Teaching Tools

Canvas Essentials: Gradebook

Migration from Blackboard to Canvas

This article will compare the Gradebook within Canvas to Blackboard. This is not intended to be a training piece; it is an overview of features, giving you some ideas how Canvas compares to Blackboard.


Like Blackboard, Canvas has its own tool for storing and managing student grades and feedback.  Grades in Canvas are stored in the Gradebook, which is very similar to the Blackboard Grade Centre. 

Like Blackboard, the Canvas Gradebook enables you to perform the following tasks:

  • enter student grades and feedback
  • download assignment submissions and grades
  • filter grades to create a custom view of the Gradebook
  • automatically calculate total and average grades
  • view the history of all grading changes that have been applied
  • send targeted messages to students based on specific criteria
  • excuse an assignment, discussion, or quiz for a student (this is the equivalent of “exempting” grades in Blackboard)

Unlike Blackboard, the Canvas Gradebook enables you to:

  • monitor the progress of students against course objectives, both individually and as a cohort
  • set course-level rules to manage the release of grades
  • easily identify late and missed submissions
  • apply automatic scores or deductions to missing and late submissions
  • curve grades and apply default grades for an assignment
  • allow students to enter hypothetical grades (what-if grades) to estimate the effort that is required to achieve the desired grade

At present, there are a couple of Blackboard features not represented in Canvas. Canvas is currently:

  • unable to create manual columns or calculated columns directly in the Gradebook
  • unable to bulk import text comments into the Gradebook via CSV upload

Further details on the Canvas Gradebook features are outlined below.

Gradebook views

The default view displays all students and grades on the same page, but you can switch between the Traditional Gradebook, the Individual Gradebook, the Learning Mastery Gradebook and the Gradebook history.

The Individual Gradebook view allows you to focus on one student and one assignment at a time and manage the grade for the selected student and assignment.

Individual Gradebook

The individual gradebook shows one student and one assignment at a time.

The Learning Mastery Gradebook allows you to view student progress on course learning outcomes and filter students based on mastery learning levels. This functionality is useful to assess students’ needs and measure student learning for accreditation.

You can also enable the Student Learning Mastery Gradebook functionality to allow students to view course outcomes and monitor their own progress.

Learning Mastery Gradebook

The Learning Mastery Gradebook shows student progress against course learning outcomes.

The Gradebook history displays a logbook of all the grade changes in the course; you can filter the logbook by student, marker, assignment, and date.

Grade Posting Policy

You can use the Grade Posting Policy functionality in Gradebook to manage the release of grades and feedback.  You can set the Grade Posting Policy to either automatic or manual.  The automatic posting policy allows students to see grades and feedback as soon as they are entered in the Gradebook. The manual posting policy keeps grades and feedback hidden from students until you manually release them.

​“Grade Posting Policy

Grade Posting Policy makes the release of grades easy to manage.

Late policies

The Late Policies tool allows you to automatically assign scores to missing submissions and deduct points from late submissions.

Late Policies

Late Policies can be set to assign grades to missing submissions and apply deductions to late submissions. 

Default and curved grades

The Canvas Gradebook allows you to automatically apply a default grade to an assignment. This could be used, for example, for pass-fail assessments where students are required to complete an activity to pass, regardless of the score they get.

You can also use the Gradebook to curve grades for an assignment based on the performance of the class as a whole.  The Curve Grades functionality allows you to automatically adjust individual grades as a bell curve 66% around an average score you have manually entered.

Curved Grades

This feature allows you to automatically adjust individual grades based on the class average.

What-If Grades

If you enable What-If Grades in your course, students can enter what-if grades to calculate hypothetical total scores and see how grades received in upcoming assignments will affect their total grade.  You can use this tool to help students estimate the effort that is required to achieve their desired grade.

What-if grades are not visible to staff, only the student who entered it can see their what-if grade.​

What-If Grades

What-If Grades is a Canvas feature that allows students to calculate their total grade by entering hypothetical grades for upcoming assignments.

Manually created grade columns

Unlike Blackboard, Canvas does not allow you to manually add columns directly to the Gradebook. If you need to create a column to grade an activity that doesn’t require a digital submission, such as an oral presentation or a lab activity, you can create a ‘No Submission’ or ‘On Paper’ assignment.

​“No Submission or On Paper assignments

No Submission or On Paper assignments can be used to assess and mark specific activities where a digital submission is not required.

You can add a Note column to the Gradebook to store text and quick comments.  Information entered in the Note column is only visible to staff.​​​

Assignment groups and calculated columns

In Blackboard, you can use categories to group related columns together and organise the data in the Grade Centre.  In Canvas, you can organise graded items into Assignment Groups (e.g., Coursework, Discussions, Tests, Exams).  You can use Assignment Groups in the Gradebook to calculate total grades for each Assignment Group.

You cannot manually create weighted columns in the Canvas Gradebook.  Instead, you can apply weights to the Assignment Groups in your course (e.g., discussions are worth 10%, tests 10%, coursework 40% and exams 40%) to automatically calculate weighted scores in the Gradebook.

Assignment Groups

Blackboard uses Categories to organise graded items. Canvas uses Assignment Groups to organize and weight assessments.


The Gradebook in Canvas is not significantly different to the Grade Centre in Blackboard.

Notable new features include:

  • Grade Posting Policies – to make the release of grades easier to manage and consistent across courses
  • Late Policies – to apply deductions to late submissions
  • Learning Mastery Gradebook – to monitor student progress against course objectives
  • Curve grades – to adjust grades based on the class average
  • What-if grades – to allow students to add hypothetical scores for upcoming assessments

At present, there are a couple of Blackboard features not represented in Canvas. Canvas is:

  • unable to add manual or calculated columns directly to the Gradebook
  • unable to bulk import text comments via a CSV file

Anybody with any specific Assignment/Rubric related questions can talk to their Discipline CLE Implementation Representatives in the first instance.