If you haven’t taught online before, you may never have used an online gradebook (though many who do teach only F2F still use the gradebook in their LMS). In terms of helping me manage the unpleasant tasks of teaching, I think the gradebook is especially helpful. It will likely save you hours (like, many hours) of work in your semester.
Even if you have a method of keeping track of grades that already works for you, I encourage you to use the gradebook in your LMS. (And you know me–I don’t encourage folks to try things that are too burdensome for little payout.) Here’s why:
- If you keep a separate system, it is either inaccessible to students or they have to go outside of the LMS to access it. Everything in the LMS helps students stay organized. They are better able to take responsibility for their grade if it is within the system they are already working in.
- When you create assignments in your LMS, you will assign each assignment a category and a point value or letter grade. If you DON’T do this, students will have to return to wherever it was where you wrote this information (yeah, probably the syllabus), which, again, means one more click, one more link, more more thing to open. All of these wick away student energy for thinking, which is the point of the class.
- Your LMS will weight grades for you–and for your students. Yes, some still may write to you to ask what they need to earn on the final to earn an A in the course, but far fewer will be confused about their grades than will be otherwise.
- Your LMS may give you the option of rolling grades directly from your gradebook into your grade recording system, such as Banner. You can still review them and make changes, rounding that 79% up to a B- if you want, but you don’t have to hand enter every grade.
- You can run reports from your gradebook that help you see patterns in student learning. Let’s say a student is failing. With just a few clicks, you can see the problem. Is he just missing a bunch of assignments from a certain period of time, suggesting a problem outside of school that interrupted his learning? Or did he fail to demonstrate mastery of a whole unit–for example, failing the homework, the quiz, and the exam over the skeletal system but not over the circulatory one? Or maybe he passes every homework assignment but is failing the tests, suggesting that he needs some test-prep and test-taking help? When you (and he) can see all this information at once, you can more effectively target the intervention (how to ask for an extension of he is ill, reviewing course content about the skeletal system, a study buddy for the class or how to use the tutoring center).
- Your LMS’ gradebook can probably do everything you want it to, including adding extra credit, adding a curve, or dropping a student’s lowest quiz grade.
I recommend using a weighted grade system rather than points in your LMS. Dropping an assignment (I never add them) from a course is much easier if assignments are weighted than if they are points-based. So, for example, if 50% of a course grade is based on weekly response papers, students grades are not tremendously affected if you reduce the number of response papers from 15 to 14; each paper, if they are equally weighted, goes from contributing 3.33% to 3.57% of the final grade. In short, you can be flexible in changing requirements without dramatically changing grades. That’s just a lot messier to do in a point-based system.
Love the smell, feel, and sense of control that an old fashioned gradebook gives you? I get it. No one ever played schoolteacher as a child so they could enter grades online. But if you try it, you’ll probably like it, and I know that your students will too.
Above, Girl at a Window Known as a Daydreamer (1650-1660) by Nicholaes Maes shows a girl looking toward the viewer from an open window. Her chin rests on her hand; her elbow rests on a pillow; peaches frame the window. Don’t let your students wonder what their grades are. Use an online, always up-to-date gradebook.