Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 3: Do the Math! (Calculations)

This is the third installment in a series on using the Blackboard Grade Center. The first installment, Getting Ready discussed the general idea of Grade Center and provided instructions on what to do in preparation for Grade Center configuration.  The second installment, Initial Setup introduced the Grade Center itself, and provided instructions on how to configure categories and columns.  This installment deals with creating and managing calculated columns.

Introductory Notes

For the sake of simplicity, I’m dividing this post into two sections, Points and Percentage, as your Grade Center calculations will depend entirely on which method you use.  Neither method is better nor worse than the other.  They both have strengths and weaknesses and at the end of the semester, they all morph into A’s,B’s,C’s,D’s, or F’s.

The point is that if you’re using points, just read the Points section of this tutorial.  If you’re using percentage based calculations, then just read the Percentage part.

If You’re Using A Points-Based Grade Center

If you completely followed the steps in parts one and two of this guide, then you’ve got everything in place for a Points-based grade center.  The TOTAL column should represent an accurate total for the course.  In the next installment of the series, I’ll discuss how to review this and make adjustments if necessary.  But at this point, if you’re using a points-based Grade Center and have assigned the correct values to each graded activity column, then the TOTAL column should be right.  So just hang back and wait for the next installment of the series (which will be coming in just a couple of days).

If You’re Using A Percentage-Based Grade Center

In part two, I demonstrated how to create categories and columns then discussed how to associate those columns to the appropriate categories. Now, it’s time to configure the WEIGHTED TOTAL column, which is where we associate the values to the categories and perform the actual calculations.

gc012In Blackboard, go to the Full Grade Center.  Once the Grade Center loads, click the action arrow for the WEIGHTED TOTAL column and select “Edit Column Information” from the drop-down menu.

The ‘Edit Weighted Column’ screen will then load.  From this screen, you will be able to configure the column to accurately calculate the grades for your percentage-based Grade Center.


The image below provides an example of the first part of the ‘Edit Weighted Column‘ screen. Note: You can change the Column Name to anything you choose.  You may also change the Grade Center Name as well.  “Grade Center Name” is what displays at the top of the column in the Grade Center.  If there is nothing in the “Grade Center Name” field, the column will display the Column Name by default.  If you do change the the Grade Center Name, make sure it’s set to something short, otherwise, it won’t fit in the column heading and could cause confusion if you have similarly named columns.

The Description area is populated with default text which you can modify or delete.

Beneath the Description box are the Primary and Secondary Display options.  You may choose from any two of the display options (Percentage, Points, Letter, Text, or Complete/Incomplete).    A common combination is the Percentage for the Primary and Letter for the Secondary Display.

Whatever combination you choose, they will display in the following format:
Primary (Secondary)

So, if you chose Percentage as Primary and Letter as Secondary it would appear like this:
93.00% (A)


Now that we’ve got the display options out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty… let’s get this show on the road.

Configuring Calculations

Section 3 of the Edit Weighted Column screen is where you will configure the actual calculations.  If you configured the individual columns using categories, it’s pretty simple to do.

First, select the category from the “Categories to Select” list.  When you select a category, the assignments associated with that category are displayed in the “Category Information” box just beneath the category list.  This will help you make sure you’re selecting the correct category.

Second, once you’ve selected a category, click on the > button just to the right of the “Categories to Select” box.


Once you’ve clicked the > button, the category will appear in the Selected Columns box.  Enter the weight for the category in the % Category box (as shown below).  If you plan on dropping the lowest x grades, enter the number of grades to drop in the Drop _ Lowest box.  After you’ve added a value for a category, you’ll notice that the total weight is displayed just beneath the Selected Columns box.


Repeat this process with each category.

The Calculate as Running Total radio buttons beneath the Select Column section is of critical importance.

  • If Yes is selected, then any assignments which don’t have grades (assignments which ave not been submitted or graded) will not be included in the calculations.
  • If No is selected, any assignments that have not been submitted or graded will be calculated as zeroes.
  • NOTE:  If you select “Yes” you’ll need to make sure that you enter “0” grades for unsubmitted work.

Click the ‘Submit’ button to apply the new configuration.

So that’s it?

Yes and no.  The Grade Center has been configured, but it’s not quite complete.  You’ll probably want to make a few tweaks here and there, hide some unwanted columns, put things into a different order, etc.  So yes, the bare bones Grade Center is ready.  The next installment in this series will show you how to make those little tweaks so that your Grade Center is just exactly perfect.



2 thoughts on “Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 3: Do the Math! (Calculations)

  1. Pingback: Blackboard Grade Center Basics – Part 1: Getting Ready – Rodney's Corner

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

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