Timesaving Tips Using the Blackboard Grade Center

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Beginning with Blackboard 8.0, the former Gradebook has been rebuilt and includes many new features for managing student grades and feedback. Here are a few timesaving tips for using the newest features in the Blackboard Grade Center.

  1. Hide unnecessary columns
    Blackboard by default adds several new columns to the the Grade Center, including: Username, Student ID, Last Access, and Availability. Hide the columns that you don’t want visible in default and custom views. How to: Click the down arrows next to the title of the column, then click Hide Column.
  2. Organize columns
    New columns added to the Grade Center are by default added at the end of the Grade Center, with Total and Weighted Total columns near the beginning. Reorder columns to a logical order, such as sequential order by due date. Note – The order in which students see their individual assignment scores in My Grades is the order of the columns in the Full Grade Center View. How to: Select Manage from the Action Bar, then click Organize Grade Center. Click and drag columns to reorder.
  3. Freeze columns (student names still visible when scrolling)
    Grade Center columns can be frozen in place so they do not move while scrolling through column data. Last Name and First Name columns are frozen by default. Freeze any additional columns that you desire to remain visible while scrolling. How to: Select Mange from the Action Bar, then click Organize Grade Center. Click and drag columns above the gray bar to freeze.
  4. Customize grading schema for automatically computing letter grades
    A grading schema can be configured to match the grading scale used to compute letter grades. Once customized, this grading schema can be applied to display a students individual assignment grade, running total, or even final grade as a letter. Apply your grading scaled for assigning letter grades to the grading schema. How to: Select Manage from th Action Bar, then click Grading Schemas. Click the Modify button for the existing Letter schema. Remove unneeded letter grade values, such as plus and minus grades, and adjust existing percentages of letter grades to match grading scale. Click the Submit button to save.
  5. Add custom categories and apply to grade columns
    Categories assigned to columns are included in students display to clearly identify the category that an assignment is applied to and can be used to easily sort columns in Smart Views. Add custom categories to match the types of assignments used to assess student learning. Then, when adding columns, assign a category to each column. How to: Select Manage from the Action Bar, then click Categories. Click the Add Category button and enter a name and description if desired. Click the Submit button to save.
  6. Shorten column titles by adding Grade Center display name
    In addition to the descriptive column name assigned to grade, a shortened Grade Center display name not exceeding 15 characters can be added that will display as the column header in the Grade Center. How to: When adding a new column, enter the shortened column title in the Grade Center Display Name box.
  7. Enter grades directly into cells
    Enter grades directly through the Grade Center spreadsheet. How to: Add a grade column and then enter the grades for students directly into the column cells. Click in a cell to add a score, then press the Enter key to save and move to the next row.
  8. Add due dates to grade columns
    In addition to tracking when a column was added, add due dates to columns corresponding to assignments with due dates. This provides a visual reminder to students in My Grades of when a given assignment is due and can be used to dynamically assign columns to a grading period. How to: When adding a column, click the option for Due Date and then assign the date.
  9. Provide feedback on any student scores
    Comments can be added to any score. Add comments to student scores when desiring to provide individual feedback or clarification on a score. Comments are visible to students in My Grades. How to: Enter the score in a cell. Then, click the down arrows and click Add Comment. Enter comments in the Feedback to User box. Optional Grading Notes can also be added available only for instructors and teaching assistants..
  10. Display score and percent or letter grade for the same item
    Once entering a student score as, a secondary display can automatically be also displayed, also showing the percentage or letter grade equivalent of the score earned. Add a secondary display to any column where this additional grade view would be helpful. The secondary display is only available in the Grade Center and not My Grades. How to: Click the down arrows next to the title of the column, then click Modify Column. Select the desired format of the additional grade display from the Secondary Display drop down menu.
  11. Exempt a grade for an individual student
    For a student who has a legitimate reason for missing an assignment, that score can now be exempted from the student’s cumulative grade. Notation that a score has been exempted is visible in the Grade Center and My Grades and can be reverted if needed. The original score assigned can also still be found. Exempt scores for students who aren’t required to makeup missing assignments. How to: Click the down arrows within a cell and then click Exempt Grade.
  12. Email students from the Grade Center
    The Email tool allows for sending emails to students or select students directly from the Grade Center. This feature is especially useful when desiring to email several students who have not turned in assignments. How to: Check the boxes next to the students you wish to email, then select the Email option from the Action Bar at the top.
  13. Create calculated columns
    In addition to adding standard grade columns, calculated columns can be added to provide additional statistical display information, including: Weighted Grade, Average, Total, and Minimum/Maximum values. How to: Select Add Calculated Column from the Action Bar at the top and then click the type of column you wish to add. Follow the prompts provided to configure the column and click the Submit button to save.
  14. Create customized “Smart Views”
    Smart Views provide the ability to categorize students into groups based on selected criteria. Once created and saved, these customized views of the Grade Center area available from the Current View drop-down menu within the Grade Center. How to: Select Manage from the Action Bar, then click Smart Views. Click the Add Smart View button. Enter a name for the view and then select the type of view, criteria, and any desired filtering. Click the Submit button to save.
  15. View Grade Center statistics
    View statistical information related to columns and students, such as average, median, and standard deviation. How to: Click the down arrows next to the title of the column, then click Column Statistics or click the down arrows by a student name and select User Statistics.
  16. View Grade Center history
    The Grade History feature provides a record of all changes which occur to grades within a course. Accidentally entering or changing the wrong student’s grade or inadvertently clearing a student’s grade can be identified and resulting grades reset. How to: Click the Grade History button in the Action Bar located near the top of the screen.
  17. Automatically drop the lowest grade
    An assortment of new grade computation features are available, including the capability to easily drop the lowest grade from scores within a given category. Columns containing scores must be assigned to the same category. How to: Click the down arrows next to the title of the Weighted Total column, then click Modify Column. Select the categories you wish to include in computing the weighted total grade and note the percentage weight for each category. Under Drop Grades for the category, enter 1 in the lowest grades box. Click the Submit button to save.
  18. Weight grades either proportionally or equally
    Grades can now be weighted either equally or proportionally. Weighting proportionally will accommodate instances where assignments within a given category have different point values. Click the down arrows next to the title of the Weighted Total column, then click Modify Column. Select the categories you wish to include in computing the weighted total grade and note the percentage weight for each category. Choose Proportionally for any categories in which the assignment values vary. Click the Submit button to save.
  19. Print/run reports
    Printable reports, like a progress report, are available. How to: Click Reports in the Action Bar and define the report data. Click the Preview button to preview the report or the Print button to print. Reports pring the data for one student per page. Reports can be customized in a variety of ways, include report header and footer information.

A printable version of these tips is available at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/tips.shtml

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