This is the second in a six-part series on the Blackboard Grade Center.
In the first installment of this series, I discussed what needs to be in place BEFORE setting up a Blackboard Grade Center. Once you’ve completed those steps and have a clearly defined Grade Center configuration, you’re ready to dive into Blackboard and make your vision a reality!
Just a couple of notes before we get started…
First, this guide is intended for faculty who don’t teach online and who are using Blackboard as a supplement to their face-to-face courses. While the steps are the same, faculty who teach online will notice that their Grade Center is populated by columns for discussions, assessments, and assignments as they are created, so they won’t see the tabula rasa that I demonstrate below.
Second, the examples I use are from our Blackboard system at MCCC. Your Grade Center may include different columns by default or may have a different color scheme. Disregard all of that. The concepts are still the same.
To access the Blackboard Grade Center, log into Blackboard (duh), go to the course you’ve been assigned and click on “Grade Center” in the course menu on the left-hand side of the screen. From the menu that will appear, select “Full Grade Center.” This will load the complete Blackboard Grade Center.
When you first start out, there isn’t a whole lot to see. Just some buttons across the top and some column headings. Not very exciting, right? Fear not. It will become quite exciting in short order.
SOME INITIAL HOUSEKEEPING
If you look at the section where your actual grades will go, the only two columns that would contain grade data are the default, pre-generated, WEIGHTED TOTAL and TOTAL columns. Before we go any further, let’s get rid of You’re only going to need one of them, so let’s get rid of the one we’re not using.
If you’re using a POINTS based grade center, DELETE the WEIGHTED TOTAL column. To do this, click on the arrow at the top of the column (that arrow shall henceforth be known as the “action arrow”) and select “Delete Column” from the menu.
If you’re using a PERCENTAGE based grade center, delete the TOTAL column, but this is a little trickier, as the TOTAL column is configured as the “External Grade” by default. Basically, the “External Grade” column is the one that has been designated to represent the final grade for the course and there can only be one of those (obviously). Also, you can’t just go around deleting the final grade column, so you must remove the “External Grade” designation from the column before you can delete it.
To designate the WEIGHTED TOTAL column as the “External Grade” column, click on the action arrow for the WEIGHTED TOTAL column, and select “Set as External Grade” from the drop-down menu.
Now that we have the WEIGHTED TOTAL column designated as the External Grade for the Grade Center, we can remove the unnecessary TOTAL column from the grade center. Same as above, click on the action arrow for the TOTAL column, and click the “Delete Column” link from the bottom of menu.
Using the examples I created in the first installment of this series, we’re going to create some categories for the Grade Center. That category configuration looked like this….
Ultimately, these categories will be configured in the “WEIGHTED TOTAL” column, but before we can do that, we need to create the categories in the Grade Center. To do this, hover your mouse pointer over the ‘Manage’ drop-down button (just above the row of column headers we were just working with), and from the drop-down menu that appears, select “CATEGORIES”
Once the “CATEGORIES” screen loads, you’ll find that seven pre-defined categories are already waiting for you. The categories can be used for calculations, but they cannot be deleted or edited. They can, however, be ignored, which is what I’m going to do in this tutorial. You see them in the image below, but I will not be using them for this tutorial. You can use them if you’d like. There’s no harm in doing so, but for the purposes of this tutorial, I thought it better to create fresh categories that specifically match the grading breakdown above.
Creating one’s own categories is quite simple. Just click on the “CREATE CATEGORY” button, then provide a name and (optional) description for the category, then click the ‘SUBMIT’ button.
Once you’ve created the category, you’ll be taken back to the main CATEGORIES screen, where you can repeat the process above to create all the categories for the course.
Once you’ve finished the process, it will look something like this. Take a moment to marvel at your work, then click on the “OK” button to move on to the next step.
For instructors who are inheriting a course or who already have content configured inside their Blackboard shell, you may find that you already have columns configured in the Grade Center. For this tutorial, we’re working with a tabula rasa, in which there are no pre-configured assignments. But I wanted to mention it just in case your Grade Center looked a little different from mine.
Now that we’ve created grading categories as outlined in the syllabus, it’s time to move on to create columns for each graded activity in the course. You can add columns during the semester as you come up with new assignments, or you can manually add them all at once prior to the start of the semester.
PLEASE NOTE: If students are submitting work in the Blackboard environment (to an Assignment, Test, or Discussion Forum) then those individual elements will automatically have Grade Center columns generated when you create them. This tutorial assumes that students will be handing in work in class and not submitting it via Blackboard. In the end, it all works out the same way, but I wanted to mention that so that you didn’t manually create a column for something that already had a column automatically created by Blackboard.
FOR A GRADE CENTER TO BE ACCURATE, EACH GRADED ACTIVITY IN THE COURSE MUST HAVE A CORRESPONDING COLUMN IN THE BLACKBOARD GRADE CENTER.
So, looking at the calculation configuration outlined above, let’s make some assignments….
For this course, students are graded on:
- Attendance (5%) (many instructors keep a single column for attendance and populate it at the end of the semester).
- Homework (15%) (10 assignments)
- Quizzes (10%) (10 quizzes)
- One of each of the following:
- Research Paper (25%)
- Mid-Term Exam (15%)
- Final Exam (30%)
Now, using this information, I’m going to create 24 columns in the Grade Center, one for each graded assignment. (No, I’m not doing screenshots for all 24, just for 1 of them.) 🙂
To create a Grade Center column, click the “CREATE COLUMN” button in the Grade Center. and complete the form that loads.
In the screenshot above, you’ll see that three areas are highlighted. These sections MUST be completed FOR EACH GRADED ACTIVITY in order for your Grade Center to function properly.
- Column Name: I don’t think I need to explain what a name is. Just be concise and clear with your naming. Use the same conventions as you go along.
- Category: The Grade Center won’t calculate data properly if the activities aren’t assigned to the appropriate categories. Make sure you select the category that this particular activity falls into
- Points Possible: It’s a graded activity! How much is it worth? What’s the highest score someone could possibly achieve on this assignment?
- IF YOU ARE USING A PERCENTAGE-BASED GRADE CENTER, you should be using 100 as the highest possible score here. You can use some other value, but it’s easier to track 0-100 scores in a percentage-based grade center.
- IF YOU ARE USING A POINTS-BASED GRADE CENTER, you need to make sure you enter the correct point values for each assignment.
There are other options that can be configured (Due Dates, Rubrics, etc.) but this is a basic, introductory tutorial, so we’re not going into all that fun stuff at this point.
Once you’ve got your information entered, click the “Submit” button to save your work. Repeat the process and create a Grade Center column for each graded activity in your course.
THAT’S SO COMPLICATED!!
It’s not as bad as you think, I promise. There will be a little bit of a learning curve as you navigate the screens for the first time, but, as with most things in life, the more you work with it, the easier it will become.
In the next installment of this tutorial series, we’ll go into actually calculating the grades.
So, your homework between now and then is to create the categories in Blackboard, then create Grade Center columns for each graded activity in your course.