This page introduces the Outcomes tool in Canvas. Outcomes are used to assess students in specific course objectives, separate from standard course grades.

What are Outcomes?

In Canvas, an outcome is a standard against which a student is measured via assessing their performance in a specific assignment or set of assignments. Since all courses are required to have high-level "course objectives" or "student learning objectives", the Outcomes tool was designed to assess how well students meet those objectives. Quite apart from normal grades, Outcomes data in one class can also be aggregated with that of other classes (such as a department or college) in order to produce larger pictures of student achievement.

Using Outcomes in a course is a 3-step process: creation/importing, attachment via a rubric, assessment in Speedgrader. The process for viewing the results of outcomes assessments is separate and explained at the end of this page.

1. Creating Outcomes in a Course

Outcomes must first exist in a course in order to be used for assessment.  Two methods exist to create Outcomes in a course: import existing outcomes or build new ones from scratch.

Option A) Import existing outcomes into a course

In this scenario, the outcomes will have already been added to Canvas at a departmental (or higher) organizational level, by a department admin or other Canvas administrator.  This allows the outcomes to be "imported" into a course and then attached to a specific activity for assessment. Importantly, the data generated by assessing this kind of outcome flow upward into the report that aggregates the data from all instances of the outcome, across every course using it.

Steps to import
  1. Click the "Outcomes" tool in the course navigation.
  2. Click the "Find" button in the top toolbar.
  3. In the window that appears, click through the folder hierarchy to drill down to the outcome you wish to import.
    Note: Canvas only allows you to view outcomes that are in the direct sub-folder hierarchy of your course. It does not allow you to view outcomes that are specific to a different college or a different department.
  4. Click the outcome to review its configuration.
    Note: No changes can be made to the outcome at this point since it's potentially being used by other courses.
  5. Click the "Import" button to bring the outcome into the course.

Repeat these steps to acquire additional pre-existing outcomes.

Additional Canvas documentation

Option B) Build new outcomes in the course

In this scenario, the instructor creates outcomes from scratch within the course before being attached to an activity.  These kinds of outcomes are only viable for assessing students in this course, and the data produced cannot be aggregated with other courses.

  1. Click the "Outcomes" tool in the course navigation.
  2. Click the "+Outcome" button.
  3. In the outcome editor, supply a name for the outcome (you may wish to keep this name short and abbreviated).
  4. Supply a fuller description of the outcome: what is being measured?
  5. Use the criteria editor to build the scale of assessment. Each scale item will have "points" and a description.
    Note: Points are not necessarily used for actual grading. They are merely a scale at this point to determine mastery of the outcome.
  6. Review and edit the level at which "mastery" will be achieved.
  7. Leave the "Calculation Method" set to the default, Decaying Average
  8. Click "Save" to complete the creation process and return to the Outcomes manager.

Repeat these steps to create additional custom outcomes.

Additional Canvas documentation

2. Adding Outcomes to Activities

After it's been imported into a course, an outcome can't be used until it has been added to the Canvas rubric that is being used to grade an activity. In this way, outcomes can be used to assess assignments, quizzes, and discussions.

Sidebar: Learn how to create a rubric

 Add an outcome to a rubric

  1. With the rubric open and in edit mode, click "Find Outcome" at the bottom of the rubric.
  2. When the outcome window appears, click through the folder hierarchy to locate the desired outcome.
  3. If desired, click the checkbox for "Use this criterion for scoring".  This will include the range of points in the outcome as a criterion that you will score as part of the student's grade in the activity, alongside other rubric criteria. This is uncommon.
  4. Click "Import" to add the criterion to the rubric. Note: You cannot edit the outcome while in the rubric editor.
  5. Click "Update Rubric"

At this point, the outcome is available to be assessed as part of the normal Canvas Speedgrader actions for grading via a rubric.

3. Assessing Students According to Outcomes

Once you've opened Speedgrader for an activity that includes outcome criteria, you assess the student using the rubric for the activity. The outcome is simply another criteria in the rubric.

  1. Open the student's submission in Speedgrader.
  2. Click the "View Rubric" button.
  3. Resize the window pane to display the whole rubric by dragging the vertical divider to the left.
  4. Complete the rubric, including the outcome criteria.
  5. Save the rubric.

Viewing Outcome Assessment Data

For an individual course, outcome data is collected and displayed in the Grades page of the course, using the Learning Mastery Gradebook.

Important: The Learning Mastery Gradebook is a feature that first must be enabled in the course. To enable this gradebook, visit the Feature Options tab in Course Settings.

  1. Open the Grades tool for the course.
  2. In the Gradebook dropdown menu, choose "Learning Mastery"
  3. View the Learning Mastery gradebook

Outcomes Reporting

The Learning Mastery gradebook shows results for all the outcomes that exist in a course, whether those were imported or created from scratch.  However, that gradebook does not connect to other courses that might also be using one of the imported outcomes.

To acquire data about an outcome that resides above an individual course (e.g., department, college, university), and is being assessed by multiple courses, Canvas can create a report spreadsheet. While this spreadsheet has the raw data from all the assessments, it does not create visuals such as charts or graphs.

Note: Canvas users must be given special privileges in Canvas in order to generate the outcomes report described below. Contact if you would like to explore this.

  1. Click the "Admin" item on the left-hand Canvas navigation pane.
  2. Choose the sub-account you have been given access to.
  3. From the Settings page (default), click the Reports tab at the top.
  4. Locate the "Outcome Results" report and click the "Configure" button on the right.
  5. Choose the desired term and how you would like the report sorted initially.
  6. Click "Run Report"

In a short while, Canvas will send you an email with instructions to download the spreadsheet report.

Viewing Outcomes Data

For sub-account reports, use a data visualization tool.  Stan State staff have access to Microsoft's Power BI tool for this purpose. Click the "Sign In" button and use your Stan State login credentials.

Updated: July 17, 2023