slightly open laptop emitting colorful light
cartoon animals showing support for rubrics

Are you using rubrics in your Canvas course? If so, are you confident that your course rubrics are written effectively?

If you answered “No” to either of these questions, this post is a must-read. I will cover both the pedagogical why and how of using course rubrics in Canvas as well as the technical how-to of creating rubrics and how students can access them.

Pedagogy of Rubrics

As Helen Graves, Instructional Designer with the Online Network of Educators (@ONE), explains in her video below, course rubrics are a great way to communicate expectations to your students and also make your life easier by simplifying grading. Watch Helen’s video, How Rubrics Can Inspire Your Students’ Best Work, to learn more!

Two key take-aways from Helen’s video are to 1) create well-thought out rubrics structured with distinct criteria categories and specific details defining each criterion under each point value and 2) use encouraging, positive wording to inspire students to do their best work.

I whole-heartedly agree with Helen, but as with anything new, if you’ve never written rubrics, it can take time and practice to build up the skill. If you’re interested in trying out rubrics or writing more effective rubrics, now is the perfect time to do so for your fall courses since well-crafted rubrics take time to think through and revise. Consider asking for peer feedback from one or two trusted professors or from FCLT staff during Instructional Design Office Hours or by appointment. You’ll also know if you’ve written an effective rubric based on the quality of work that your students submit and the types of questions that they ask about assignments. Don’t be discouraged if it’s not perfect on the first try. Just as your students grow as they practice a new skill, so will you!

For more tips on writing effective rubrics, check out Helen Grave’s blog post, How to Write Great Rubrics & Why You’ll Love Them! Want more examples? Do a quick Google search for “rubric” in combination with terms such as best, good, college, and [your subject, topic, or assignment type]. Here are search results for “best college rubric chemistry,” “good college rubric world war II,” and “well-written college discussion rubric.” Give it a try for your subject, specific topic, or assignment type!

Technical How-To of Rubrics in Canvas

There are two ways to add rubrics in Canvas:
  1. You can add rubrics in your course via the Rubrics tab in your course navigation menu. (Be sure that Rubrics is enabled in your course Settings. Only you will see this tab when enabled; students will not see it.) See also How do I manage rubrics in a course?. The Rubrics tab offers global control of the rubrics in your course. Think of it as your master list of all rubrics in your course: general rubrics that you want to apply to multiple graded items (for example, a general discussions rubric that will be applied to all graded discussions) and specific, one-time-use rubrics that you’ve added (or want to add) to individual graded items, i.e., assignments, discussions, and quizzes. General rubrics can also be used as templates and applied to an individual graded item but then modified to that specific item, for example, if you have a particular discussion for which your general discussion rubric doesn’t quite fit and you want to tweak it to fit this discussion but also keep the general discussion rubric. NOTE: Adding and managing rubrics via the course menu will not add them to individual graded items. Read on to learn how to apply a course rubric to an individual graded item.
  2. You can add a rubric (either one that you’ve created in your course rubrics or a brand new rubric) directly to an assignment, discussion, or quiz (both Classic and New). Below is an overview of how to add rubrics to each of these graded items with links to the respective Canvas guides as available. (If you are using Outcomes in Canvas, you may be interested in this guide too: How do I align an outcome with a rubric in a course?)

Assignment Rubrics

To add a rubric to an assignment, click on the +Rubric button below the assignment details. From there, you’ll have the option to create a new rubric or find an existing rubric. Remember, you can reuse rubrics if you write them generally enough to use for all of the same assignment type. For example, if your students write journal entries, and they’ll all be scored the same way, you can use the same rubric for all journal entries.
+Rubric button below Assignment details
If you’d like to save time grading assignments that include a rubric, check the box “Use this rubric for assignment grading.” This will allow you to use the rubric in SpeedGrader to quickly grade these assignments. You can still add additional comments, but if your rubric is well written, you won’t need to include comments about why they received the score that they did. You can just focus on other comments, like praising their work.
Check box to use rubric for grading

Discussion Rubrics

To add a rubric to a discussion, click on the vertical ellipses in the upper right of the discussion, then select Add Rubric. From there just as with assignment rubrics, you can create a new rubric, find an existing rubric, or mark it to be used for grading.
vertical ellipses to add a rubric to a discussion

Quiz Rubrics

I have a confession to make: I never knew you could add a rubric to a quiz in Canvas, but I was pleasantly surprised while researching for this post that you can! Canvas allows you to add a rubric in both Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes. However, you cannot use a quiz rubric for grading because according to the Canvas guide below “quiz scores are calculated based on the number of points assigned to each quiz question.” Quiz rubrics are still a great way to communicate expectations to students and to provide quick feedback to students.

Classic Quizzes

To add a rubric to a Classic Quiz, click on the vertical ellipses in the upper right of the quiz and select Show Rubric.

vertical ellipses, then Show Rubric in Classic Quizzes 

New Quizzes

Canvas does not yet have a guide for adding a rubric in New Quizzes, but it’s similar to adding a rubric to an assignment. When you open the quiz, it will automatically take you to the edit page. Click on the +Rubric button at the bottom of the edit page and create your rubric. When you’re done, click the Create Rubric button, then the Save button or the Build button.
+Rubric button in New Quizzes

How Students Access Rubrics

If you use rubrics, it’s important to inform students of how they can access them especially since they aren’t always easy to find. Below are the Canvas Student Guides for accessing rubrics for assignments, discussions, and quizzes. It’s a best practice to include these instructions in the details for each graded item. It may seem redundant if you’ve already included it, in say the first discussion details, but students may have missed it. You can also include it in your syllabus and/or in your Start Here module for course orienting purposes. NOTE: we do not recommend using an image of the rubric in the instructions for your graded items because images with that much text are not accessible.

You’ll also want to notify your students of how they can view their rubric results from their grades page. The clipboard icon (#4 in the image below) shows how they can view their rubric results once you’ve graded that item.

icons on student grades page

Are you ready to try your hand at rubrics, revise your rubrics to be more effective, or add more rubrics to your course? Have you used rubrics before? Share your experience in the comments!

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