start on after grading is complete, then it would be help to draw student attention to the tab displaying feedback within their submission.  Maybe the attempt label could be highlighted with a message "click here for additional feedback"

Community Participant

Looks like this would work.  The ongoing issue for students (in several of my classes) has been intuitive, easy-access to an accurate and complete record of prior submissions for the same assignment.  There a many assignments I've design for which I've built in some scaffolded, low-stakes assessments based on early-semester, mid-semester, and end-of-semester submissions from students.

Also, I have some large, semester-long, multiple-submission projects - usually individual research projects or group projects - for which a one-stop assignment dropbox would be more efficient - for students and for me.  Because the Canvas LMS has not allowed for students' access to prior submissions for the same assignment, I've had to add separate assignment dropboxes within the same assignment Group, which can make navigating the Assignments page a bit too cumbersome.

Thanks for your work on this 🙂

Community Participant

This workflow works much better in terms of accessing and viewing various attempts, this works great.

I also agree with @Steven_S in regards to his comment about the descriptive text being available in the first instance. Students need to clearly see what is required of them.

I'd also agree with your comments @Steven_S about the rubric, but would approach the solution in a different way. Rubrics give students the tools and framework to complete their work. It's really important that they see this front and centre, just like the assignment instructions. I would also have this displayed in a similar way, a rubric section that can be collapsed. Likewise, students use rubrics at the end of their assessment, to see how well they have achieved. They don't want to flip backwards and forwards between their submission and a rubric tab to figure out why they got a certain criteria. A collapsible rubric would work much better. Maybe one you can even pop out if you want to.

There's a similar issue with Comments, some academics use the comment tool to provide overall feedback to students. This can contain text, as well as audio and video. Students don't want to flip back and forth between their submission and another tab where they access their feedback. The current set up with a right hand panel is much more intutive. I would leave this workflow as it is, but have the option for students to pop it out should they wish.

What is the rationale for splitting comments and rubrics out into seperate tabs @mattg ?



Community Explorer

As part of this work flow please also factor in the need for students to easily see Assignment Details from their Submission Details page.  They need both.  I don't think they need to be separate pages.  On the assignment page it should show them their feedback and scores and submission status.  

Community Participant

I really like this idea, although I have a question regarding an excused assignment. I have already posted this in the product roadmap "idea conversations" area, but also think it would be worthwhile mentioning it here also.

Through testing of the student assignment enhancements in the beta environment I have noticed that if a student is excused from an assignment, it does not show/tell them that they have been excused - instead it just looks as though the assignment has been submitted (see below).

Image 1.png




The old version would at least let the students know that the assignment has been excused (see below).

Image 2.png




I am wondering if this can be changed as it will be confusing for students seeing this and might cause the students to assume they have submitted the assignment already.

Unlike the old excused assignment, the new student assignments enhancements feature still allows a student to click "New Attempt", which allows them to upload an assignment anyway. I feel they shouldn't even be able to click "New Attempt" if the assignment has been excused for them.

Would love to this component improved.

Community Champion

I'd like to add to please remember that in K12 we have many students on iPads using the Student App (or abandoning the Student App and choosing the Safari browser).  In our district, only high school students are on laptops.   K-8 are on iPads.  It's important the experience is improved for students on iPads as well.

Community Participant

This is a huge leap forward however we still continue to have the issue that if a teacher uses a rubric more than once the evidence of the first criteria selection is lost.

For example, an assignment has 3 attempts, on the first attempt Criteria 1 in the rubric is marked as not satisfactory, on attempt 2 Criteria 1 in the rubric is marked as satisfactory. The student view allows them to see the not satisfactory (attempt 1) and satisfactory (attempt 2) in the rubric (perfect!) however once the teacher changes Criteria 1 (from not satisfactory to satisfactory) in attempt 2 the teacher view loses the ability to see the unsatisfactory Criteria 1 rating from attempt 1.

This is giving the student and teacher a different view of the rubric for the same assignment and the same attempt and does not allow us to meet our regulatory standards.

If the student view was replicated for the teacher then this update would be perfect.

Community Contributor

I think that the new assignment interface brings a lot of clarity to the submission process and makes submitting new attempts more transparent. However, I'd like to repeat a question asked by @b_w_reid:

What is the rationale for splitting comments and rubrics out into seperate tabs @mattg ?


