This document describes a scenario by which students can access classmates' assignment uploads and submissions in Canvas courses that use self sign-up groups. Instructors should use caution when enabling self sign-up groups for graded assignments.
Canvas allows instructors to set up self sign-up groups for student projects. By default, students can join or leave self sign-up groups at any time, and other group members will not be notified of the changes.
When used in conjunction with group assignments, this creates a situation where students can view other groups' assignment uploads (partial work before submission) as well as full submissions. For instance, a student could join a group without others in the group knowing, view any uploads or submissions that occurred within the group, then leave the group, using the material they viewed as a basis for their own work.
UW-Madison Canvas administrators do not have a mechanism to view a historical log of group enrollments. This means that we are unable to provide information about group enrollment changes after the fact. As a result, we strongly suggest using one of the workarounds described below.
This issue affects any courses that enable self sign-up groups for group assignments.
Instructure does not currently have plans to address this issue. However, suggested functional improvements have been submitted to Instructure via an "idea" on the Canvas Community. Upvoting this idea will demonstrate a strong demand for these improvements, so we encourage you to do so.
To allow students to create their own groups for group assignments, instructors can impose a deadline for enrolling in self sign-up groups:
- Create the group set that will be used for the assignment and check the "allow self-sign up" option.
- Let students know that self sign-up is enabled and give them a deadline for finalizing their groups and signing up in Canvas.
- After the sign-up deadline, disable self sign-up by editing the group set and unchecking the "allow-self sign up" option.
- Set the assignment to go live after the sign-up deadline. You can do this by setting the "available from" date ahead of time, or by waiting to publish the assignment until after the groups have been finalized.
Turning off the self sign-up option before the assignment is published eliminates opportunities for students to view other groups' submissions.