Learning Analytics - Getting Started with Learning Analytics in Canvas

Note: This document describes a learning analytics approach to help support student success. Students are unique individuals and are more complex than their data - be sure to consider them holistically. Please review UW-Madison Learning Analytics Guiding Principles before continuing in this document.

This document describes Canvas features and provides links to additional resources about learning analytics.

Analytics are available from multiple locations in Canvas. The table below lists Canvas tools and provides examples of learning analytics functions available on each page. Other Canvas pages (i.e. the People page and Gradebook) may also be useful for learning analytics approaches.

Canvas Tool/Page

Types of Data | Notes

Canvas Analytics

A learning analytics tool that allows instructors to see general trends in course activity (page views and participations), assignment submissions, and grades

Canvas New Analytics

A learning analytics tool that allows you to filter and compare section and individual grades to class averages.

Context Cards

Student Context Cards provide insights and context about each student in a course. Context cards are meant to be a simplified overview of a student’s progress. 

Course Access Report

Aggregated course-wide student access reports can be dowloaded from Canvas as a .CSV file. Individual student course access reports can also be viewed.

Quiz Statistics

Quiz Statistics provide instructors a number of statistics related to a specific quiz such as Mean, High Score, Low Score, etc. Standard Deviation, and Average Time to complete the quiz. 

Quiz Logs

Quiz Logs provide a record of student interactions with a quiz.

Canvas Page Views and Participation

Canvas provides Page View and Participation data, which includes:

  • Page Views
    • Page view data is based on requests to the server → the numbers for page views may be greater than what we traditionally think of as a page view.
    • Page view data should be used as a good approximation to student activity and not an absolute metric. It can help you see if activity occurred, and to view trends from week to week. 
  • Participation
    • Student interactions with the following items will generate course participation analytics:
      • Announcements: posts a new comment to an announcement
      • Assignments: submits an assignment
      • Collaborations: loads a collaboration to view/edit a document
      • Conferences: joins a web conference
      • Discussions: posts a new comment to a discussion
      • Pages: creates a page
      • Quizzes: submits a quiz
      • Quizzes: starts taking a quiz

Canvas Course Analytics

What is Canvas Course Analytics?

Canvas Course Analytics is a learning analytics tool that allows instructors to see general trends in course activity (page views and participations), assignment submissions, and grades. 

Assignment submissions show percentage of assignments turned in on time, late or missing for each separate assignment. The grade visualization shows the grade range for each separate assignment as well as the median and the 25th-75th percentile.

The three visualizations show aggregate data only, but all students in the course are listed below the visualizations with some data as well as the ability to click into each individual student for more student specific data.

How should I use Canvas Course Analytics?

Canvas Course Analytics allows instructors to quickly visualize data related to their students and course, look for patterns and ask questions that can help students and/or improve course design.

Note: While Canvas Course Analytics can reveal certain patterns and comparisons, it does not and cannot provide an explanation for those patterns and comparisons.

  • Instructors should never use a single data point from a learning analytics tool to take any major action in regards to a student or course. 
  • Learning analytics tools, like Canvas Course Analytics, are simply meant to help provide instructors with additional information and a way to visualize it.
  • Data from learning analytics tools can be one factor that helps guide instructor decisions and actions but should never solely dictate them.

What learning analytics data can I access in Canvas Course Analytics?

  • The course Activity visualization shows total Canvas page views in your course for all students broken up either by day or by week. It also shows total Participations in your course using the same scale. Participations include things like submitting an assignment, contributing to a discussion etc.
  • The Submissions visualization shows each individual assignment in your course, its due date, and the percent that are on time, late or missing.
  • The grade visualization shows the grade range, based on how many points the assignment is worth, for each separate assignment as well as the median grade and the 25th-75th percentile of the grades.
  • Underneath the visualizations is a sortable table of each student that shows their participations, page views, submissions, late/missing/on time assignments, and current grade in the course.
  • If you click on a student’s name in the table it takes you to Student Analytics. Student Analytics displays the same visualizations as Course Analytics, but only for that specific student. It also includes a Communication visualization that shows any communication between the instructor and student through the Canvas Inbox on a timeline.

    Here is more information about the data in Course Analytics (including everything that counts as a “participation”), and Here is more data about Student Analytics.

What are some ways I can use learning analytics data from Canvas Course Analytics?

Learning Analytics visualizations such as those found in Course Analytics are a quick and easy way to look for meaningful data and patterns. For example:

  • If one assignment is showing a considerably higher percentage of late or missing assignments, it might encourage an instructor to look more closely at that assignment to try and figure out why. 

  • Or an instructor can look for patterns of student engagement with the course and see how those patterns match up with their course design or content
  • if an instructor is concerned about a student, they can click into Student Analytics to see if the student specific data might offer some help in identifying why that student is struggling.
  • A student who initially submitted all assignments on time but who has since had late or missing assignments might indicate some change in personal circumstance that is worth reaching out to the student to find out about.

