Starting Winter...

Canvas logo

Cnavas Guides

Changes often force us to adapt in ways we’ve never experienced, which can be a major driver of personal (and even professional) growth and development.

Improving Student Success

Canvas is a wonderful Learning Management System, but just like any technology, it is only as good as you make it. As faculty, your development, participation, timely feedback, and current grades make the course useful and supports student success. 

We hope that you will utilize the Canvas tools to support your teaching and improve your students' learning.

Formative Assessment is Important

Formative assessments are ongoing and often. They are low stakes, repeatable, open book, and group work: quizzes, assignments, and discussions. They provide the opportunity for students to practice and learn their strengths and weakness. They help faculty recognize their students’ shortcomings and allow faculty to adjust, share additional resources, or work with students to improve before midterms. Formative assessments will improve a student's ability to pass your course. 

  Formative Assessment Summative Assessment
Grading Usually worth low points or not graded Usually graded and significant score is noted
Purpose Improvement: to give feedback to faculty and students about how well students grasp specific concepts/material. Judgment: to derive a grade, and to allow students to work intensively with course concepts/material.
Focus Very focused on whether students have acquired specific skills or information. Less focused: allows students to demonstrate a range of skills and knowledge.
Effort Requires little time from faculty or students; simple; done in class or online Requires more time for faculty and students; complex; done in class, outside of class and online

Canvas provides tools to support formative assessments and feedback, such as:

  • Quiz: When faculty shuffle answers (Classic / New) in the quiz or randomize questions from a Question Group, the multiple attempts (Classic / New) provide more opportunities for students to practice and master. Question Banks: Classic / Item Banks: New are a place to house questions that can be added to quizzes across courses. Question Groups allow faculty to place multiple questions within a group for students to answer. Faculty can choose the number of questions that should be answered from the group and how many points to assign each question. Creating a question group randomizes questions within a quiz.
    NOTE: Please see Quiz Best Practices to learn more about Classic and New Quizzes. 
  • Assignment: a space where students, or a group of students, can submit files for faculty grading. Assignment settings allow faculty to set multiple attempts. Faculty can create rubrics to provide clear requirements and feedback. The assignment tool also supports peer reviews. The SpeedGrader allows faculty to quickly grade, and provide written, audio, and video feedback for the assignment. If the course sections are merged, the faculty can provide unique due dates for each section.
  • Discussions: allow students to build on ideas and share information outside of class. Discussions allow students to provide peer feedback and support. It is better than answering course questions via email, and it can help create a community. Learn more. [Faculty can choose to use the Redesigned Discussion tool]
  • Grades: can be viewed by the student at any time. Students can see if their activities have been submitted/completed and if it has been graded or if they have received feedback. faculty can curve, weight, and exclude grades. Grades can be viewed as a whole, as an activity, or as a student. You can also view grades by sections (if they are merged). Options allow faculty to view history, hide student names (anonymous grading), set ungraded items to 0 pts, and show inactive. All graded activities will appear automatically in the Grades. 
    Within the SpeedGrader, faculty can "mute" the assignment feedback until all the assignments have been graded. The SpeedGrader also provides an easy tool for grading Discussions by displaying individual students’ posts. Quizzes are also graded in the SpeedGrader. Watch the video and learn more about the Grades tool

Why Rubrics?

As we covered earlier, assessments can be either formative or summative depending on the duration, ability to improve, and the level of feedback provided. 

Rubrics can provide a consistent structure to set criteria for grading and are most helpful when provided before the assessment is due. Rubrics let students know what is expected and can decrease the time it takes faculty to provide feedback. Rubrics may also list Program Level Outcomes (PLO) and/or Course Level Outcomes (CLO).

Learning Outcomes: are measurable statements of what the students are expected to learn in a course. 

"A learning outcome describes the overall purpose or goal from participation in an educational activity. Courses should be planned with a measurable learning outcome in mind. Objectives are used to organize specific topics or individual learning activities to achieve the overall learning outcome. The learning outcome is identified from the gap analysis. The learning outcome is a reflection of the desired state."

Writing Measurable Outcomes

  • State each outcome as an intended learning outcome (regarding students’ performance).​
  • Begin each outcome with a verb to describe the students’ performance.
  • Each outcome only lists one general learning outcome. (Stated as a learning product rather than a learning process)​
  • Check the outcome clarity in conveying instructional intent.​
  • The outcomes will lead the creation of lesson materials and activities.​
  • Outcomes can be assessed. 

Early Alert Messages

Message students who...In addition to providing timely and helpful feedback on Assignments, Quizzes and Discussions (with rubrics or not), faculty should also reach out to students who are in danger of failing the course. faculty can Message students who have not submitted or with a score less than. Reaching out to students helps them feel that you care about their education and success, provides supportive resources, and improves student success. 

Student Support Resources

When you reach out to students, what resources are available for them? 

Cal Poly departments have created a Canvas Page with all the Student Support Services listed. This is in the Commons and can be uploaded into your course

Supportive Materials

Grading Criteria & Rubrics (
Writing Effective Learning Outcomes (
Course Learning Objectives (CTLT)

University Learning Objectives (ULO's)
GE Program Learning Outcomes (PLO's)
Mathematic’s Learning Outcomes
Liberal Studies Learning Outcomes
NRM&ES Learning Outcomes
School of Education Learning Outcomes
Biological Sciences Learning Objectives
English Learning Outcomes
Music Learning Outcomes






“Learning Outcome vs. Learning Objective.” UCLA Health, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

Related Content

Canvas Guides

Canvas Guides

View the Canvas Guides

Upcoming Events


Canvas Workshops

Workshop Schedule

Accessibility in My Courses


Fixing your courses...



Learn more...