Use ‘what-if’ scores on Canvas sparingly

By Jonah Kramer | Staff Writer

We have reached the midpoint of the semester, signaling the arrival of midterms. Final grades seemed so distant at one point but are relevant now.

As students, it is important that we are mindful of our grades for a variety of reasons. However, the line between caring and obsessing over grades is thin, and Canvas’ “what-if” scoring tool can be a sign of obsession.

By unchecking the box on the right-hand side of Canvas’ grades tab, students can enter hypothetical grades for assignments to see what the resulting final grade would be. Final grades absolutely matter. We need to achieve certain grades in order to move forward in our programs of study, keep scholarships, get internships, graduate and earn jobs.

The Canvas what-if feature gives insight into what our grades could possibly be, as the name indicates, but it does not help us improve those grades. In fact, using the tool feeds into stress and pressure we may be feeling over our grades, and this fear will only negatively impact us on tests.

The tool certainly has value, and there are appropriate times to use it. In a little over a month, we will all be cramming for finals at a time when study prioritization is key. Canvas’ grade gadget can help us gauge which grades are movable and which are cemented, enabling us to divide up our study time reasonably.

At any other point in the semester, trying to calculate final grade possibilities is simply not beneficial. I myself am guilty of playing around with this tool, and all it does is shift my focus from learning to the grade. Grades matter and impact our lives in some pretty serious ways, but the whole point of them is to reflect the knowledge we gain from classes.

I have seen students using the what-if tool while a professor is lecturing. This action demonstrates a prioritization of grades over learning. Moreover, these students are focusing on what their grades might be at the expense of listening to instruction that will help them perform better on tests and consequently get better grades.

If we adopt a learner’s mindset by paying attention in class, completing assignments and preparing for tests, we have done all that we can do, and hopefully the grade will reflect our efforts. Sometimes material might just not click in our brains, resulting in a lower grade than we had hoped for, and that is OK.

One thing is for certain: Speculating and theorizing over the grade won’t raise the grade. If anything, entering random numbers into future assignments can actually lower the grade, if the opportunity cost is paying attention in class or studying.