SpeedGrader in Canvas: Personalizing Feedback While Saving Time

Instructor Request

Hello Online Learning Team,

Thank you for your time and attention to my question, as I value your expertise. How can I provide personalized feedback to students via Canvas? I miss the old days when I could write comments or highlight strengths and weaknesses on paper assignments with a few strokes of a pen. I want to do something similar online, but I also have a lot of students and a lot of work to grade, so I need to be efficient and effective.

Do you have any tips or best practices for grading online student work in Canvas? I would love to hear from you and learn from your experience.


Professor Grady Quick

Online Learning Team’s Reply

Giving feedback is an essential part of the learning process, helping students improve their performance, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and feel more connected to instructors and peers. Canvas provides SpeedGrader to facilitate this and may put an end to any lamentations about using pen and paper that some may have, as it not only replicates but enhances all the functionalities associated with manual grading – and then some.

Overview of SpeedGrader

SpeedGrader is a tool that enables instructors to view, grade, and comment on student submissions in one place. It can be accessed from the Gradebook, the Assignments page, or the Quizzes page. SpeedGrader offers several advantages over other grading methods.

  • View student submissions in various formats, PDF, Word, PowerPoint, audio, video, etc., without downloading or opening them in another application.
  • Use annotation tools to highlight, strikeout, underline, or add comments directly on student submissions. This can mimic the experience of writing comments on paper assignments with a pen.
  • Utilize rubrics to grade based on predefined criteria and levels of performance, including comments for each criterion or the overall submission.
  • Provide feedback through text, audio, or video comments, with audio and video being particularly useful for conveying tone, emotion, and nuance.
  • Employ keyboard shortcuts for efficient navigation between submissions, toggling rubrics, and saving grades.

Using SpeedGrader

When ready to use SpeedGrader, it can be accessed through the:

  • Assignments page: Click on the assignment name and then on SpeedGrader in the Related Items sidebar.
  • Quizzes page: Click on the quiz name and then on SpeedGrader in the Related Items sidebar.
  • Discussions page: Click on the graded discussion name, then select SpeedGrader from the Options icon.
  • Gradebook: Click on the cell of the student and assignment to grade, then click on the SpeedGrader icon in the cell header.

Across the top of the page in the blue area, instructors can:

In the gray area at the top of the page, icons allow instructors to download, rotate,  or Zoom in, and out on the document. The following annotation symbols are also available for feedback.

To delete an annotation, right click on the area to delete, click on the trash can that appears, and choose OK to confirm the deletion.

Helpful Features in the Sliding Panel

Grades are entered in the sliding panel on the right side. If a rubric has been included for the assignment, it will be available here. Click the appropriate rating for each grading criterion. To enter a comment about the rating, click on the speech bubble in the cell with the point total. When finished entering information for the rubric, click Save.

At the bottom of the sliding panel, an overall assignment comment area is located. Instructors usually type comments here, but it is also possible to use the media recorder for audio or video feedback (1). This option creates feedback that may be more engaging and accessible for students, enabling the instructor to elaborate more than in written feedback. Using Speech Recognition (available when using the Google Chrome Browser) can also speed up feedback.

Additionally, if sharing the same information frequently, consider using the the Comment library (2), where comments can be stored and inserted into the assignment comments box. This feature saves time by reusing common feedback while allowing customization.

Limitations and Challenges of SpeedGrader

While SpeedGrader helps instructors save time and provide personalized feedback, some limitations and challenges exist:

  • Does not support group assignments or peer reviews. Instructors must use other tools or methods for grading these types of assignments.
  • Does not allow instructors to edit or delete comments once posted. Careful consideration is needed before submitting feedback.
  • Does not allow instructors to view student submissions side by side or compare them with previous submissions. Instructors may want to suggest students use track changes in Microsoft Word.

As these tools continually evolve, updates, help, and support will be provided. Please feel free to contact us at OnlineLearningStaff@alliant.edu for assistance and to share your experiences. Thank you for your dedication to student learning.