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Commencement of Academic Activity in Canvas

Last Updated: Tuesday, 5/25/22 at 8:44 am

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is requiring institutions that receive federal aid to report commencement of student academic activity. In order to continue receiving aid, our university must document and report on the commencement of academic activity for students in each class, every term, including summer sessions. Additionally, if the commencement of academic activity is not verified, the student’s financial aid package could lead to a partial or complete loss of funds.  

Starting in summer 2022, UC San Diego instructors will be required to certify whether students have commenced academic activity in order to satisfy the requirement set forth by the ED. Per the ED, this certification should be done by the end of the second week of instruction in fall, winter, and spring quarters, and by the end of the first week of each summer term. A student only needs to be certified once per course, per term. 

Reporting commencement of academic activity

There are two options for verifying a student’s commencement of academic activity:

  1. The Academic Activity Tracking System ( - an electronic form that allows instructors to report commencement of academic activity by section.
  2. #FinAid surveys in Canvas - a choice of surveys that can be downloaded from Canvas Commons. Inserting and publishing a #FinAid survey into a Canvas course will automatically track students who fill out and submit the survey. Only one #FinAid assessment is needed per course.

This page will focus on the #FinAid Canvas survey option. Information about the Academic Activity Tracking System can be found in Blink's Instructor Info: Student Academic Information site.

About #FinAid surveys

The Teaching and Learning Commons' Digital Learning Hub created several surveys instructors can use for Commencement of Academic Activity reporting. These surveys free instructors from manually reporting on each student in their section(s).

Additionally, these surveys can help instructors get a better sense of where their students are and what the students wish to accomplish in the course. This is because candid responses are much more likely to be provided through a survey, as opposed to a class-wide discussion board. Engaging students in this manner can lead to better sense of community/belonging in the course.

The #FinAid surveys cover some of the following areas:

  • Prior Knowledge
  • Demographics
  • Curiosity
  • Technology Fluency

There are several factors instructors should keep in mind when making use of the #FinAid surveys:

Customize a #FinAid survey or create an assessment:

  • If using any of the Canvas Commons assessments, instructors can adjust the surveys, if desired
  • Or, instructors can use their own assessments
  • #FinAid must be included in the assessment’s name/title
  • #FinAid should not be removed or altered
    • Do NOT add parentheses or other characters around #FinAid

 Submission type:

  • If an assignment is being used instead of a graded survey, set the submission type to "Online" only.
    • Text entry or file upload are the preferred online submission options.
  • Other submission types will not work
  • Stick to the native Canvas tools
  • Third party tools, like Gradescope, will not work


  • The assessment must be gradeable and appear in the gradebook
  • The following Canvas assessment types will not work: practice quizzes, ungraded assignments, and ungraded surveys
  • A gradeable Canvas assignment can be set to not count towards the final grade
  • The assessment can be worth any number of points, including 0 points.
  • The surveys do not need to be manually graded by instructors or TAs

Submission period:

  • Student submissions are due by the end of the second week of the term
    • For summer terms, submissions are due by the end of week one
  • Students need to submit the assessment themselves
  • Marking a student's missing submission as completed or excused will not work
  • Failing to submit by the due date may lead to loss of financial aid award.

 Only one #FinAid assessment is needed per course.

How to import #FinAid surveys into your Canvas course

To download any of the #FinAid surveys, open your web browser and go to, then:
  1. Click on the Commons link in the Canvas global navigation bar (far left-hand side)
  2. If you have not done so already, authorize Canvas to access your Canvas profile and course
  3. On the Canvas Commons dashboard, click on the name of any survey that contain “#FinAid”
    1. If #FinAid surveys do not appear on the Commons dashboard, click on the Filter button
    2. Then, enable the “Only University of California San Diego Approved Resources” toggle.
  4. You can review the survey’s questions by clicking the Preview tab
  5. Click the Import/Download button
  6. Enable (add a check) to the course(s) needing the survey
  7. Click the Import into Course button
  8. A green success message should appear at the top of the page
    • It may take a few minutes for the survey to appear in the course
  9. Go back to the course homepage and click the Quizzes link in the course menu
    • We recommend that you add the survey to your Module page

Visual Aid

Visual representation of step-by-step instructions

Support for #FinAid Surveys

Faculty and students seeking clarification or status information on Commencement of Academic Activity should contact Financial Aid Services, or (858) 534-4480.

Instructors experiencing trouble with setting up a #FinAid survey in Canvas can contact EdTech Support,, or the Faculty Helpline at (858) 822-3315.