Assignment FAQs

Assignment FAQs

The following are some of the questions we frequently get asked about Canvas Assignments.  For a full list of FAQs from Canvas, check out the Canvas Guides from Instructure.
Related Topics: Canvas Assignments, Canvas

Assignments FAQs

What are Assignments in Canvas?

In Canvas, the term "assignment" is used more broadly to indicate any Canvas activity that can be evaluated. Canvas supports five assignment types: Assignments, Discussions, Quizzes, External Tools, and Not Graded.

  • An Assignment is a Canvas assignment that can be submitted online through text entry, file uploads, media recordings, URLs, or Canvas pages. This assignment appears on the Assignments Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). Assignments can be assigned to individual students, groups, or sections.
  • A Discussion is a Canvas assignment that will grade student response to discussion topics. This assignment will appear on the Assignment Index Page (graded only), the Discussions Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). Discussions can be assigned to individual students, groups, or sections.
  • A Quiz is a Canvas assignment that can be used to conduct a survey or assess a student's comprehension of course content. This assignment will appear on the Assignments Index Page (graded only), the Quizzes Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). Quizzes can be assigned to individual students or sections; they cannot be assigned to groups.
  • An External Tool is an assignment that utilizes LTI technology to link to a third-party application or website. This assignment will appear on the Assignments Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus page, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). External Tools must be configured in your course before they can be added as an assignment. Learn how to find External Tools to use as assignments. External Tools can be assigned to individual students or sections; they cannot be assigned to groups.
  • Not Graded is a Canvas assignment with a due date, but no points or grades will be given for completing the assignment. This assignment type can be used for practice assignments as well. This assignment will appear on the Assignments Index Page, the Syllabus, and the User Dashboard. Not Graded assignments can be assigned to individual students or sections; they cannot be assigned to groups.
How do Assignments relate to the Gradebook?

In Canvas each column in the Gradebook is created when an Assignment is created. The Gradebook is entirely driven by these Assignments. The name of the Assignment coincides with the name of the item column in the Gradebook.

What is the difference between a Canvas Assignment and a Canvas Activity?

Canvas makes a clear distinction between activities that students do for a grade (Assignments) and activities that students do to absorb new information, practice a new-found skill, or interact with a group to begin solving a problem (Activities). Students may be asked to engage in a number of Canvas Activities before they work on an Assignment, which will be evaluated by the instructor or their peers.

When an  Assignment is created, a new column is added to the Gradebook (the "Not Graded" type being the only exception to this rule). Instructors and students will find that Canvas Assignments are automatically included on the Calendar, Assignments, and Syllabus pages. Also,  Assignments can be evaluated with Rubrics and they can be aligned to course Outcomes.

In contrast, when a new Activity is created, no new column is added to the Gradebook. Students will find Activities linked on their respective pages (i.e. published Quizzes will show up on the Quizzes page), but they will NOT appear on the Assignments and Syllabus pages or the Calendar (the one exception being a Calendar event, which does show up on the Syllabus page and on the Calendar).

What is an Assignment Group?

Most often grades are based on groups of assignments that are similar in type, e.g. quizzes, papers, homework, exams, etc. In Canvas,  Assignments can be put into groups by type. Each item in a group will be equally weighted when grades are calculated if a weighted grading system is used. Also in Assignment Groups it is possible to drop the lowest or highest grade or multiple grades. Finally, the groups can be weighted with percentages of the final grade.

Is a Rubric required when creating Assignments?

While a Rubric can be added to any assignment, Rubrics are not required in order to create an Assignment.

How do I make a Group Assignment?

When setting up the Assignment put a check in the Group Assignment section indicating This is a Group Assignment.  When that checkbox is checked, more options appear.  One is to determine if students will be graded individually or by group, and there is a drop down menu to select the Group Set to assign to the Assignment. If assigning the same grade to everyone in the group is selected, entering the grade for one person in the group in Grades will fill in the grades for all groups members automatically. 

