Step 3: Add Materials and Set up Course
The Grade Center affords the opportunity to post not only grades associated with work completed within Blackboard, but also the addition of grades for work completed outside of Blackboard. Students can access their grades by clicking on the "My Grades" link in the Course Menu.
There are a number of settings you must review and/or configure before you use the Grade Center. It is recommended that you approach them in the following order:
- Create Categories
- Review and/or Create New Grading Schema
- Add Grade Columns to Add Manually Graded Assessments
- Add Calculated Columns
- Review and/or Configure the Total & Weighted Total Column Settings
- Organize Your Grade Center
- Organize Smart Views
By default, the Grade Center includes several predefined categories: Assignment, Blog, Discussion, Journal, Survey, Turnitin Assignment, and Test. These categories are automatically assigned to Grade Center columns that are created when you create a Blackboard assignment, blog, discussion board, journal or Turnitin Assignment and indicate it will be graded; or you create an online test or survey and deploy it in your course. You may create your own categories to correspond with different types of assessments for your course (i.e. Homework, Labs, Group Presentation, Research Paper, Extra Credit, etc.). You will want to create your categories before you create your Grade Columns so that you can choose the appropriate category to which to assign each new Grade Column. Categories can be particularly useful in organizing the Grade Center. You can sort the Grade Center by a Category (i.e. Labs), create an average grade column for a Category, weight by Category, and/or create a report for a Category. They also prove invaluable when weighting grades where you may assign a specific weight to a category of assessments (e.g. Quizzes), particularly if you plan to drop the lowest "x" scores. See How to Create and Manage Categories.
The Grading Center allows you to set both a primary and secondary display method for grades (i.e. Score/Letter Grade, Percentage/Letter Grade). The primary display is visible to both students and instructors. The secondary display is visible only to instructors. A Grading Schema outlines the percentage ranges that match percentage scores earned to specific grade displays. If you plan to use Letter Grades as one of your display methods, you must review the Blackboard default Grading Schema and/or adjust it to meet your specific letter grading scale. See How to Create Grading Schemas. If the intention is to show students a letter grade at the end of the semester, it is often easier to do that by simply manually creating a "Final Letter Grade" column where the primary display is set to "Text" and you manually enter a letter grade for each student.
Some items are automatically added to the Grade Center when they are added to the course (e.g. Blackboard assignments, blogs, discussion boards, journals, surveys, Turnitin assignments, and tests). Assessments not delivered within Blackboard must be manually added directly into the Grade Center by adding a Grade Column. See How to Create Grade Columns.
The Total Points Possible for an Extra Credit or Attendance Demerit column must be set to zero. There is no equitable way to weight Extra Credit or Attendance Demerits as columns in the Weighted Total. In order for Extra Credit or an Attendance Demerit to be applied in a Weighted Total, they must first be associated with a category that is being weighted. See How to Create an Extra Credit Column.
Calculated Columns afford the opportunity to combine the scores of a number of individual standard columns to create a new calculated column. Perhaps the most frequent use for a Calculated Column would be to take the scores of a number of quizzes, drop the lowest quiz score, and create a new Calculated Column for quizzes where the lowest quiz score has been dropped. See How to Create Total Column or How to Create Weighted Columns.
- The Total column should be used when the final grade is to be calculated on a straight point basis: total points earned divided by total points possible.
- The Weighted Total column should be used when the final grade is to be calculated by averaging the grade for items and/or categories and then multiplying that by a percentage for weighting. See Configuring the Weighted Total in the Grade Center.
Take a few minutes to review and configure either the Total or the Weighted Total column settings. It is recommended that you not show the total you are not using to your students. By default, both of these columns are set up to include All Grade Columns in their calculations and to calculate as a running total (including only those items with grades or attempts). If everything in your Grade Center is supposed to be included in the total, then everything should be in order for the Total column. In addition, if you have included manually added practice quizzes, for instance, that are not supposed to be included in the overall grade for the term, you will want to make certain that those columns are not included in the Total and/or Weighted Total column settings.
Note: If you are using the Weighted Total Column you must select either Percentage or Letter Grade to display the grade. If you display Score, the value will not appear to add up and will lead to confusion.
