Low and High-Stakes Quizzes in Canvas

Low and High-Stakes Quizzes in Canvas

A meaningful and purposeful assessment paired with constructive feedback can help learners understand and address their achievement gaps and organize future learning. Canvas quizzes provide a way for instructors to deliver helpful feedback, assess and accommodate learning.

And remember, frequent graded assignments, in general, improve learning outcomes for students (Jones, n.d.). Even better – if these exercises are low stakes, they can improve learning outcomes without increasing student anxiety (Guskey, 2003)!

Low-Stakes Quizzes

Low-stakes assessments help students and instructors make valid inferences about whether or not learning has occurred without feeling pressured to achieve (for students) or judge achievement (for instructors). Low-stakes quizzes keep students and instructors honest about current progress and represent low-stress learning activities that aid concept and skill application and retention.

  1. Set up practice quizzes to provide abundant opportunities for no pressure, mindful quiz-taking experiences. Practice quizzes do not create columns in the course’s Gradebook.
  2. Provide plenty of feedback.
    • For low-stakes quizzes, allow students to see correct and incorrect answer indicators.
    • Provide feedback for correct and incorrect answers as well as general comments for select questions: specific and descriptive feedback explains precisely what students need to do in order to connect the dots in their learning.
    • Although it takes time to write good feedback, you will be able to re-use your quizzes in the next course iteration. Revisit your quiz feedback and quiz statistics frequently as it is key to learning and improvement.
Provide general answer comments
  1. Do not time low-stakes quizzes. If timing a low-stakes quiz is absolutely necessary, allow multiple attempts to emphasize the learning opportunities in the experience.
    • To aid the students who might achieve the desirable score without completing all attempts, keep the Let Students See The Correct Answers Only After Their Attempt option unchecked.If this option is checked, students are required to complete all attempts before viewing the quiz results.
  1. Be strategic about the value of your low-stakes quizzes: although they provide feedback and learning opportunities, to be taken seriously by your students low-stakes quizzes ought to be distributed throughout your course and assigned a reasonable weight.

High-Stakes Quizzes

High-stakes quizzes tend to be stressful for students and less effective than low-stakes quizzes. Frequently administered in proctoring centers to maximize quiz security and minimize instances of academic dishonesty, high-stakes quizzes are evaluative in nature, and results are used to determine final scores/rankings in the course rather than support learning.

  1. Plan to contact ISU’s Online Testing Center before the semester starts if you administer Canvas quizzes in a proctored environment. Check out the guidelines for setting up proctored quizzes.
  2. Maximize quiz security:
    • Create versions of the same quiz by using question groups to randomize the order and selection of questions for each student.
    • If shuffling answers, do not label them “A”,  “B”, “C”, etc.

      Example. What are the colors of rainbow?
      A. Blue
      B. Red
      C. White
      D. A and B, but not C (incorrect set-up: when shuffled, “White” may become A)
      D. Blue and Red, but not White (correct set-up)

    • Change the password/quiz access code frequently.
    • Opt to use the Lockdown browser, the tool that locks down the online testing environment in order to mitigate cheating.
  1. Time high-stakes quizzes thoughtfully as you set the quiz options.
    Quiz TimingA timed quiz specifies time allowed for completing an attempt, e.g. one hour. An untimed quiz does not limit time on an attempt.
    Quiz AvailabilityA time frame during which students can access and take the quiz. For instance, a quiz is available from Oct. 1 until Oct. 12. After Oct. 12 students will not be able to access and take the quiz
    Due DateThe exact time when a quiz is due. If the quiz availability is not set up, submissions after the due date are marked “late”.

  • In an untimed quiz, students can remain on the attempt indefinitely, until they choose to submit it. The attempt is only auto-submitted, when the quiz availability period is over.
  • In an untimed quiz, if the attempt has not been submitted, students can re-open the same attempt within the availability period with their previous answers saved and submit the attempt when ready. Students may also leave the untimed attempt running in their browser until they opt to make a submission. This explains why you might see long attempt times for some students in the quiz logs.
  •  In a timed quiz, as the time of an attempt draws to a close, Canvas makes an auto-submission on behalf of your students. To minimize problems, a timed quiz must be taken in one sitting.
  • The decision to time or not to time high-stakes quizzes may depend on where they are administered: in the proctored environment, such as
  • ISU’s Online Testing Center, you might avoid timing and opt for flexibility for all students. Or you might allow multiple timed attempts to give your students several opportunities to succeed in a non-proctored environment.

Provide reasonable academic accommodations for students with a documented disability:

Ensure all students are afforded fair grading: if your multiple choice quizzes are weighted very heavily, you disadvantage those students who might not be great test-takers.


Jones, S. (n.d.). A case for more testing: The benefits of frequent, low-stakes assessments. Michigan State University. Retrieved (February 8, 2021) from https://iteach.msu.edu/iteachmsu/groups/iteachmsu/stories/111

Guskey, Thomas R. (2003). How classroom assessments improve learning. (Using Data to Improve Student Achievement). Educational Leadership, 60(5), 6.