Tracking Attendance with Canvas

The Roll Call / attendance tool can provide valuable information, but ITG recommends not using the Roll Call / attendance tool as part of your grading scheme in Canvas. It does not have enough flexibility for more complex attendance grading situations, (i.e. a certain number of absences affecting the final grade or a certain number of allowed absences).

Instead, you can manually grade attendance using a No Submission assignment (see below).

Using the Roll Call / Attendance tool

  • See if Attendance is visible in your course navigation.

                        ''

    If it's not visible, go to the course's Settings and choose the Navigation tab.

                        Navigation menu with arrow on Attendance row pointing to enabled section

    Move Attendance into the top list to make it visible. The order of the rows can be changed by dragging them. Click Save to apply the changes.
  • Open Roll Call by clicking Attendance in your course navigation.
  • The attendance tool is not linked to the academic calendar and does not know what days your class meets. You will have to navigate to the dates you want to mark attendance for.

    If you are filling in attendance for a past date, click on the back arrow to the left of the date or click the calendar in the top-right and select the correct date.

 

The Attendance tab in the course navigation bar of Canvas.
The calendar attendance tool within Canvas.

 

  • By default, all students start out Unmarked. Either use the "Mark All Present" button to batch update your students' attendance, or click More next to an individual student's name for other options.

    The symbols mean (in order from left to right):
    • checkmark is Present
    • X is Absent
    • clock is Late
    • crossed-out circle is Unmarked

This menu will also show you the running tally of how many times this student has been marked Present, Late, and Absent up to the selected day.

 

Clicking 'More' will open a new section with the student's name and two columns underneath: one containing information about their attendance to date and the other re-confirming the selected date and providing a horizontal row of buttons to mark their attendance

 

For information about badges and other options you have while taking attendance, see Canvas' guide "How do I take roll call using the Attendance tool?".

What your students see

When your students view their Grades page in Canvas, they can click on Roll Call Attendance in the list of their grades to see more information about their attendance. This will show a tally of how many days they've been Present, Absent, and Late. They will also see a table with the exact dates they were marked absent or late.

A circular graph showing color-coded sections for Present, Late, and Absent (green, orange, and red, respectively) with a table of absences and latenesses below.

Grading attendance in Canvas

The first time you mark attendance through the Roll Call tool, an assignment called Roll Call Attendance will automatically be created in your course. This assignment will be worth 100 points by default. In order for this tool to calculate correctly, you must not delete, rename, or unpublish this assignment. If you would like to change the point value, go to (on this page) Changing "Roll Call" point value.

The attendance / Roll Call tool can provide valuable information, but Emerson's Instructional Technology Group recommends not using the Roll Call Attendance assignment as part of your grading scheme in Canvas. Instead, you can (on this page go to) manually grade attendance using a No Submission assignment.

Removing "Roll Call" from grade calculations

  • Option 1: Use weighted assignment groups

This option allows students to access their attendance report as usual, while removing the grade from the calculations that you and the students see.

Our Emerson help guide on the Canvas Gradebook talks about setting up weighted assignment groups. If you want to use this method to keep the Roll Call Attendance assignment from being calculated into your students' grades, you should set up an assignment group worth 0% and move the assignment into that group.

This option won't work if you aren't using weighted assignment groups. 

  • Option 2: Don't count towards the final grade

This option allows students to access their attendance report, with an additional message that the assignment does not count towards their final grade. The Roll Call Tool will still appear in your gradebook. This is an option if you don't use weighted assignment groups. 

In the Attendance tool, click on the Settings icon, then click Roll Call Settings. Select the Do not count attendance towards the final grade checkbox.

Roll Call settings dialog box with the checkbox selected for Do not count attendance toward final grade.


NOTE
: This can also be done in the Attendance assignment settings but it's recommended to use the Roll Call settings instead.

Result:

  • In Gradebook, click on a cell in the Roll Call Attendance column. In the same cell, click on the arrow pointing to the right.
    An arrow icon in a Gradebook assignment cell

    This opens a Grade Detail tray on the right side of your screen with the message Not calculated in final grade.
    Side panel called Grade Detail tray reads Not calculated in final grade.
  • Optional: You can add asterisks to the beginning of the assignment title to make it easy to identify in Gradebook grid view
    Assignment title reads **Media
  • What your students see: When your students go to the Roll Call Attendance assignment through their Grades page, they'll find the message This assignment does not count towards the final grade in two places.

    1) On the Grades page when they click the Grade Info (exclamation mark) icon next to their grade:
    Roll Call Attendance row in Grades page along with Grade Info icon and message This assignment does not count toward the final grade.

