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Online assistance for Canvas and Learning Tools from Wharton Computing

Best practices for assignments & calendar events


When first getting to know Canvas, it can be tempting to take a paper copy of a syllabus and turn every item into an assignment. While this does get the information out there, it doesn't take full advantage of Canvas's other features. For example, creating an assignment for every class meeting, regardless of whether or not there is a deliverable due, creates "noise" in the "To Do" list, which impairs a student's ability to see upcoming obligations at a glance. The Courseware Team, when setting up a site, currently follows these conventions for assignments and calendar events.

For both Starter Sites and Advanced Sites

  • When there are a number of assignments of a certain type, for example, case write-ups, we cluster the assignments into Assignment Groups. This helps the student understand the course structure, and it also aids in grading, especially if you're using weighted assigned groups.
  • If you have a site with sections meeting at different times, we may have used a feature known as Varied Due Dates, which let you assign due dates and times to individual sections. The benefit for students is that they can see exactly when an assignment is due. Students generally like this feature, but the downside for you as an instructor is that Canvas displays every due date, by section, in the Syllabus and Calendar. If you want to see what the course looks like to a student, click on the Settings link in the course navigation on the left, and then click on the Student View button in the right sidebar.

Starter Site Configuration

  • For a Starter Site, we only create assignments for coursework the students are submitting and for other major course deliverables, like presentations and exams. This allows you to collect assignments online if you wish. It also allows you to return grades online for course components that are not necessarily collected online (like presentations or paper exams).

Advanced Site Configuration

  • For an Advanced Site, when there is a deliverable involved, even if there is no grade attached, we use an assignment, because the student needs to do something. "Ungraded" assignments allow you to designate work that must be done without creating a corresponding column in the Gradebook.
  • When there is no deliverable involved, but there is something happening on a certain date, we use a Calendar Event. We use Calendar Events sparingly because too many events can make the Calendar hard to use.
  • We don't create Calendar Events for holidays, because students usually know their time off, and because this information tends to get repeated on more than one calendar.
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