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7 tips for using online gradebooks

June 13, 2012

Fill in the blank I am attending the joint Jasig-Sakai Conference in Atlanta this week, and the participants are a bewildering mix of programmers, tech support staff, faculty members, vendors, and more. One of the most practical session for me was presented by David Paul Lyons, an instructional technology specialist at Seminole State College of Florida. David did a great job of addressing “Common Pitfalls of the Sakai Gradebook and How to Avoid Them. ” Some of David’s ideas are specific to Sakai, but most are great general advice. The presentation was so good that I couldn’t wait to summarize it for you here:

  1. Avoid complicated grading schemes; if you can’t check it with a calculator, it’s too complicated
  2. Include all the important items; it’s easy to forget to click the option that includes a key grade in your calculation.
  3. Avoid decimals – rounding is inconsistent, so try to stick to whole numbers. Odd point value questions can yield a 100.1 point total, for example
  4. Grade with numbers – if you use percentages, the calculations become complicated
  5. Use categories – not only are they make displays easier for students to read, but they also have “super powers,” like the ability to drop the lowest grade
  6. Use weighted categories – don’t try to ‘fake it’ with specific point totals, like expecting a 10-point item to be worth 10% of the total.
  7. Zero out missing grades – an empty grade (blank or dash) is NOT the same as a zero. This is a HUGE concern; many people don’t understand the pitfalls!

If you’re at Notre Dame and you plan to stay with Concourse in Blackboard Vista, you may also want to check out Best Practices for using the Grade Book. A special tip o’ the hat to David Lyons for giving this article a reality check.

Image “Fill in the blank” by darkmatter on Flickr.

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