Speeding Up Grading with the SpeedGrader Annotation Tools

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Canvas provides a nifty tool to speed up your process of grading: SpeedGrader (an apt name). This tool allows you to annotate papers directly in the system instead of downloading them, marking them up, and re-uploading them into the system. You may have been using this tool since we made the switch to Canvas, or this may be completely new to you. Either way, let’s take a look at the Canvas annotation styles.

With each of these annotation styles, you can click a comment bubble on the right side of the paper to type out a note or explanation for each mark. We highly recommend you take advantage of this feature unless the mark on the document is truly self-explanatory. You wouldn’t have to add a note saying “add a comma” for a place where you manually drew in a comma. 

We’re not going to talk about the technical act of making each of these marks on the paper. We’ll leave that to Canvas’ excellent documentation on the subject, “How do I add annotated comments in student submissions using SpeedGrader?” Instead, we’ll talk about potential ways to use the annotation styles on the paper and which styles are best suited to your task. There is no rule that the marks must be used in this way – these are suggestions to serve as a jumping-off point and spark ideas for how to use them to suit your needs. 

Please note that the text of the sample paper will not make any sense – it’s all just coffee terminology-based filler text (aka “coffee ipsum). The important part is the examples of the kinds of annotations that you can use to fit your purposes. 

1. General comments on a document section 

Recommended tools: Point annotation, free draw annotation, area annotation

Recommended with reservation: Highlight annotation tool. This can easily be used for the same purpose; however, this only works well if there are no other marks you want to make on the selection. Overlapping marks can easily become confusing. 

Screenshot of three example comments on entire paragraphs in Canvas SpeedGrader. One paragraph has a point annotation dropped next to it and is marked with a comment. One paragraph has a hand-drawn bracket in its right margin and is marked with a comment. One paragraph is surrounded with a box and is marked with a comment.
Three examples of commenting on an entire section in SpeedGrader

2. Comments on a single word or phrase

Recommended tools: Highlight annotation, free draw annotation, strikeout annotation

Screenshot of three example comments on single words in Canvas SpeedGrader. One word is highlighted and marked with a comment to delete. One word is struck through and marked with a comment to delete. One word has a line drawn through it and is marked with a comment to delete.
Three examples of marking a single word or a phrase in SpeedGrader

3. Insert punctuation or text

Recommended tools: Point annotation, highlight annotation, free draw annotation

Screenshot of three examples of how to insert punctuation or text in Canvas SpeedGrader. Example one uses the point annotation with the tip between two words with a comment off to the side. Example two highlights the two words that need a comma in between them with a comment off to the side. Example three shows hand-drawn commas as well as the editing symbol (^) used to insert a handwritten word into the sentence. No comments are necessary with this last example because the marks are self-explanatory.
Three methods of inserting punctuation or text in SpeedGrader

4. Overall comments on a submission

Recommended tools: Point annotation, freetext annotation, free draw annotation

Note: this image contains examples of all three styles, but I typically choose one based on what space I have available at the beginning or end of a paper and stick with it. A handwritten comment done with the free draw annotation typically works best when working with a tablet and stylus. 

Screenshot of three example overall comments a submission in Canvas SpeedGrader. Comment 1 uses the point annotation dropped at the end of the last paragraph with the comment off to the right. Comment 2 uses the freetext tool to type out the comment to the student. Comment 3 uses the free draw tool to handwrite a comment to the student.
Three examples of adding an overall comment in SpeedGrader

Now that you’ve got some ideas percolating about the different ways to use these annotation tools, check out our previous post “The Four Types of Assignment Comments in SpeedGrader” for more information on those sidebar comments. 

How have you been using annotations in SpeedGrader? We’d love to hear about your techniques – share them in the comments below. 

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