Not only does it seem to make it harder to compare instructor feedback to the assignment at the same time, this new per-submission comment separation is also making it more difficult for instructors to have an ongoing conversation about a student's work through comments, since only comments for the current submission show up in SpeedGrader.

I submitted an idea to suggest that this be reverted, at least in SpeedGrader:Show entire comment history for submission in Student Assignment Enhancements 

Community Explorer

I realize that there are always bugs to be worked out with something new, despite many efforts to make it as good as possible before rollout. So here's a bug report:

I'm not liking the fact that the submission track at the top of the assignment page takes up SO MUCH ROOM! When I add maps and other graphics to an assignment, I need the student to be able to see them. 

Basically, the viewable space for the assignment has been reduced by a 1/3. I realize that changing the resolution and/or scale in the display settings could help, but I can't do that for every student. 

There's no reason for the Submission status to be at the top of the page, anyway. If it must stay there, it should only take up minimal screen space when students are actually working on the assignment.




Community Contributor

In current assignments, students can add a comment to a submission. The enhanced assignments do not seem to have the option for a student to be able to add a comment to their submission (unless it is so well hidden I can't find it!).

Was the student's ability to add a comment with their submission intentionally taken away or is this a bug?

Community Contributor

By accident I found where comments can be added by the student. While one assignment would not allow me to add comments, another assignment stated I needed to submit the assignment first, which is very confusing when the ability to add a comment at the same time as submitting is available in the current assignments tool.

Community Champion

@agschmid  That sounds like an approach to solving the problem of students "submitting" assignments as a comment, which can be used by students attempting to get around late policies and lock dates.  More importantly, teachers do not see an indicator of an unread comment in grades, and submission comments are hidden in a separate portion of the inbox that teachers have to make a point of looking for.  This can cause even on-time submissions to be entirely overlooked during grading 

Community Contributor

@Steven_S  I think the Comments tab is quite confusing. When making the first submission in an assignment, clicking Comments displays "You may not see all comments right now because the assignment is currently being graded."

If I make a second (or third) attempt, clicking on Comments displays "You cannot leave comments until you submit the assignment"

After submitting the second attempt, then I can add a comment. 

Considering that the current assignments tool allows the student to add a comment when they're making a submission, I imagine the above behavior will result in a lot of student emails.

Community Champion

@agschmid  In my opinion student emails are a better route for asking questions about an assignment a student has not yet completed, because submission comments are rarely seen except while grading.  Without a submission, the student's question in the submission comments may not be answered at all. 

When starting a second attempt, can't you return to the first attempt and leave a comment there, before submitting your second attempt? 

Community Contributor

@Steven_S No, I cannot leave a comment for the first submission and I would think that's a bug.

I'm doing testing and comparing the current assignments behavior to the enhanced assignments, looking for bugs and also noting items in the enhanced assignments that are better.

Community Member

I 100% agree with everything @grace_alexander mentions - the box for the submission tracker and title is horrendous and takes up way too much room on the page to be able to comfortably read the assignment descriptions, especially when some teachers and professors use those assignment pages as the only form of communication to let students know what the assignment entails. While horrendous may be a strong word, there is no need to have the title of the assignment and the due date and number of attempts as big as it is while scrolling down the page - the most important part of an assignment is the description itself, and when that becomes uneasy to read, the purpose of the assignment page is lost.

Overall I agree with @grace_alexander that it shouldn't be there in the first place, but at the very least, if it must stay there, the font sizes and amount of space it uses should at least be scaled down so it doesn't take up so much of the page.

Also when the user doesn't have the Canvas page full screen, it is even harder to read the assignment description because the title and submission tracker STILL stay pinned to the top with a HUGE font size! Students working from a single monitor or laptop don't always have the convenience to keep their Canvas page on full screen, especially when navigating between different programs, so this makes it even harder to read the assignment.

Assignments won't be turned it in if it's a pain to even read the description.

Community Member

I give a lot of attention to the overall design of my assignment pages, in terms of images, font, and arrangement of text; that Canvas allows me to do so is one of the things that I love about it. However, the new progress bar takes up nearly half the page of every one of my assignment, and it chops my assignment directions layout down to just a small window that students have to scroll through piece-by-piece. I don't really feel the progress bar adds anything my students don't already know, and I would love it if I had the option to use it or not.

I feel that making my student view my assignment directions through a narrow window, rather than a page, could be actually hindering clarity and accessibility.