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BLOG: Using Canvas Quizzes for Summative Assessments

"Student evaluations indicate that they like quizzing as a means of gauging their progress, revision and ongoing study."

aerial view of mixed study group sitting at a round table with books, notepads, laptops, etc

A blog by Dr Katherine MA Rogers, Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery.


Student evaluations indicate that they like quizzing as a means of gauging their progress, revision and ongoing study. As a Senior Lecturer in bioscience education at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, I have been using multiple choice questions (MCQs) in summative assessments of bioscience subjects (anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology) for over 10 years.

Running summative assessments remotely and using Canvas Quizzes for the first time during the pandemic was daunting! Yet, since May 2021, I have coordinated 1543 summative assessments, taken as MCQs in Canvas Quizzes. As we prepare for a new academic year, I thought it was timely to share my experiences of using Canvas Quizzes for summative assessments – perhaps this might provide colleagues with some ideas as they plan for the new academic year:

  1. Practice, practice, practice – for students and staff. I spent a lot of time playing around with the Quiz function in Canvas. For staff this involves setting up Question Banks and Quizzes, creating different types of questions, and becoming familiar with the intricate (and sometimes obscure!) settings in Canvas Quizzes. For students – they should be encouraged to use Quizzes throughout the module to become familiar with the system in the exam setting.

  2. Know your assessment platform! Being very familiar with how Canvas Quizzes worked helped me to anticipate problems and answer student questions quickly. By now, I am on first name terms with several of the excellent QUB Canvas Support Team! I also created a set-up checklist which helped me to ensure I had all parameters covered for my first official exam in Canvas Quizzes.

  3. Ask students what they would like. Based on the student feedback, I set up several versions of a mock exam: timed and untimed, single attempt quiz and multiple attempts quiz. This allowed students to take ownership of how they used the Quizzes in their revision and exam preparation. Untimed quizzes work well early in the module, whereas students prefer timed quizzes closer to the exam to help with final preparation. I usually advise students take the "single attempt" version first – this gives an accurate snapshot of their existing knowledge and understanding; they should return to the “multiple attempts” version as their revision progresses to gauge how they are improving. Student feedback consistently indicates that they like this style of resource.

  4. Provide plenty of guidance, through a variety of media, well in advance – checklists, screenshots, live videos (but keep these quite short). I have screencast videos of accessing the exam under exam conditions, navigating the system and how we review the exam – in real-time (while the exam is underway) and for post-exam scrutiny and moderation. The videos are stored in Mediasite, and I use them for all my modules. Links are provided with the exam information in Canvas and students find these very useful as part of their preparation for the exam.

  5. Be transparent with students – show them what we see within Canvas Quizzes and how we use the system for post-exam scrutiny (see point 4).

  6. Mimic exam conditions in practice sessions. This also links with point 4. Towards the end of the module, I gave surprise Quizzes in class that were scaled-down versions of the final exam (in terms of time and question number but with different questions). Students really liked these practice Quizzes and despite being a surprise, asked me to do more.

  7. Put exam questions into a separate Question Bank and set up a new Question Bank for each new exam. I am a hoarder(!), so I like the idea of always having the exact exam questions saved separately. This way, you will always have a record of the questions for the specific exam sitting, and it allows for precise statistical analysis of the cohort performance.

  8. Keep a summative exam quiz unpublished for as long as possible. For security reasons, I left it until the day before the remote assessment to publish my first exam in Canvas Quizzes; I also left it until the day before to link the Question Bank to the exam. This is perhaps a controversial approach – and I would love to hear others’ thoughts on it – but at the height of remote assessment in 2021, it felt like the “safest” way to ensure security and exam integrity.

  9. For remote assessments, keep a live, open channel of communication during the exam. On the night before the first remote online exam, I had a brainwave: open an MS Teams meeting during the exam as a direct line of contact to me! No one needed to use it for technical issues, but several students joined at the end to discuss the exam. They were very positive about the reassurance it provided during the exam. Obviously, this is irrelevant when holding exams on-campus, but in the absence of proctoring or formal invigilation, it is an option for live, online remote exams.

  10. From the beginning of module, treat an online exam the same as a traditional exam. For staff, using Canvas Quizzes requires significantly more pre-planning than a paper exam, so the time required to write robust questions, as well as setting up the exam, should be factored into module planning by the teaching team. Students need to be in the mind-set that an online exam is as “important” as any other assessment – whether online or on paper, and irrespective of exam location (remotely or on campus).

Using Canvas Quizzes for assessment was a steep learning curve… and I am still learning! I use the quizzing function regularly from the outset in all my modules, and when the new release of Canvas Quizzes goes live no doubt there will be more learning, and hopefully even greater functionality!

If you are using Canvas Quizzes for summative assessment and would like to discuss further, just get in touch ( By working together and sharing our collective experiences, we can make the best use of the platform to benefit all our students!


Photo: Dr Katherine MA Rogers, Senior Lecturer
Dr Katherine MA Rogers, Senior Lecturer
School of Nursing and Midwifery