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The Study Hall

A Primer on Student Analytics in Canvas

If you’ve always wanted to understand more about what was going on with your students, you’re going to love Student Analytics in Canvas! A quick glance across these charts can tell you a lot about whether a student has a consistent pattern of success or whether they are on a course to crash and burn.

These analytics charts can only help identify patterns if you understand them well, so we created this little primer (the first post of a series about Canvas Analytics) to explain them in a little more detail. On many of the analytics screens you’ll see student scores in boxplots (or box-and-whisker diagrams). Let’s look at a concrete example to see what these boxplots actually tell you.

A simple breakdown of a box-and-whiskers diagram.
A simple breakdown of a box-and-whiskers diagram.

Suppose there are 10 students in your class and you line them up in a row according to their exam grades, from lowest to highest score. The thin lines on the ends of the boxplot (called the whiskers) show you the span of all the student scores from lowest to highest. The lower end of the rectangular box marks the 25th Percentile (the middle of the lower half of the scores). Likewise, the upper end of the box marks the 75th Percentile. Essentially, this rectangular box shows you the scores of the middle 50% of students in your class. The dark line that crosses the box shows you the median score on the assignment (the score of the “middle” student in the lineup). Whenever there isn’t a “middle” student, the scores on either side of the middle are averaged.

When you’re looking at an analytics screen for a student, you’ll see all the graded assignments on the same chart. These assignments are graphed using scores (points, not percentages). Unless all your assignments are worth the same number of points, you will see a variety of different score ranges here.

View of Grades panel in Canvas Student Analytics.
View of Grades panel in Canvas Student Analytics.

You’ve probably noticed the green, red, and yellow dots on these student analytics. These are quick indicators to you (and the student) of their performance on the assignment. The placement of the dot shows exactly where the students’ score fell on the box-and-whisker diagram. A green dot means they have scored in the top 50% of the class. Red is a warning: the student score is in the lowest 25%. Yellow dots are a caution signal that the students’ score has fallen below the median, but it isn’t dire yet.

Let’s go back to that lineup of 10 students and see how different student scores would be viewed using the green-yellow-red dot system.

Examples using the red-yellow-green dot system.
Examples using the red-yellow-green dot system.

Now you should be able to look across the Student Analytics charts and begin to see the story that the data tells you. Stay tuned for more on how Canvas Analytics can help you find ways to improve student success in your classes.

If you like what you see but you’re not sure how to access these features, make sure to check out the Course Analytics Guides.

Keep Learning,

:) maria