    Again, data in learning analytics tools can help instructors ask guided questions about their students or course but should never be the sole basis for taking an action in relation to a student or course.

How do I activate Canvas Course Analytics in my course?

Canvas Course Analytics is turned on automatically for all courses in Canvas and can be accessed by clicking on ‘Home” in your Canvas course and then clicking on “Course Analytics.” For step-by-step instructions, see "How do I View Course Analytics?" on Canvas Community.

Canvas New Analytics

What is New Analytics?

A learning analytics tool that allows you to filter and compare section and individual grades to class averages. Here are some features:

  • Displays data for all grade-based Canvas activities such as Assignments, Quizzes, and Discussions. 
  • Displays information about late and missing assignments 
  • Allows instructors to email students using specific course grade or course participation criteria.

How should I use New Analytics?

New Analytics allows instructors to quickly visualize data related to their students and course, look for patterns and ask questions that can help students and/or improve course design.

It is important to note that while Canvas Course Analytics can reveal certain patterns and comparisons, it does not and cannot provide an explanation for those patterns and comparisons.

  • Instructors should never use a single data point from a Learning Analytics tool to take any major action in regards to a student or course. 
  • Learning Analytics tools, like Canvas Course Analytics, are simply meant to help provide instructors with additional information and a way to visualize it.
  • Data from Learning Analytics tools can be one factor that helps guide instructor decisions and actions but should never solely dictate them.

What learning analytics data can I access in New Analytics?

New Analytics allows instructors to filter, sort and compare students by graded activities and weekly online activity (page views and participations). 

It also allows instructors to run and download reports detailing missing assignments, late assignments, excused assignments and course activity. 

What are some ways I can use learning analytics data from New Analytics?

Learning Analytics visualizations such as those found in New Analytics are a quick and easy way to look for meaningful data and patterns. For example:

  • If one section has a considerably lower average score on an assignment than the course as a whole, that might encourage an instructor to look more closely at that assignment and section to try and figure out why. 
  • If an instructor is concerned about a student, they can quickly compare that student to the course average in New Analytics. 
  • A student who initially scored well on their assignments but has since seen their scores drop might indicate a change in personal circumstance or a struggle with new material that is worth reaching out to the student to find out about.

    Again, data in learning analytics tools can help instructors ask guided questions about their students or course but should never be the sole basis for taking an action in relation to a student or course.

How do I access New Analytics?

New Analytics can be enabled by going to the “Navigation” tab in Settings in your course and moving it from disable to enabled status. For more information on how to access New Analytics please see this Canvas Community Guide.


Quiz Statistics

What are Quiz Statistics?

Quiz Statistics provide instructors a number of statistics related to a specific quiz such as Mean, High Score, Low Score, etc. Standard Deviation, and Average Time to complete the quiz. 

Additionally, Quiz Statistics lets instructors look at a single student’s answers/statistics as well as see statistics related to a specific section and/or question on a quiz (such as percent of students who answered that question correctly).

How should I use Quiz Statistics?

Quiz Statistics can provide valuable information about how student(s) interacted with a specific quiz. Depending on how you constructed the quiz this can give you specific information about that quiz, or it might give some insight into how well students are learning particular topics or concepts. 

As with any learning analytics data, use Quiz Statistics as a starting point to ask questions and learn more about your students and your course.

What learning analytics data can I access in Quiz Statistics?

Quiz statistics allows instructors to see standard statistics related to a specific quiz including:

  •  Mean, High Score, Low Score, Standard Deviation, and Average Time to Completion. 
  • Instructors can also filter by section and student. 
  • Data on how the class, section or students answered any specific quiz question. 
  • In addition to the visualizations Quiz Statistics provides, instructors can generate raw data file downloads having to do with the quiz.

What are some ways I can use learning analytics data from Quiz Statistics?

If you have constructed your quiz so that specific questions match specific learning objectives or outcomes, you can use Quiz Statistics to get an idea whether your course, a specific section or a specific student are achieving that learning objective or outcome.
You can also use Quiz Statistics to gauge how long it took your course, a specific section or a specific student to finish the quiz and whether that aligns with your expectations or not. Quiz Statistics data is a potentially rich source of data instructors can use to understand their course, students, assessments, and course design.

How do I activate Quiz Statistics in my course?

Quiz Statistics are automatically activated once at least one student has completed the quiz. The data will continuously update until the quiz closes or all students have taken the quiz. 

To access Quiz Statistics simply click on the name of the Quiz then select “Quiz Statistics.” For step-by-step instructions on how to find and access Quiz Statistics please see this Canvas Community guide.

Note: any quiz with more than two hundred questions, or more than 1,000 attempts, will not automatically populate Quiz Statistics. Instructors can still get some data by generating the Student Analysis report for such large quizzes.

Context Cards

What are Context Cards?

Student Context Cards provide insights and context about each student in a course. 

  • Meant to be a simplified overview of a student’s progress. 
  • Primarily displays three metrics generated from grades in the Gradebook, standard page views, and participation activity in course analytics. 

