Canvas Gradebook Guide

This guide provides an overview of how grading works in Canvas. Specific how-­to information on the sections below can be found in the Canvas Instructor Guide. If you are using Canvas to distribute grades to students throughout the semester, read through each section carefully to ensure that you are using the gradebook appropriately.

If anything is unclear or confusing, please contact the Instructional Technology Group at or 617-­824-8090.


Whether or not you use the Canvas Gradebook, you will still need to submit final grades separately to the Registrar at the end of the semester.

Getting Started with the Canvas Gradebook

We created the following video to offer you a quick and easy approach for setting up your Gradebook in Canvas.


6 Key Concepts to Understand when Grading in Canvas

  1. Assignments = Gradebook Columns.

    You add columns to the gradebook by adding assignments. For columns that do not have a corresponding assignment submission, leave the assignment set to No submission.
    See: Assignments Overview Video and Assignments Guide

  2. All assignments should eventually have a grade.

    Any graded assignments should eventually have a grade entered. Otherwise, students' total grades will not be calculated out of the total points or percentage you intend.
    See: SpeedGrader Overview Video and SpeedGrader Guide

  3. All required assignments must specify the total points possible.

    This is done in the assignment settings and is needed for Canvas to accurately determine the total points possible for the course and, therefore, calculate an accurate total percentage. Carefully check the Total Score column in the gradebook to make sure grades are what they should be.

  4. Unique calculation scenarios are managed in Assignments.

    Create assignment groups with grading rules to drop the lowest or highest n scores. Check the Weight the final grade box to set up weighting by assignment group.
    See Assignments section below.

  5. For letter grades, set up a grading scheme.

    Go to the Settings tab in the left-hand course navigation. Select the Course Details tab. Check off Enable Course Grading Scheme followed by Set Course Grading Scheme. Make sure to set the grading scheme to Emerson College.
    See Using Letter Grades section below.

  6. Assignment Grades and Total column are visible to students by default.

    You can adjust how and when grades are displayed to students by setting a posting policy. If you are not using Canvas to calculate final grades, you should also hide the Total column from your students so that they are not seeing a Total grade that is inaccurate.
    See: How do I use posting policies in a course? How do I hide totals in my students' grade summaries? and How do I select a grade posting policy for an assignment in the gradebook?




The Assignments tab is arguably the most central to the Canvas Gradebook:

  • It controls the columns in the gradebook and gradebook calculations.
  • It displays all things gradable, including assignments, graded discussions, and graded quizzes.

See: Canvas Video Guide: Assignments Overview


Use assignment groups to: 

  1. Group assignments
  2. Add grading rules:
    • Drop the lowest score(s) in a group
    • Drop the highest score(s) in a group
    • Never drop x assignment
  3. Weight grades

See: How do I add an assignment group?, How do I create rules for an assignment group?, and  How do I move or reorder an assignment group? 


Weighting Assignment Groups

ITG recommends using weighted assignment groups when setting up your Canvas Gradebook. This method leaves less room for error and provides the most flexibility for adjustments. Your assignment groups should match the grading categories outlined in your syllabus (i.e. Participation, Reading Responses, Discussions, etc.).

  1. Click on the Screenshot showing ellipse icon on the upper right of the Assignments page, then click on "Assignment Groups Weight".
  2. Check the box for "Weight final grade based on assignment groups".
  3. Enter the weight for each assignment group in the form on the right. (Weights should typically equal 100, but can exceed 100 for extra credit)

    Screenshot of weighted assignment groups

 See: How do I weight the final course grade based on assignment groups?

Using Letter Grades

ITG does not recommend using letter grades in the Canvas gradebook. If you choose to do so, please follow the information below and contact ITG at to discuss how to avoid gradebook miscalculations.

If you are using letter grades for your assignments and want Canvas to calculate grades for you, you need to enable a grading scheme. The Emerson grading scheme is currently turned on, but you should confirm in your course settings.
See: Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I enable a grading scheme for my course?

To be able to input a letter grade in your gradebook, be sure to set your assignments to “Grading By: Letter Grade.” If you don’t do this, the system will not accept a letter grade, only numbers.
See: Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I edit assignment details?


How Canvas Calculates Total Grades

By default, Canvas will calculate total grades using the Standard Grading Formula described below for all graded assignments. If you organize your assignments into assignment groups and you weight those assignment groups, Canvas will calculate total grades using the Weighted Grading Approach described below. 

Standard Grading Formula

(Points Earned / Total Points Possible)*100 = Total Score (as percentage)


Weighted Grading Approach:

If you are using a weighted approach, each assignment group will follow the standard formula: (points earned for the assignment group/total points possible for the assignment group)*100. Each assignment group score is then converted to a percentage of the total grade based on the weight that you’ve given it. For example, the below assignment group, “Book Reports”, is worth 25% of the final grade: 

Screenshot of assignment group,“Book Reports”, showing it is worth 25% of the final grade

If a student scored 100 points for each of the 3 assignments, their score for the group would be 100%. So, they would get 25 points towards the final grade for this assignment group: [(300/300)*100]*.25=25


Common Mistakes When Setting Up Assignments and Grading

  1. Failing to change an assignment type from its default “No Submission” format:
    Results in students not being able to submit their assignments online.
  2. Failing to specify the total points possible when setting up a required assignment:
    Results in the assignment functioning as extra credit.
  3. Failing to assign students who have not turned in an assignment a zero once the assignment due date has passed:
    Results in students seeing a better grade than they are actually receiving.
  4. Failing to set and/or edit a custom grading scheme:
    Results in no letter-­grade calculation or an inaccurate letter-­grade calculation.
  5. Leaving all weighted assignment groups set to weigh 0%.
    Results in all students' final grades being 0 despite their scores on individual assignments.

If you're ready to learn how to automatically apply scores to missing or late submissions, how to control when scores and feedback are released to students, or how to sort and filter your gradebook, see this guide: Canvas Gradebook Policies and Customization

Credit: This guide is based on the Canvas Grading Handouts developed by Neal Legler for the Best Practices Webinar on Canvas Gradebook.

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