Tracking attendance with Canvas

NOTE: The attendance tool in Canvas calculates students' grades based on a 100 point system with everyone starting with 100%. While this default system has its uses, it may cause confusion around students' grades. Please see the section "Grading Attendance in Canvas" below for more information.

Using the Roll Call/Attendance tool

  1. Open Roll Call by clicking "Attendance" in your course navigation.
  2. 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 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.
  3. 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.
    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
    • The symbols mean (in order from left to right):
      • checkmark is "Present"
      • "X" is "Absent"
      • clock is "Late"
    • 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.

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.

The attendance / Roll Call tool can provide valuable information, but Emerson's Instructional Technology Group recommends not using the Roll Call assignment as part of your grading in Canvas. Instead, you should create a separate assignment to have more control over the attendance/participation grade your students get.


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.

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.

  1. In "Assignments", click on "Roll Call Attendance".
  2. In the righthand column, click "Edit Assignment Settings".
  3. Scroll down to the checkbox next to "Do not count this assignment towards the final grade". Check this box.
    A box that says 'do not count this assignment towards the final grade' in Canvas is checked.
  4. Click "Save" at the bottom of the page.
    • In the Gradebook, you will see an exclamation mark with the message "This assignment does not count toward the final grade."
    • When your students go to "Roll Call Attendance" through their "Grades" page, they will see a banner with the same message, "This assignment does not count towards the final grade."
      A light blue bar at the top of the screen reads 'this assignment does not count towards the final grade'.

Other options:

  • Mute the assignment. Muted assignments 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 the blue arrow and choose "Mute Assignment" from the menu that opens.
      The dropdown menu for Roll Call Attendance in Canvas. The options are assignment details, SpeedGrader, Message Students Who..., Set Default Grade, Curve Grade, and Mute Assignment. Mute Assignment is highlighted.
    • Muted assignments are still calculated into the final grade by Canvas in the instructor view of the gradebook, so this may cause a discrepancy between the grade you see for a student and the grade they see.
  • 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 highlighted.
    • 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 righthand column.


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.

  1. In "Assignments" click the blue "+ 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...
    1. Use the "Attendance" tool to check the current absent/late/present tallies for your students (if needed)
    2. On the "Grades" page, find the column for the assignment you created
    3. Enter attendance grades for your students in that column


Additional resources

Canvas has additional guides available for Faculty using the Roll Call / Attendance tool. The full list of guides is available at the Canvas Community documentation site.


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