Blackboard Grade Centre

The Blackboard Grade Centre is probably the most powerful yet underused part of a Blackboard module. Every Blackboard module has one, but how often do you use it and are you getting the most out of it? I’m a big fan of the Blackboard Grade Centre so I’m using this series of blog posts to introduce to some of the hidden features which could make your marking and assessment life easier.

The first post is about setting up the Grade Centre. Like many things, a little bit of thought and planning before you start goes a long way. Some advance organisational work will make your life a lot easier in the long run.

So, what sort of things should you consider?

  1. Organise before you create. Some features like categories and Marking Periods are added to columns when you create them. It’s useful to set these up first, rather than go back and edit afterwards (although that it is possible).
    1. Categories. There are built in categories for types of tools (e.g. Tests, Assignments ) etc. which are applied automatically when you create them. But you can also create your own. For example, you might want a category for Exams or Presentations. You can also do calculations based on the category of a column using the Calculated Column options. Blackboard help on Categories.
    2. Marking Periods. These are time periods for when the work is marked. This would be useful if you are putting a lot of marks directly into the Grade Centre for a long-thin module. You could have a Semester 1 and Semester 2 grading period and then filter by these so you only see the relevant columns. Blackboard help on Marking Periods.
  2. Do you need any additional columns? Anything that you can grade in Blackboard generates a Grade Centre column when you create it. So, if you have a Turnitin Assignment, graded Discussion Board or Wiki, you have a column in the Grade Centre already. If you want to store marks for presentations, exams, in-class tests, oral exams etc., you can create your own columns. Blackboard help on creating columns.
  3. Think careful when you name your columns (either manually created columns, or the ones created when you set-up Turnitin etc.). They should be meaningful and easy to understand which assessment component they relate to. This is especially important when mapping components for marks transfer. A common problem is two e-submission points both called Essay; make sure you use titles which make sense such as Essay 1 and Essay 2 or Nutrition Essay and Exercise Essay.
  4. Do you want to make any calculations or combine marks? AStRA takes care of the weighting of your assignments in the overall module mark calculations, but you may want to group together small assignments to make calculations or show to the students. For example, you might have a set of weekly tests that make up one component of your module assessment. To do this you can create one of the calculated columns. Blackboard help on Calculated Columns.
  5. What do you want the students to see? Most people know that you can hide Grade Centre columns to the students, but did you know that there is a Primary and Secondary Grade. This means that you can show the students a letter grade, or even that the work has been marked, without showing the grade. This is a way of giving feedback before the releasing a mark.
  6. Viewing and filtering. There are a number of ways you can organise your Grade Centre to help you see only the things you want to see. Depending on how many columns you have and what you need to do, one of the following might be useful:
    1. Smart Views and Favourites. You know the Needs Marking and Assignments items under Full Grade Centre in your menu? These are shortcuts that take you to filtered views of the Grade Centre. Did you know you can add your own shortcuts here, using categories or groups of students as the criteria? Blackboard help on Smart Views.
    2. Filtering. Like Excel spreadsheets it is possible to filter your view of the Grade Centre, to only certain sets of information. Blackboard help of filtering.
  7. Colour coding. This is my personal favourite. You can colour code the Grade Centre to quickly show which students are getting very high marks, and which students might need a little more help. This is particularly useful for tests which are marked automatically and you may not see the results straightaway. It provides you with a quick visual way of seeing who might need some further help. Blackboard help on colour coding.

The next instalment of this series will be marking and dealing with grades. If you want any help with setting up your Grade Centre, get in touch and we can go through your requirements and get you up and running.

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