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.

New Webinar: Create a Turnitin Submission Point

The E-learning Group will be running a webinar on Wednesday February 6th at 3pm. In this webinar, the E-learning Group will be demonstrating how to set up a Turnitin submission point and all the optional settings that are available to you.

It is quick and easy for you to join the webinar – you can do so from your own office, all you need is an Internet connection. First, book on the webinar by going to the course booking page which can be found here. You’ll then be sent an Outlook Meeting appointment which you can add to your calendar. When it’s time to join the webinar, you can do so by double-clicking the link on the meeting appointment. Alternatively, you can join the webinar by clicking on this link here.  The webinar will be recorded and made available to staff after the session.

The webinar will be using Skype for Business. For more information on Skype for Business, please see this guide available here.

If you have any questions about the webinar, email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

E-learning Support for Learning and Teaching Activities

The E-learning Group hope you had an enjoyable break over holiday period. As we begin to enter into the examination period, we thought that it would be useful for us to identify what support is on offer for colleagues who provide administrative support for learning and teaching activities.

Our FAQ, What FAQs are useful for providing administrative support for E-learning systems?, might be a good starting point. This is a FAQ designed specifically to bring all our FAQs pertaining to administrative support together so that you are able to find an answer to your question as quickly as possible.

In addition to our FAQs, we also have E-learning Guides available on our webpages. These guides are designed to guide you through the entirety of a process from beginning to end and are useful for those who would like to gain an understanding for a whole process. We’re also happy to meet you face-to-face and of course we provide help and support over the phone and via email. We’re also happy to provide training to yourself and your colleagues. If you and your colleagues would like to request a training session, just get in touch. There may also be some training sessions that you will find useful. Our full training programme for 2018/19 can be found on our webpages.

elearning@aber.ac.uk

01970 62 2472

www.aber.ac.uk/en/is/it-services/elearning

E-learning Blog

 

Training and Support

This year’s E-learning Training programme is well underway. You can book onto our training sessions via the CDSAP booking pages. This year, our training is split into 3 different levels so that the training that we are offering you meets your needs.

Our first level is E-learning Essentials. These sessions are aimed at people who have not used the systems before or who would like a refresher. A key aim of these sessions is to ensure that participants are able to adhere to the University’s policies. Whilst these sessions are technical, we ensure that there is always a view as to the pedagogical rationale surrounding them. Following this, our next level is E-learning Enhanced. The idea of these sessions is to begin to explore innovative ways in which you can use the E-learning software to support your learning and teaching. Our final level is E-learning Excellence. These sessions support the development of innovative approaches to technology-enhanced learning.

There are a couple of new sessions that we would like to draw your attention to:

  • What can I do with my Blackboard course? In this session, we will be looking at the interactive tools that can be used in Blackboard to enhance learning and teaching. There’s a special version of this session on 13th December specifically looking at how Blackboard can be used for Distance Learners.
  • Introduction to Skype for Business. This session will look at Skype for Business and how you can make use of it to create a virtual classroom. We will go through setting up the Skype for Business meeting and the interactive
  • Using Panopto for Assessments. Panopto is the University’s Lecture Capture Software. In addition to recording lectures, Panopto can also be used for assessments. This session will look at how you might use Panopto for student assessments.
  • Teaching with Mobile Devices. We will look at how you might use mobile devices in your teaching. As well as using mobile devices to teach, we will also look at ways in which you can use polling software to increase interactivity in your teaching sessions.

We’ll also be running sessions on the Component Marks Transfer tool that allows marks to automatically feed through from Blackboard into AStRA which may be of use to those who manage this process.

Our sessions are participatory and interactive. If you would prefer a one-on-one version of our sessions, or if you have any specific requirements, then please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Access to E3 Aber Academy has also changed. In order to access the E-learning Training Room, enter the Hugh Owen Building via the Language Labs on Level B. Proceed up the stairs until you reach Level E. You will need your Aber Card to swipe to let you in. E3, the E-learning Training Room, is just down the corridor on the right hand side.

Planning Downtime

Downtime on the systems we rely on is never popular. Making the decision about when to take Blackboard out of service is one of the hardest parts of our job. Juggling the different areas of work at the University as well as making sure that all the relevant parties are consulted takes a lot of time. We try to avoid finishing maintenance on Fridays – it’s best that problems don’t emerge over the weekend when support staff aren’t here. Equally, we don’t do work during University closed periods (it’s hard to seek assistance from software companies as they’re often on holiday too).

We try to fix a date – we crosscheck with other commitments at team, departmental and University level. There are times we have to avoid – any time during teaching (including the PGCE students who start earlier and finish later than others, as well as those doing Distance Learner or Lifelong Learning Courses). Also, any time that students need to revise or Blackboard is needed for exam purposes is out.  Once we think we’ve found a suitable date, we ask a smaller group of individuals what they think – Faculty Registars, Senior Managers, Academic Registry and other key contacts. If they spot a problem then we begin again.

When the date is confirmed, we begin advertising the downtime. We will always put a message on a banner in Blackboard, use the Weekly Email and Information Services’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.

So we don’t organise into Blackboard downtime lightly. We ask people, we tell people, we plan it and we do our best to minimise its impact. We don’t always get it right for everyone, but we do our very best to balance all the competing demands of a complex institution.