Why Post Grades on Blackboard?

Did you see the article “Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes” by Max Roosevelt in the 18-Feb-2009 NY Times? The article asserts that students are feeling more entitled to high grades than in years past.

I made a small change about five years ago that significantly reduced the number of end-of-semester grade disputes. I wonder how many of my colleagues do the same. It’s simple: after every graded assignment—homework, quiz, project, exam, presentation, whatever—post the student grades on Blackboard (see the “Grade Center” in Blackboard 8.0’s control panel, formerly called “Gradebook” in version 7.0).

At all times during the semester, students can check their running tally. And they do. The C and B students who would otherwise fight at the end of the semester now know where they stand from day 1. Rather than holding a discussion at the end of the term, we talk about how the student can meet my standards months earlier.

I know students can keep their own running tally as we hand back every graded assignment—they don’t need Blackboard for this information. But by posting their grades, we communicate transparently our understanding of their performance, as well as any assignments that are missing. In addition to the student’s individual scores, the student also sees class statistics (mean, std. dev., high, low, etc.). It’s also a good “quality inspection” to eliminate grade book errors. (What, you never entered an 87% as a 78%?).

There are some downsides. First, it takes five or ten extra minutes per assignment to upload a grade spreadsheet into Blackboard, and entering the grades directly into the Blackboard grade book is not much better due to a gludgy interface. Second, some students obsess about their grades resulting in two issues: being hounded with emails 48 hours after an assignment was collected (where’s my grade?), and an apparent gradebook-checking obsession among some (if only they would dedicate as much energy to the readings).

This entry was posted in Communicating and Managing Expectations, Grading, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why Post Grades on Blackboard?

  1. Veena Oldenburg says:

    I get a lot of requests to ‘curve’ the grade, and frankly I have never done it because I have no idea what a curve means in this sense. I am told that a lot of professors do this–and I am not impressed. I do post grades on Blackboard and I give them a chance by dropping one quiz–their worst mark–from their total. (I usually let the total run to 120 points and then drop one quiz worth 20 points to get back to a hundred. This has minimized disputes. I also give 3 points of extra credit for a book review. This is a pure headache for me to check that the review is indeed their own–i set the review as a question, rather than a general review, and that salvages a few bruised egoes at the end of the term.

  2. Tomasello says:

    With Bb 6.3, during the semester I would sort the grades from low to high, move the list of names out of the frame, then project the grades on the screen for all the class to see. The students who had few total points could see that someone else in the class was running a perfect or above-perfect score (with extra credits) and that even with a curve, they were doomed if they didn’t make up the points but fast. Bb 8.0 is a bit difficult to manipulate this way.

    But with my Bb 6.3 show, there were never any grading complaints.

  3. susan chambre says:

    I think that Will’s comments are very helpful.

    They stimulated one idea: to give midsemester in-class performance assessments so students can get a sense of how they are doing.

  4. WMillhiser says:

    A follow up: Having used BB 8.0 for a semester, it’s my opinion the new “Grade Center” is better in some ways, worse in others. One improvement is the ability to email individual students directly from the Grade Center. For example, suppose you want to email everyone who received less than 70% on an assignment. In the previous BB, this was a two-step process: find the names in the grade book, remember those names, and then go to the “Send Email to Select Users” module. Now, you simply sort the grade book by any column and click a check box next to the appropriate names.

    The biggest Grade Center setback in BB 8.0? The upload grades feature. To upload grades from a spreadsheet, BB now requires a 20-digit number to identify each student. However, MS-Excel’s 16-digit precision wipes out 4 of these 20 digits if you are not careful. (Kevin Wolff in BCTC can explain how you download into Excel as text so that this does not happen.) I know CUNY seems large, but do we really need to uniquely identify 10^20 = 100 quintillion students? 🙂 C’mon folks at Blackboard, this is poor design.

  5. WMillhiser says:

    And one more follow up: in today’s WSJ is an article about a related, though broader issue, “Data-Driven Schools See Rising Test Scores”, 12-June-09, p. A1. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124475338699707579.html) It seems that posting grades on BB pales in comparison to some of the ambitious use of technology at certain high schools. Not endorsing; just sharing.

Comments are closed.