    2) On the Roll Call Attendance assignment at the top of the page:
    Banner at top of Submission Details page: This assignment does not count towards the final grade.
  • Option 3: Change the assignment to Not Graded

This would keep the assignment out of the gradebook, but it will also change the way students access their attendance report.

NOTE

This change is permanent and cannot be undone. If you're not sure this is the behavior you want, we recommend using Options 1 or 2 above.

While editing an assignment, change Display Grade as to Not Graded.


A dropdown menu for Display Grade as. The options are perctentage, complete/incomplete, points, letter grade, GPA scale, and not graded. Not graded is selected.

Students will be unable to access their attendance data through Grades. Instead, they will need to go to Assignments find the Roll Call Attendance assignment there, and click Submission Details in the right-hand column.


Changing "Roll Call" point value

If you do want to use the Roll Call Attendance assignment in your grading scheme, you have one opportunity to change its point value without issues before your class begins. This option only works if you have a straightforward attendance policy, such as one where the percentage of the time the student is present directly factors into the grade.

To do so:

      1. In Attendance, enter data for any student (mark them as absent, present, etc.) to trigger the creation of the Roll Call Attendance assignment.
      2. Change the entry for that student back to Unmarked (the crossed-out circle icon).
      3. Go to Assignments, click on the Roll Call Attendance assignment, and click Edit Assignment Settings at top right.
        Button that reads Edit Assignment Settings
      4. Change its point value, then save the assignment.

Do not change the point value after you've started tracking real attendance. If you change the point value while attendance data exists, the tool won't be able to accurately re-calculate its score and will need to be fixed.

Fixing calculations

You may want to take a screenshot of the gradebook to help check if the changes are correct. In the Attendance Roll Call tool, click the Unmark All button for a day you’ve already done and then take attendance again as normal. The grades should be correct now.

If this does not work, find another way to turn the tool on and off. For example, individually mark everyone as absent on a day everyone was there and then mark them all as present. Sometimes repeating either method fixes it, too. 

Set a grade posting policy

Setting a manual posting policy for an individual assignment will allow students to see their attendance data through the Grades page without seeing a grade calculated for them.

  • In the Gradebook, hover over the Roll Call Attendance column, click on the three-dot More Options icon and choose Grade Posting Policy from the menu that opens.

Screenshot of menu with Grade Posting Policy highlighted

  • Under Post Grades, select Manually, and click Save to apply the changes.

    Grade Posting Policy menu with Manually selected

     

  • When the Manually option is selected, grades/ comments for the assignment will be hidden by default and must be posted to be viewed by students.

    NOTE: You’ll be able to tell it’s working for everyone if attendance is put in for everyone and the following are present: a Visibility icon [1]; the label Manual [2]; and All grades hidden text [3] is not available to be clicked.
    Gradebook column for Roll Call Attendance assignment with a Visibility (crossed-out eye) icon and label MANUAL in the column header. In the 3 dot more options menu the text All grades hidden is not clickable.

Manually grading attendance / participation

The best option for manually grading attendance and participation in Canvas is to create a No Submission assignment. This assignment can then be assigned points and/or moved into a weighted assignment group to match your grading policies. No Submission assignments don't prompt your students to submit work; they simply create a column in the gradebook that you can use to enter student grades.

This option for grading attendance/participation is not connected to the Roll Call / attendance tool. If you like, you can still use the Roll Call / attendance tool as a note keeping tool. Just make sure that it is not factoring into the grade calculations, through either Option 1 or Option 2 above. Both Option 1 and Option 2 will result in the Roll Call / attendance tool having its own column in the gradebook and will display the percentage of the time that students were present. 

    1. In Assignments click the + Assignment button on the top right.
    2. Enter a name and any other descriptive information you want for the assignment.
    3. Edit the Points as necessary.
    4. Change Submission Type to No Submission.
    5. Click Save & Publish at the bottom of the page.
    6. When you're ready to input grades for your students' attendance, use the Attendance tool to check the current absent/late/present tallies for your students (if needed).
      1. On the Grades page, find the column for the assignment you created.
      2. Enter attendance grades for your students in that column.
      3. If you'd like this assignment's scores to not be visible to the student yet, change its posting policy to Manual as described in this page under Set a Grade Posting Policy.

A column for a no submission type assignment in the gradebook titled Attendance and Participation.

Attendance policies affecting the final grade

If you have a grading policy where a certain number of absences results in the overall final grade being lowered, you may want to use Final Grade Override. This is a feature that needs to be enabled for your course. To do this, go to your course Settings, then Feature Options. Look for "Final Grade Override" and click the red X on the right side of it to enable it. Then you will need to enable Final Grade Override in your course's gradebook

Additional Resources

Canvas has additional guides available for Faculty using the Roll Call / Attendance tool:

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