How should I use Context Cards?

Context Cards are useful for a quick visual snapshot of how a student is doing in a course. They are a good starting point for locating additional data relevant to a particular student’s performance or engagement in a course. 

Context Cards should not be the sole basis for an instructor to plan an intervention with a student, rather they provide an opportunity to quickly assess whether an instructor should look more closely at a student, their performance and/or engagement.

What learning analytics data can I access in Context Cards?

Context Cards show instructors three visualizations. 

  • First, it displays the student’s current grade in the course and lists their last ten graded assignments and the grade the student received on each. Any late or missing assignments are also listed. 
  • Next it displays what quartile of the course a student falls into for Participations and Page Views. Those in the bottom quartile have 1 star, those in the middle two quartiles have two stars and those in the top quartile have 3 stars.
  • Context Cards also display the last time a student accessed Canvas.

    Additionally, Instructors can email students by clicking on the email icon on the Context Card, or they can view more in depth analytics by clicking on the Analytics button or the Grades button.

What are some ways I can use learning analytics data from Context Cards?

Context Cards provide a quick and easy way to begin to assess a student’s performance and engagement with a course. For example:

  • if a student's grades need work, but the Context Card shows they are at the top end for engagement in the course, that might prompt an instructor to try and understand why that student’s effort is not translating into successful assessments.
  • Context Cards also offer an easy way to see if any particular student has late or missing assignments and to then email that student to remind them to turn in the assignment or find out why it is late. 
  • Additionally an instructor could use the listed last ten assignments to see if there are any concerning trends in a student’s performance, such as consistently decreasing grade performance.

How do I activate Context Cards in my course?

Context Cards pop-up whenever an instructor clicks on a student name in the People Tab. They are native to Canvas and do not need to be enabled or otherwise activated.

Canvas Quiz Logs

What are Canvas Quiz Logs?

Canvas keeps a log of each student’s interaction with a quiz. This log data offers general information and a broad picture of student’s interactions with the quiz. 

How should I use Canvas Quiz Logs?

The Canvas Quiz Log can be generally useful to understand variables such as how much time a student spent on a quiz, and can help you investigate problems that a student may have during the quiz. 

What learning analytics data can I access in Canvas Quiz Logs?

Quiz logs offer a chronological listing of a student’s activity in a quiz, such as:

  • when they started the quiz
  • when they answered questions
  • whether they stopped and resumed the quiz. 

What are some ways I can use learning analytics data from Canvas Quiz Logs?

If a student reports access problems or being cut off during taking the quiz, the data may help support the claim. 

Quiz log data is not recommended as evidence of academic integrity. The quiz log data are not exact in details of how and when students interacted with quiz questions. Therefore, this data cannot provide definitive evidence for exact interpretations of student behavior. 

How do I activate Canvas Quiz Logs in my course?

For more information about access to the Canvas quiz logs, review this Canvas guide:  How do I view a quiz log for a student?

Course Access Report

The Course Access report is an independently-designed tool that is not supported by Learn@UW-Madison.

What is the Course Access report?

The Course Access report is an independently-designed tool that allows instructors to tell how many times students have viewed or participated in a particular content item in Canvas. Since it is independently-designed it is not officially supported by the Learn@UW Team. 

How should I use the Course Access report?

Course Access reports are useful for a detailed look at a student’s engagement with a course and its materials. The reports provide a way for instructors to explore a student’s engagement more in depth than with other learning analytics tools. 

What learning analytics data can I access in Course Reports?

Course Reports provides an aggregated access report for all students that tells you how many times students have viewed or participated in a particular content item.

  • In the Student Course Access report, individual students are listed by name. 
  • The Anonymous Course Access report provides the same access data, but students' names are removed.

Information provided by these reports:

  • Type of content viewed (as an icon)
  • Name of the content
  • Number of times each student viewed or participated with the content
  • Time/Date each student last viewed (or participated) in the content.

What are some ways I can use learning analytics data from Course Reports?

The access data is provided in the form of a .csv file. To make the most use of this data, you will benefit from opening and using it in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel, or an analysis program such as R.

If you are using a spreadsheet or analysis program, some of the information you may be able to interpret includes:

  • Which course items have been accessed the most, or most recently
  • The level of access to course items you specify
  • Who participated (and how many times) in a course discussion 
  • Which students have not accessed an item

As with all learning analytics data, it is important to be aware of the limitations of the data. For example, Course Access reports can tell you when a student first accessed a piece of Canvas content and last accessed that same piece of content. It doesn’t provide information (other than a total number) for any other time they accessed that piece of content. Additionally, external links and third party tools in Canvas may not show up in the report.

How do I access Course Access reports in my course?

Course Access reports are available in the People tool in Canvas by clicking on the 3 dot menu icon on the top right of the screen. For step by step instructions on how to download a Course Access report, see Canvas - Exporting Student Course Access and Anonymous Course Access Reports