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Canvas Update: SpeedGrader Comment Library

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Overview

Canvas is adding an often-requested feature with its June 2021 feature update, going live on June 19. The new feature is called SpeedGrader Comment Library. It allows you to save comments to a library and to reuse them easily and consistently across students when providing feedback with SpeedGrader.

Below, you will find a brief discussion from our Teaching Support staff on how you can use this feature to improve feedback you give to your students, as well as directions for how to use this feature.

Please visit the Canvas release notes page to see the details from the vendor

Strategies for Using the Canvas SpeedGrader Comment Bank

The Canvas SpeedGrader Comment Bank can be used to increase the efficiency of grading and offering feedback. Using comment banks can be a time saver, but student feedback still needs to be personalized. Below are some strategies for balancing creating a bank of frequently used feedback comments and offering individualized student feedback.

Build a comment bank.

As you grade students’ work, you should identify common strengths, areas for improvement, and explanations and reminders that you find yourself typing repeatedly. Create and save general comments based on trends. Examples of general comments might include explanations of common errors in student work and links to relevant resources or areas of your course shell.

When composing comments:

  •  Carefully consider the language you use so that you can keyword search comments later.
  • Also think about your tone, which should generally be direct and encouraging.
  • Lastly, remember that good feedback is specific and improvement-focused. Comments should identify strengths and areas for improvement and give students suggestions for how they might improve.

Customize comments as needed.

Once you have a bank of saved comments, you can search and select them as you offer feedback on students’ work. In some cases, you may be able to use your saved comments exactly as you wrote them without revision, but at least some of your feedback should be specific to students’ individual performances.

You can offer personalized feedback by adding text to or revising comments you select from your comment bank. For example, you might elaborate on a general comment by pointing to a specific part of a student’s assignment. You can also use the SpeedGrader annotation tool to offer inline feedback on students’ work.

When determining how much personalized feedback to give and where to give it:

  • Identify the purpose of the assessment. You may want to offer more personalized feedback on formative assessments (lower stakes assessments primarily designed to improve student learning) than summative assessments (higher stakes assessments primarily design to evaluate students’ academic performance).
  • Identify what types of changes would have the greatest impact on the quality of the student’s work and customize those types of comments. For additional feedback best practices, see the Teaching Center’s Tips for Providing Effective Feedback.

Screencast Video

Canvas has published a minute and a half video about the new feature.

How to Use

Official documentation from Instructure is not yet available. This should get you started using comment library.

Adding Comments to the Library

Before you can quickly use comments, you will need to add them to your library. You cannot add an already-typed submission comment to the library. To manage your comment library:

  1. Go to SpeedGrader for any assignment in any course.
  2. Click on the comment library button above the submission comment box in the right pane of SpeedGrader. See the red box in the following screen shot.

Screenshot illustrating the location of the comment library button. It is a button above the Submission Comment text box.

  1. The comment library will open in place of the right panel of SpeedGrader.
  2. Type your comment to save in the “Add to Comment Library” text box at the bottom of the comment library panel.
  3. Click the “+ Add to Library button” (located immediately after the text box) to save the text to your comment library.
  4. Click the “left arrow” at the top left of the panel to close it once you are done saving comments to the library for now. (You can always add more later.)

Using and Managing your Comment Library

From the comment library panel, the following actions are available to you in addition to adding new comments:

  • Click on a saved comment’s text to use it as your current submission comment. (You will need to click “Submit in SpeedGrader” to save it.)
  • Click the “trash can” icon next to a saved comment to delete it. (There is a confirmation.)
  • Click the “pencil” icon next to a saved comment to edit it. (Save or cancel after.)
  • Toggle “Show suggestions while typing“. If this is on, Canvas will search your comment library while you are typing a submission comment. If it finds any comments with the words you have typed, it will display them for quick selection without opening the comment library. You still need to click “submit” to save it.
    • For example, you can save a comment with the word “email” in it (perhaps with the full text, “Please email me to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your progress.”) to your library and enable “show suggestions.” Then, while grading, you can type “email” in the comment box and wait a moment. Canvas will pop up the full saved comment. You can click on it to enter the entire text into the comment box and then submit to save it.

Limitations

  • You can only use one saved comment from the library at a time. If you would like to use multiple saved comments, you can click on one from the library, then click Submit to save that comment (you may edit it first), and then repeat to apply multiple saved comments from the library.
  • This feature only works in SpeedGrader submission comments. (It is not available in gradebook comments or in annotation comment boxes, though that has been requested as a future enhancement.) You could use the comment library for annotation comments, but cut them from the submission comment box and paste them into your annotation comments.
  • Comments are saved per-instructor, and not per-course. You can easily reuse your comments between courses, but multiple graders in one course cannot share the same comment library. (In this case, you should coordinate, such as using an shared OneDrive/Office 365 Word document that each of you can copy and paste into your private library.)
  • The comments are plain text only, without formatting and without “merge fields” (like inserting the student’s name). LaTeX comments should work if you need to give feedback with mathematical notation.
  • In some situations, you may need to resize the panes in SpeedGrader to make the right pane bigger in conjunction with the comment library. (Click on the line separating the document view and the right pane and drag it to resize the windows. Your cursor should change when you are pointing at the line.)

Comparable Features in Other Tools

Other tools available to you through the suite of instructional technology Pitt provides have similar features you might try if this one seems useful to you.

Turnitin

Turnitin, in addition to being the supported plagiarism detection tool, also has a very mature, deep version of this feature. You can use QuickMarks to create custom, reusable “pins” that you can drag and drop to a location in any document you can grade in Feedback Studio. Learn more about QuickMarks in the Turnitin documentation. Using this feature does require that you use the “full” version of Turnitin (external tool) and collect submissions, grade and give feedback there rather than in Canvas. The assignments and final grades do integrate with Canvas to make it a little easier. Since Turnitin lets you download, share, and upload these lists, this can be a useful tool to coordinate across multiple graders or courses.

Gradescope

Gradescope’s rubric feature can easily be adapted to give feedback to students. You can add any text (including LaTeX) to a rubric item and apply it to a document. A rubric item can have a 0-point value associated with it so it does not adjust the grade, and you can apply as many rubric items to a question as you need to. Gradescope also saves (on a per-question basis) overall (non-rubric) comments typed to students for easy re-use. Learn more about getting started with Gradescope in our documentation. Using this feature does require that you use Gradescope, including collecting submissions and doing your grading and feedback there rather than in Canvas. The assignments and grades do integrate with Canvas to make it a little easier. Since the rubric items and comments are allocated per assignment-question, this is a good solution for standardizing across multiple graders in one course. (Rubrics can easily be copied from assignment to assignment.)

Getting Help

Feel free to contact the Educational Software Consulting team for help using the feature, or ask for a consultation with Teaching Support staff to discuss how to use this or any other tool to help your students reach their learning objectives in your course. To get help within Canvas, you can also click the Help button at the bottom of the left hand global navigation menu to chat or call Canvas support directly.

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