David Stokowski

Tracking Partial Completion of Professional Development Courses

Blog Post created by David Stokowski Employee on Dec 17, 2019

In my work as an Adoption Consultant for Canvas, I often collaborate with stakeholders, designing solutions to help meet their needs. A recent situation came up as it relates to tracking completion of professional development courses. Most traditional professional development opportunities require full completion of content to be awarded appropriate credit. This is largely true in online PD courses as well; you must pass the whole course to earn the credits. I was recently working with a content provider who was tasked with creating professional development courses which will be used to earn continuing education credits issued by the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB). The challenge in the course design was that these courses will be running autonomously without a facilitator regularly checking in on user progress. In addition, full completion of these courses would result in earning multiple PTSB credits from Wyoming. However, the PTSB will award partial credits for partial completion of the course.  Below is the solution that I helped engineer so that autonomous courses could be easily checked at the end of their terms to award the appropriate amount of earned credits for each user, including those who didn’t fully complete the course.


The solution I proposed to the content provider revolved around two Canvas components: Modules and Quizzes. Before we begin creating Modules, it should be noted that this solution requires the course be graded using a points-based system that is not weighted by grading category. Once we start creating the content, Modules are used to chunk the content into pieces allowing the participants to complete as few as 15 minutes of content in one sitting. Requirements were used in the Modules such that content was to be completed in a specified order, with the final element in the content chunk being a Quiz (or New Quiz). Multiple Quizzes could be used in a given Module.


Using Quizzes was the most important piece of this solution, specifically using questions which will autograde, so the course would be left to run without frequent intervention. The point value of the Quiz at the end of the content chunk was set equal to the number of minutes the designers anticipated the users should have spent on that content chunk. For example, if the designers determined the users should spend 45 minutes on a Module related to autism and education, the Quiz (or Quizzes) at the end of the Autism Module should be worth a total of 45 points. The questions in the Quizzes could be related to the content in the preceding pages, videos, etc., or simply be one true/false question where the user certifies that they have completed all the content in the Module. At the end of the course, the number of points earned should be equal to the number of minutes spent in the course. The Gradebook can then be exported as a CSV by selecting on Actions in your Gradebook, followed by Export. This will automatically create the CSV file and download it to your computer.

Image showing how to export the Canvas Gradebook to a CSV.



A Google Sheet has been created to help illustrate the following scenario (click here for a copy). (NOTE: The students in this example are fake students from my personal Canvas instance...no FERPA violations have occurred!) A course was designed to be worth two credits, which is equal to 28 hours (1,680 minutes) of content. In Wyoming’s case, the PTSB awards a half credit for every 7 hours of completed PD. The “Final Points” column from the CSV download of the Gradebook contains the points earned (minutes spent) in the course. The content to the right of that column was added to show how credits can be calculated using the “TRUNC” function (same function name and syntax in Excel). In this example, many users completed the course (1,680 points), and would earn the full two credits. Even those who didn’t complete the entire course would still earn a half credit for each 7 hours (420 minutes) completed! 


I’d love to hear what methods have you found to help track completion of Canvas courses. professional development or otherwise! Feel free to reply with your engineered solutions and/or any other comments in the space below. In the words of the ever wise Red Green:


Red Green Meme: "Remember I'm pulling for you, we're all in this together!"


--David Stokowski

Canvas Adoption Consultant