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Understanding grading in Canvas

Summary

The only requirement for grading at Wharton is that you submit final grades with Wharton's Instruction Center, which doesn't actually talk to Canvas. This isn't a reason to avoid grading in Canvas, however. Students really like getting grades back online, and Canvas makes this easy. All About Grading covers basic grading. This article delves into the finer points.

Assignment groups and weighted grades

Assignments can be categorized into assignment groups. This is helpful for students, as it creates descriptive groupings for tasks (eg, homework, papers, and exams). Each assignment group gets a special summary column in the right side of Gradebook. These summary columns are identifiable by their black column headers, and they contain a total grade for all the assignments in the assignment group. The totals for these columns are hidden to students in Wharton Canvas sites, though the totals are always visible to teaching team members. If you see a little warning icon in this column, it means you haven't assigned points to all the assignments that comprise the assignment group, which is necessary for Canvas to compute total grades per assignment group.

When computing the score in the assignment group summary column, Canvas does not give equal weight to each component assignment. Instead, it adds up all the points available in that assignment group, and it adds up how many points were achieved, and it calculates the assignment group score based on those 2 figures. Therefore, if you have 3 assignments worth 5 points, and one assignment worth 100 points, the 100 point assignment is going to have a much larger impact on the total score in that assignment group.

Assignment groups also allow you to use weighted grades. When weighted grades are used, more information is provided to students about your grading structure (homework = 20%, papers = 30%, exams = 50%). Canvas will also apply the weights to the total score in each assignment group, and will compute a final course grade, which is shown in the "Total" column on the far right. It is important to know, however, that we have configured Canvas to not display the score shown in the "Total" column to students. Wharton has special grading rules about final course grades that Canvas does not know about, which is why you must use Instruction Center to submit final course grades.

Weighting assignment groups works the way you might expect. Let's take a hypothetical student, Edith. There were three assignments in the "Heavyweight" assignment group, and this group had a weight of 80%. Edith aced every assignment in this group, so her score was 100%. The "Lightweight" assignment group had two assignments and a weight of 20%. She aced one and missed the other completely, so she had a 50%. Together, due to the weights applied to the assignment groups, the final score shown in the "Total" column of the Gradebook would be 90%. (Again, by default, we do not show the "Total" column score to students, but it is helpful to know how Canvas computes it.)

Understanding points and grade types (letter, percentage, etc.)

It's important to understand that grading in Canvas relies upon the number of points which are possible per assignment. You can choose how the grade is displayed in the Gradebook, but Canvas is always looking at the points the assignment is worth. Let's assume an assignment is worth 20 points and that you have therefore entered "20" in the Points box while editing the assignment.  Here's what will happen with the various "Grading Types":

  • Percentage: In the Gradebook, you can enter the number of points earned, and Canvas will convert this to a percentage. For example, if you enter 18, Canvas will then display 90. You can also enter "90%". Note that if you do not type the "%", Canvas will assume you are entering points. For example, if you enter "90" when you meant "90%" Canvas will display 450, because 90 points out of 20 is 450%. In Speedgrader, Canvas always assumes you are entering percentages, and it displays the equivalent number of points.
  • Complete/incomplete: The Gradebook and Speedgrader will allow you to enter checkmarks for students that have completed the assignment. A complete earns them all possible points and an incomplete earns 0. You will have greater flexibility with changing completion status in Speedgrader than you will in Gradebook.
  • Points: If the assignment is worth 20 points and you award 18, Canvas displays 18.
  • Letter Grade: In both the Gradebook and Speedgrader, if you enter 18 points, Canvas converts the score to a letter grade based upon the "Grading Scheme". The default grading scheme would say that 18 of 20 points is an A-, so Canvas will show "A- 18". If you instead enter a letter grade, Canvas will compute a default point value for that letter grade and display it as well. If you want to define the grade ranges, you can set your own grading schemes. (For example, in your course, perhaps an "A" is 100-92, an "A-" is 91-89, etc.). Grading schemes must be created and enabled; also, letter grades don't work with an assignment that has no possible points (or 0 points) specified. If you would like help with this, please contact the Courseware Team.
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