Passing and failing in Canvas

by | Apr 8, 2016 | Faculty, Staff, and Student Stories | 0 comments

bill egan

By Bill Egan

Oftentimes, courses may include assignments or activities that lend themselves to be designated as “Pass/Fail” when being evaluated by the instructor. So the question arises, what is the best way to do this in Canvas?

When looking to set up a Pass/Fail assignment in Canvas, my initial thought was to use the “Complete/Incomplete” designation for the grade.

image -- showing options for how grades can be displayed

After looking into it further, I realized this may not be the best approach. My first step was to look into the Canvas Community to see if others have recommendations for setting up Pass/Fail assignments. After all, why reinvent the wheel? A fellow Canvas user made an excellent point concerning the use of the “Complete/Incomplete” designation for Pass/Fail assignments. It could be used as a Pass/Fail assignment, but the terminology between Complete/Incomplete and Pass/Fail may not be interchangeable. A student that receives an “Incomplete” may be led to believe that the assignment can still be completed or submitted again when in fact, the instructor intends for it to be a non-passing grade.

After considering possible use cases where “Pass/Fail” should be used rather than “Complete/Incomplete” and vice versa, I knew I was on the right track for finding a potential workaround.

A traditional Pass/Fail assignment can be achieved in Canvas through manipulating the grading schemes. By default your course has a course grading scheme that can be accessed through the course settings in Canvas, but did you know that grading schemes exist on the assignment level? An individual assignment can have its own custom grading scheme when circumstances warrant it. This is how we are able to create individual Pass/Fail assignments.

To create a Pass/Fail assignment and create a custom grading scheme, you need to manage the grading schemes in order to be able to add a new one.

image -- showing ranges of percentages and how they correspond to letter grades

When adding a new grading scheme you can provide a custom name for your scheme (ie. “Pass/Fail”) and create your desired range for a passing grade and a failing grade by manipulating and removing ranges. The word “Pass” and “Fail” can replace the traditional letter grades. Below is an example of a Pass/Fail range that will mark any score above 75% as passing and any score below 75% as failing.

image -- indicating 75 to 100 % is passing and less than 75 percent is failing

Once your Pass/Fail grading scheme is saved, you can go into the individual assignment settings to find your saved Pass/Fail scheme and apply it at the assignment level.

Pass/Fail assignments can be graded like any traditional assignment, including within SpeedGrader. By entering the students’ earned points, the gradebook will automatically determine and display if the student passed or failed based on the percentages you establish in your grading scheme. In addition to adding the numeric points, instructors can also choose to add in the text “Pass” or “Fail” when entering student grades for the assignment.

image -- assessment indicating passing grade

image -- Assessment detail indicating failing grade

Testing the grading scheme in sandbox space has proven to be a success. I plan on integrating this approach to Pass/Fail assignments for the first time in a live RN to BS Nursing course that is set to run during the summer semester. I am looking forward to collecting faculty feedback and to see how it is received. Be sure to check back for updates or any new findings!

Has anyone else found any creative grading schemes that can be used in Canvas to fulfill a specific need? Please share!