Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 1: Getting Ready


This tutorial series is designed to assist faculty who are just starting to use the Blackboard Grade Center to keep track of student grades.  While this series may be helpful to faculty who are teaching a fully online course, this series is written specifically for faculty who are using Blackboard as a supplement to their face-to-face course.

A little background….  If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m the Blackboard admin for Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ.  Recently, we made Blackboard available to all courses, and as such, we’ve seen an influx of faculty who are hoping to use the system to track student grades.  These tutorials are designed to assist those faculty who are new to Blackboard to configure and use the Grade Center tool to track student performance in their classes.

The series will contain 6 tutorials:

  1. Getting Ready (this post): Introduces the series, explains the concepts being covered, and outlines exactly what faculty will need before getting started.
  2. Initial Setup: How to set up assignment categories in Blackboard and how to create Grade Center columns for individual assignments.
  3. Do The Math (Calculations): Provides step-by-step instructions for setting up calculated columns in Grade Center.
  4. Tweaks: Using Column Organization and adjusting column visibility to improve usability of the Blackboard Grade Center.
  5. But Wait, There’s More!: Other tools that enhance the use of the Grade Center.
  6. Uh-Oh! (Troubleshooting Grade Center Issues): Common Grade Center issues and their solutions.

Now that I’ve got the pesky little introduction out of the way, let’s cover the first part…

Are you ready to get ready?

Before you set out to tackle your Grade Center configuration in Blackboard, you need to have a solid grasp on how your Grade Center will be configured.  It’s much more complicated to retrofit a Grade Center due to poor planning than it is to take the time, map it out, and configure it correctly from the start.  So save yourself the headaches and confusion of trying to fix it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Pick one:  Points or Percentage?  Decide if you’re using a Points or Percentage based Grade Center.  You can’t mix and match here.  It has to be one or the other.
    1. In a points-based system, students start with 0 points and with each completed assignment, accumulate points throughout the semester.  High stakes assignments (like mid-terms or finals) will be worth more points than weekly quizzes or homework assignment, and that can be controlled on the assignment level.  So, if the homework for Week 6 is more complex and more deserving of value than the homework assignment for other weeks, you can just make it worth more points.EXAMPLE:
      • Attendance (30 class meetings at 1 point per meeting) = 30 points
      • Homework (except Week 6) (15 assignments at 10 points each) = 150 points
      • Week 6 Homework (1 assignment worth 20 points) = 20 points
      • Quizzes (10 quizzes at 10 points each) = 100 points
      • Research Paper (1 paper worth 100 points) = 100 points
      • Mid-Term Exam (1 exam worth 50 points) = 50 points
      • Final Exam (1 exam worth 150 points) = 150 points
      • MAXIMUM SCORE: 600 points
        • A = 540-600 points
        • B = 480 – 539 points
        • C = 420 – 479 points
        • D = 360 – 419 points
        • F = 359 or fewer points
    2. In a percentage-based system, categories are clearly defined and assigned specific weights.  The sum of all percentages must be 100%.EXAMPLE:
      • Attendance = 5%
      • Homework = 15%
      • Quizzes = 10%
      • Research Paper = 25%
      • Mid-Term Exam = 15%
      • Final Exam = 30%
  2. Once you’ve made a decision, write it out!  As outlined above, your grading system should be clearly elaborated.  Blackboard’s Grade Center doesn’t handle nebulous concepts well, so make sure you’ve got everything written down.
  3. If you’re using extra credit or are dropping lowest x grades in a particular category, make sure you make special note of this, as they will come into play later.  (I’ll be handling Extra Credit in the “Do the Math” post in this series.)
  4. Assignments for each category (Percentage-based systems):  All of these wonderful categories are useless if we don’t have any assignments in them!  Make sure that each graded assignment in the course belongs to one (and only one) defined category.
  5. A syllabus with a clearly defined grading system that matches the Grade Center configuration:  Your Grade Center and your Syllabus MUST MATCH.  If you provide students with one grading configuration in the syllabus, but use a different one in the Grade Center, you are begging for problems.

Now what?

In the next installment of this series, I’ll be discussing how to put this all into Blackboard for the first time.

Thanks for stopping by, and as always, questions, comments, concerns, or (gentle) criticisms are welcome.




3 thoughts on “Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 1: Getting Ready

  1. Pingback: Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 2: Initial Setup | Rodney's Corner

  2. Pingback: Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 3: Do the Math! (Calculations) – Rodney's Corner

  3. Pingback: Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 4: Tweaks – Rodney's Corner

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