Evaluate an activity based on a predefined set of criteria

Rubrics are used to evaluate an activity or item based on a predefined set of criteria. They help ensure that activities and items are evaluated fairly and consistently.

Rubrics basics

You can create rubrics at the organization, department or course level. Rubrics are not automatically shared with all child org units below the org unit in which they were created in your organization's hierarchy. You must explicitly share them if you want them available to child org units. Rubrics created at the course level cannot be shared with other courses (you can create a rubric in a course template and reuse it in course offerings for that course template). If you don't want to share a rubric with all child org units, you can restrict who it is shared with on the New Rubric or Edit Rubric pages.

If you are using Competencies to evaluate users, we recommend you set up rubrics before you set up your competencies, learning objectives, and activities since you cannot create an activity without associating it with a rubric and you cannot assess whether a user has completed a competency or learning objective without assessing the associated activities using the rubric.


  • Your school district has a standard rubric for evaluating students' performance. The rubric assesses performance based on four criteria: Knowledge and Understanding; Critical Thinking; Communication; and Application of Knowledge. Students may achieve one of four levels for each criterion: Needs Remediation; Below Expectations; Meets Expectations; and Exceeds Expectations. The rubric clearly describes the characteristics of each level for each criterion.
  • You want to encourage your course participants to review and comment on each others' ePortfolio items. You create an informal rubric that allows course participants to evaluate the overall quality of a portfolio item using the following achievement levels: This Needs Work; Good Start; Nice Example; and Showcase Worthy.

Where can you use a rubric?

You can attach a rubric to any of the following course tools or activities:

  • Competencies
  • Discussion topics (Individual and Group)
  • Assignments (Individual and Group)
  • Brightspace ePortfolio
  • Grade items
  • Surveys
  • Brightspace Portfolio

Types of rubrics

There are two types of rubrics available for use:

  • Holistic Rubrics - Single criterion rubrics (one-dimensional) used to assess participants' overall achievement on an activity or item based on predefined achievement levels. Holistic rubrics may use a percentage or text only scoring method.
  • Analytic Rubrics - Two-dimensional rubrics with levels of achievement as columns and assessment criteria as rows. Allows you to assess participants' achievements based on multiple criteria using a single rubric. You can assign different weights (value) to different criteria and include an overall achievement by totaling the criteria. With analytic rubrics, levels of achievement display in columns and your assessment criteria display in rows. Analytic rubrics may use a points, custom points, or text only scoring method. Points and custom points analytic rubrics may use both text and points to assess performance; with custom points, each criterion may be worth a different number of points. For both points and custom points, an Overall Score is provided based on the total number of points achieved. The Overall Score determines if learners meet the criteria determined by instructors. You can manually override the Total and the Overall Score of the rubric. Controlling visibility of rubrics

You can control rubric visibility for learners. This is useful for preventing learners from using preview rubrics as answer keys for activities. For example, you can describe assessment expectations in assignment instructions, hiding the associated preview rubric. Once the assignment is graded, you release the graded rubric as part of the learner's assessment details.

Rubric visibility is controlled in two ways:

  • Administrators can set the default visibility of new rubrics at the org unit level.
  • Instructors can set the visibility of individual rubrics. Creating or editing a rubric includes the following options: Rubric is always visible to learners, Rubric is hidden until feedback published, and Rubric is never visible to learners.

Note: If an instructor attempts to publish a partially completed rubric evaluation, the partial evaluation dialog appears. By default, the Continue Grading option is selected and the instructor can tap ENTER to return to the rubric, or tap Publish Anyway to continue to publish the partial evaluation. This workflow ensures that there is a verification layer to reconsider their action and help prevent instructors from unintentionally publishing incomplete evaluations.

To indicate rubric visibility to instructors, rubrics that are hidden until feedback is published or rubrics that are never visible display an indicator in the Rubrics section of the associated activity. Visible rubrics do not display an indicator.

Note the following:

  • Feedback copied from hidden rubrics only displays for learners; it is not visible to instructors as they have access to the rubric. The visibility status of a rubric can only be changed at the rubric level, not at the activity level. For example, you cannot change the visibility of a rubric from an assignment.
  • Visibility is a property of a rubric and not an individual assessment. Rubric definitions and published feedback appear in the assessment tool where the rubric is used.

    Note: Starting with the June 2020/20.20.6 release, this includes Assignments and Grades. Other tools, including Discussions, Brightspace Portfolio, and Outcomes Progress will be updated to use rubrics in future Brightspace updates.
  • For individual and group discussions, an instructor assesses the rubric in the assess topic workflow. Upon saving the assessment, the rubric feedback is considered published.

Displaying rubric feedback in the Rubric experience

If you select the Rubric is visible to students, after the rubric feedback is published to the learner, they can see the rubric feedback and rubric definition on any page where the rubric is used.

For individual and group assignments, an instructor assesses the rubric in the assignment assessment workflow. Upon publishing or updating the assessment, the rubric feedback is considered published. To make changes after publishing rubric feedback, you can edit your feedback while it remains published (allowing learners to view any updates as you make them), or you can retract the published feedback to remove the rubric from the learner's view and then publish it again.

If you select Rubric is hidden from students, learners do not see rubrics or rubric feedback. However, if you select Include rubric feedback in overall feedback, the learner can see any feedback provided on the rubric as part of the criterion level feedback for the activity under the Overall Feedback heading in the Assignment tool and the Grade Tool. In the Learner's view, the rubric criterion title and description appear above each feedback item.

Note: The Include rubric feedback in overall feedback option should be selected when the rubric is attached to an activity or before the rubric is evaluated. This option cannot be turned on after there is an assessment against the rubric.

If you select Rubric is hidden from students until feedback is published, learners can see both the rubric and the feedback only after the feedback is published.

Displaying graded rubric feedback in Gradebook

As of the 10.8.2 release, a configuration variable allows you and your learners to see the rubric associated with an activity from Gradebook. For example, if a rubric is attached to a discussion, and you evaluate the rubric in Discussions, the results of the rubric are visible to the learner from the associated grade.

You can assess discussions or assignments from the corresponding tool, and the completed rubric displays in its entirety in the Gradebook (if the activity has a linked grade).

If this configuration variable is turned on, D2L recommends the following best practices:

  • If you previously associated a copy of a rubric directly with a grade, and filled out (or copied) your assessment of the rubric in the Grades tool, you should follow this new workflow: rubrics should only be associated with the activity (not the grade) and assessed in the activity (discussion or assignment). The rubric automatically displays in Gradebook.
  • If you previously did not use rubrics in Discussions due to the inability to display rubric feedback to learners, you can now start using rubrics in Discussions. Learners can now see the completed rubric in Discussions, as well as in the Content tool, where a discussion is included. If a discussion has an associated grade, learners can view it in Gradebook.
  • You should only associate a rubric with the activity being assessed. With this change, grade items that have rubrics directly associated with them can no longer be linked to activities. However, activities with associated rubrics can be linked to grade items.
  • Grade items that are considered independent and intended for offline grade or observational activities can continue to use rubrics. However, they cannot be associated with activities.

For detailed information on how this change impacts existing courses and additional rubric scenarios, visit Displaying Rubric Feedback In Gradebook (Community blog post).