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How to use Canvas to facilitate assignments that require students to "show their work"

Some academic subjects or assignment types may require that students demonstrate competencies by showing their written work, such as the steps taken to solve an equation, or musical notation on the staff. There are several options for you to choose from to ensure that your students can easily show their work and demonstrate their competencies in a digital format. In addition, there are also a few options for you to provide annotated feedback to your students on their assignment submissions.

How students can submit handwritten work

Quizzes, Exams, or projects that will require students to "show their work" can be delivered via a Canvas online submission assignment that allows file uploads. We recommend creating a PDF file that contains all the questions for which you want students to be able to show their work so that students will essentially download or print that file and then submit their marked-up version of it to the Canvas assignment.

If desired, you can choose to set a time limit for your students. For example, you can opt for the assignment/quiz/exam to only be available during a specific time window (e.g., from 2pm to 3pm). To compensate for the administrative tasks required to submit their work (i.e., printing, scanning, uploading into Canvas, etc.), we recommend allowing additional time for any timed quizzes or exams - perhaps an additional 30 minutes on quizzes and additional hour on exams. 

Your students will need to use one of the following methods to complete the assignment:

  • Hand-write the quiz answers and solutions on blank paper, then use Microsoft Office Lens app to scan the completed handwritten work into a PDF file via their mobile device's camera. Finally, submit the PDF file they created to the Canvas assignment/quiz.

    This is the option that is available to most students because it requires the fewest specialized resources - they just need a smartphone to scan their work.

  • Print the assignment and complete it by hand. Then, use the Microsoft Office Lens app to scan the completed handwritten work into a PDF file via their mobile device's camera. Finally, submit the PDF file they created to the Canvas assignment/quiz.
  • Use a touch-screen device (e.g., iPad, Windows Surface, etc.) to complete the quiz as a digital copy using a PDF annotation program, and submit the updated PDF to the Canvas assignment.

PDF files display best within the Canvas SpeedGrader, so they are the recommended file format choice for students seeking to submit scanned work.

Why do we recommend using the Microsoft Office Lens app for scanning?

  • It's free! Everyone affiliated with FSU has a Microsoft Office 365 account that they can use to log in to the app. Your students simply need to enter their FSU student email into the login field when prompted within the app. This will take them to FSU's login screen, and once they enter in their FSUID and password they will be able to access and use the app.
  • Compatible with Android and iOS mobile operating systems. Students can simply download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play.
  • User friendly: There are in-app explanations of all scanning processes so students can use this app easily and get familiar with it quickly.
  • Has the best features, produced the best quality results, and had the smoothest workflow of all the apps we tested.
    • Can convert images to Word (.docx), PowerPoint (.pptx), or PDF (.pdf) files that should save automatically to OneDrive (which is available to all students through their FSU Office 365 account). This allows students to use the app on their smartphone, then use a computer to upload the file into Canvas - no need to go through the hassle of emailing files to themselves or any other cumbersome workflows.
    • Students can add text comments and filters to images before scanning if needed.
    • Whiteboard feature converts text written on a whiteboard into easily readable imaging.

How to provide feedback on handwritten work

Once students have submitted their work, you can provide feedback on their submissions via Canvas's Speedgrader. The best workflow for this depends on what technology is available to you, what you are comfortable with, and the extent of the feedback you wish to give. If you do not wish to give extensive handwritten feedback, then you can use the SpeedGrader's annotation tools when grading your students' work. However, to give extensive handwritten feedback (e.g., showing how to solve an equation), you will need to use one of the options below.

If you have access to a touchscreen device and stylus/digital pencil

Android and iOS devices

If you have a tablet that utilizes either an Android or iOS system, you could use the Canvas Teacher App to grade these assignments. With the help of a stylus or digital pencil you can use the SpeedGrader's annotation tools to provide visible feedback on your students' submissions. Your students will be able to view this feedback by accessing their submission within Canvas. Here is the guide for annotating in Speedgrader on an Android device, and here is the guide for annotating in Speedgrader on an iOS device. To download the Teacher app and get started, please follow the directions for your device: Android | iOSStudents can view your feedback by navigating to their individual "Grades" page.
Please note: User experience with the Canvas Teacher App may vary. If using the app does not work well for you, please use one of the other options we detail in this article.

Any touchscreen device (Surface, etc.)

You can download student submissions one-at-a-time or in bulk as a .zip file depending on your preference. Then, use a third-party program that's compatible with your device's operating system (Windows, Android, or iOS) to annotate your students' work. We have found that Drawboard PDF for Windows is free and easy to use, and any of these PDF annotation apps for iPad can be used as well. After marking up your student submissions, you can then upload your annotated PDF files to the Speedgrader as an assignment comment file attachment. This will have to be done one student at time. Students can view your feedback by navigating to their individual "Grades" page.

If you do not have access to a touchscreen device

You will need to download your students' submissions and print them out. We recommend asking students to include their name on the scan they submit so that you can easily bulk-download your students' submissions. Once you have marked up your students' work, you will then need to scan the pieces of paper for each student's submission using either a hardware scanner or the Microsoft Office Lens app on a smartphone. Then, upload your annotated PDF files to the Speedgrader as an assignment comment file attachment. This will have to be done one student at time. Students can view your feedback by navigating to their individual "Grades" page.

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  • 14-Aug-2020
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