Getting Started with the Semester

12 A note on grading attendance

The IUPUI Office of Academic Affairs notes that

IU does not have an official attendance policy. Having said that, it is recognized nationally that attendance in a class is critical to student success so each faculty member is encouraged to determine if/when students are logging in/attending/participating in the class and to provide this type of performance feedback via the Student Engagement Roster (SER).

We recommend that faculty don’t “grade” attendance per se, but provide students with something to do in class (e.g., discussion, response to a minute paper) that carries the points. This way, students who must participate remotely can still engage in the same activity (or close to the same activity) and earn the same points.

If you are not at IUPUI, please check with your campus’s academic affairs office for guidance specific to your campus.

The point here is to encourage points to be given for active participation and not simply passive attendance.

Creating a participation assignment for some or all class meetings works best when you use Assignment Groups in Canvas. Even if you’re not using Assignment Groups for weighting grades, make an assignment group for participation separate from the general group where all your other assignments are. This allows you to filter in the Grades tool to only see participation assignments or only see your other assignments.

While you can certainly use graded quizzes, assignments, discussions, Top Hat questions, or Quick Checks, you can also consider activities that are effectively not graded. Setting these small participation assignments to be graded “complete” or “incomplete” in the assignment settings is especially useful for activities such reflections, Muddiest Points, or other activities for which you wouldn’t grade correctness. You can also use the Graded Survey option in the Canvas Quiz tool to record a point for students completing surveys about their confidence in reaching a learning outcome or providing feedback on an assignment or part of the course.

If you would like to count participation or attendance without making assignments, there are two main ways to do this: using the Roll Call Attendance tool in Canvas or tracking participation outside of Canvas and posting participation grades regularly, but not every class.

Using the Roll Call Attendance tool in Canvas

The Roll Call Attendance tool allows you to easily mark students present, absent, or late for each class meeting, which can be used to mean fully participating, partially participating, or not participating. If you do this, you will need to keep track of alternative participation for students who are not present at the synchronous class session and add their status into the Roll Call tool.

For instructions on setting up and using the Roll Call Attendance tool, see the Canvas guide “What is the Roll Call Attendance Tool?” Please especially note the View Gradebook Scores section, as that can generate questions from students.

For more help, see Tips for using the Canvas Attendance tool in the IU Knowledge Base

Tracking outside of Canvas

Many instructors prefer to track attendance/participation in a notebook or spreadsheet outside of Canvas. While this can be convenient for the instructor, if this is counted toward the final grade, students will not be able to see a true picture of where they stand in the Canvas Grades tool.

If you choose to track outside of Canvas, please make regular assignments where you can enter student participation points more than once before the end of the semester. Some faculty prefer to enter points monthly, others once before midterm and once before finals.


Questions? Talk to your campus teaching and learning center!


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

A Canvas Semester Checklist by Trustees of Indiana University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.