Groups are set up by going to the People link on the Course Navigation Menu.  Click on the blue  + Group Set button.  This will be the name of the Assignment or type of groups, e.g. Project Groups. Then you can either have Canvas split the students into  equal groups, or you can create the groups manually.  Creating them manually will allow for groups of different sizes.  Next, click on + Group and this will be the first group.  You can number them, name them by the topic of the work they are studying, or use whatever names you choose.  Once you save the first group created, finish creating the groups by repeating the above process for each group needed.  Next, there will be a list of students next to the list of groups.  Click and drag a student over to a Group.  If creating the groups manually was selected, continue adding students to the group they are to be assigned to.  Students can be moved from one group to another, etc.  

How can extra credit Assignments be included in Grades, but not be part of an Assignment Group?

Create a new Assignment Group and name it Extra Credit.  Assign it a percentage that makes sense for the course. This will be above and beyond the 100% already set up in Assignments and Grades. Keep it unpublished until the end of the term when you want the extra credit to show in Grades.  Add the grades, publish it, and adjust the weight of the group as necessary.

When setting up an Assignment, what are my options for the value of an Assignment?

Assignments can be assigned any number of points from zero and up.  That value can be displayed as points, percentage, complete/incomplete, letter grade, GPA scale or not graded.

How can I ensure the Assignment description, requirements, grading, and submission processes are clear to the students?

When creating the Assignment, use the Rich Text Editor to explain the assignment to the students, including the assignment purpose, specific steps or tasks for completion, the criteria for success, as well as the due date,  required format, and how it will be graded, etc. You can also create or use an existing Rubric for grading, which the students will see it as they read the Assignment description. Please refer to Transparent Assignment Design for more information.

What are the differences between Due Date, Available From, and Available Until dates?

The Due Date is the date by which the Assignment must be turned in, or it will be considered late by Canvas. In grades the Assignment Grade will be in a cell with a pink background if it is late. Those that are on time will have a white background in Grades. If the Available From and Until dates are left blank the assignment can be submitted at any time, but will be marked late if it is submitted after the Due Date. The Available From date is when the students will see the assignment in Canvas. If they try to look at it before that date, they get a message that the Assignment is locked until the Available From date. The Available Until date is the date when the Assignment can no longer be submitted to Canvas. The Until date can be the same as the Due Date, and will not allow late submissions after the Until date.

Do students get reminders of upcoming Due Dates?

They don’t get sent reminders automatically.  When instructors put in Due Dates on Assignments in Canvas, those dates show up on the Calendar.  Any items with Due Dates will also show up on the students’ Dashboard in Canvas, and on their Course Home Page.  The instructor can send a reminder to students who have not yet submitted their assignment by going to Grades and in the Assignment title cell, click on the arrow and it will show a menu. Select Message students who…” Here the instructor can select several options including Haven’t submitted yet.  There isn’t an automated reminder, but the Calendar, To Do list, and Message students who provide some options for the student and instructor to stay on top of due dates. 

Can incorrectly submitted Assignment submissions be voided or deleted?

When a student submits a paper and it is not the correct submission, the best work around is to have the student submit the correct submission and name it with the word “correct” or something similar in the file name.  At this point in time incorrect submissions cannot be deleted.

How do I copy Assignments to a different course?

In Canvas one can copy course components in a very granular manner.  That is, if one wants to copy only one or two assignments, it can be done.  Go to Settings in the course that the assignments will be copied to.  Click on Import Content into this Course, located on the right side of the page (or at the bottom on narrower monitors/screens.  Then under Content Type select Copy a Canvas Course. Next, select the course from which the assignments are to be copied from.  Click on the Content – Select specific content radio button.  Then click on the blue Import button.  This will add the course copy to the Current Jobs list.  Click on the blue Select Content button.  Click on the 4next to Assignments. This will show a list of Assignments to copy. Put a check in the checkbox next to each assignment to copy.  Then when all items have been selected click on the blue Select Content button.  This will then start the copy process.  When it is complete there will be a green Completed button under Current Jobs. 


For further assistance, UO Online & Canvas Support is available.

  • In-Person: Room 68 PLC  
  • By phone: (541) 346-1942  
  • By email:  
  • Submit a Service Portal Ticket (opens in a new tab). This form can also be accessed in Canvas from the Help button at the bottom of the Global Navigation Menu