Canvas - How to Create a Journal Assignment

Instructors can create a journal or log assignments by using Group Discussions with students assigned to their own Group.

Canvas does not have its own Journal tool, but you can create a similar experience for students using the Canvas Group Discussions feature.

Group Discussion assignments are simple to create and can provide students with a place to log their regular journal entries. Students will only be able to view their own journal, while you will be able to view all of the students’ journals, comment, and grade them as necessary (using SpeedGrader).

Journal assignments utilizing Group Discussions allow for flexible assignment schedules. You can setup a single journal that students update throughout the course, or you can create unique journal assignments for individual units. For example:

  • TV Viewing Log: Prompt students to track their television viewing habits. Students can log their weekly viewing by updating the same Group Discussion throughout the semester.
  • Mindfulness Meditation Log: Require students to post regular entries about their daily meditation practice.
  • News Analysis: Ask students to track a particular news story over an entire week and create daily entries in their Group Discussion. [This is a good example of a journal assignment for just one unit, instead of an ongoing journal used throughout the class.]
  • Lab Notebook: Direct students to post their notes after each session in the lab. You could require specific formatting, or even a scan of their handwritten notes.
  • Plant Growth Log: Ask students to track the growth of seedlings from seed to transplant.
  • Hypothesis Ideation: Prompt students with a phenomenon and ask them to research the literature for plausible hypotheses. Students will then track their ideas and any supporting literature they research in their journal Discussion. Consider pairing the journal assignment with a followup assignment that asks students to choose the most likely hypothesis, design an experiment they could use to test it, and explain how they would verify and control for it. 

Screenshot of a Journal Assignment in Canvas

How to Create a Journal Assignment Using Group Discussions

Step One: Create a Group Set

Before creating a Group Discussion, it’s important to first create a Group Set in your course, which will assign each student automatically to their own group. This will then allow each student’s individual group to post to its own discussion assignment, isolated from the other students in the course.

  1. Click People in the course Navigation toolbar.
  2. Click the yellow + Group Set button. [Visit this Canvas Instructor Guide for more information on creating groups.]
  3. Look for the “Group Structure” section and select the “Split students into groups with X students per group” option.
  4. Select one (1) student per group.
  5. Click Save.

Once Canvas finishes creating the requested Group Set, you can choose to rename each new group if you’d like them to match the name of the student assigned to that group. You can rename a group by clicking the three-dot icon next to it and then clicking the Edit link.

Screenshot of Create Group Set Window

Step Two: Create a Group Discussion

Now that you’ve created a Group Set for your journal assignments, you can create Group Discussions where the students will post. Each assigned student will respond to the same prompt in their own individual Discussion.

  1. Create a new discussion. You can do so by navigating to the Discussions tool or by creating a new discussion in Modules.
  2. On the new discussion’s Options page, check the “This is a Group Discussion” checkbox under the “Group Discussion” section.
  3. Select the Group Set you created for your journal assignments.
  4. Click Save after configuring any other settings, like Due dates, discussion threading, moderation, and whether the assignment will be graded.

Now you’ve created the journal Discussion and assigned it to students. If you’re using the Modules tool to organize your course, remember to add your new discussion to the necessary module.

Screenshot of Group Discussion Settings

For more information about Group Discussions and Group Sets, visit the Canvas guide linked below:

Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I create a group discussion?

Important Information for Students

When students post to their journal Discussion, they will click the Reply button to create a new timestamped entry.

You should include directions in the Discussion prompt that specify how often students should reply, what they should include in their entries, and how many times they’re expected to reply to that particular journal assignment. You should also remind students to post a new reply every time they update their journal, versus editing an older post.

Canvas Student Guide: How do I reply to a Discussion?

Need Help?

To learn more about creating discussion assignments in Canvas, visit the links below:

You can also email the UW-Superior Canvas team at

Keywordsjournal log assignment group discussion creating   Doc ID115546
OwnerNatasha S.GroupUW Superior
Created2022-01-07 15:04:14Updated2023-10-06 16:20:10
SitesUW Superior
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