Note: When the Grade Center is set to calculate the Total or Weighted Total as a "running total," you must manually enter a grade of "zero" for any assessment a student does not complete, otherwise, that student's grade will be calculated against points possible, reduced by the points possible for the item not completed.
Once your Grade Center includes the columns you need with the grading preferences you have specified, you will want to organize it in order to view it in a way that meets your needs and your preferences. See About Organizing the Grade Center Data.
In addition to the standard Full Grade Center view, you may create your own Smart Views of the Grade Center.
- If you are teaching multiple sections of the same course in a single Blackboard class, you could create separate views of the Grade Center for each section of the class.
- If you have a student coming to discuss his or her grades, you could create a view that shows just that student's grades.
- If you wish to identify those students whose performance on an assessment was less than stellar, you could create a view of those students who scored beneath a certain benchmark
- Learn how to apply Smart Views in the Grade Center.
The "Needs Grading" screen provides quick access to all items in need of grading, rather than going to the Full Grade Center and having to hunt for items that need your attention. Attempts are placed in a queue for easy navigation among items.
To learn more, see About the Needs Grading Page.
There are a variety of ways that grades can be entered into the Grade Center. For electronic assessments delivered through Blackboard (tests, surveys, discussion boards, journals, blogs, wikis, assignments, Turnitin assignments), please refer to resources for those specific assessment tools for additional information. For manually created columns, users will simply manually enter grades.
To learn more, see Entering Grades.
It is strongly recommended that you periodically download your Grade Center as a back up, especially before and after you add grades (before in case there is an issue while you are adding grades and after as the backup). You can also use Excel to calculate grades and then upload those values to the Grade Center. When using Excel, you should set up your Grade Center in Blackboard first, then download that into Excel.
You can upload grades from external sources such as an Excel spreadsheet or a tab or comma separated value file. The data must be formatted very specifically to upload correctly and be synchronized with existing Grade Center data. It is strongly recommended that you download a copy of the Grade Center each time you wish to edit it in Excel to insure the proper formatting first, then manually enter your grading data before uploading the file back to the Grade Center.
There are several options available for dropping the lowest "x" grades for an assessment.
- Dropping a Grade by Exempting - Exempting removes the grade from the Running Total and the Running Weighted Totals columns but does not delete the grade information. Exempting grades requires you to manually search for the lowest grade for each students and manually exempt that one. An Exempted grade can be reversed. This option can be done directly in the cells of the Grade Center but can be time consuming with a large class. Exempting a grade is most useful when a student enrolls late in a course and you wish to exempt them from a graded assessment completed prior to the time they enrolled in the course. The total points possible for that student will be reduced by the points possible for the exempted assessment.
- Dropping a Grade using the Running Weighted Totals Column - If you are using the Weighted Total column to weight all the grades in your Grade Center, this is the option to use. Generally it is used when weighting by Category. When you select the Category to weight, you will see a setting allowing you to drop the lowest "x" grades.
- Dropping a Grade using a Calculated Column - If you are not using the Weighted Total, but using the Total (points) column, this is the option to use. You will be creating a Calculated Averaged Column to average the grades and drop the lowest. Then you will need to modify the Total column to include the Calculated Average column and not the individual columns that feed into that Calculated Average. It is up to your discretion as to whether or not to show this Calculated Average column to your students.
You can grade items in the Grade Center without viewing user information, provided of course that the student's submission does not include their name. The students appear in a random order without any identifying information to you (or your designated grader) for grading. Anonymous grading is helpful to reduce bias from an instructor or TA when grading. This option is available in the column header contextual menu on the Grade Center page.
Hiding columns in the Grade Center only hides them from the instructor's view, not from the students view ("My Grades"). If you don't want students to see a grade column, you must use Edit Column Information and select "No" beside "Show this column in My Grades." To hide the column from yourself in the Grade Center, you can do so from within Manage > Column Organization. Generally, it is better to delete a column if you are not using it, rather than hide it.
Note: If you hide a column in the Grade Center, you will have to show the column again before you can access it to check its settings and/or to make the column not visible to the students.
ITS recommends that faculty manually check the Total and/or Weighted Total column calculations for several students to verify that the columns have been configured to calculate correctly. See the ITS Troubleshooting Grade Center Issues tutorial for information you must know and steps to take when troubleshooting Grade Center issues.