Organizing the Gradebook

In addition to delivering feedback on individual assignments, Gradebook features including CalculationsCategories, and Grade Schemas can be used to communicate course expectations and track student activity at the level of assignment categories or course units/modules, to build a more detailed and informative picture of students' competencies, progress, and areas for improvement. 


Adding and Arranging Items in the Gradebook

All graded items created in Blackboard (including assignments, tests, and discussions and journals if they are graded) automatically generate a corresponding entry in the gradebook. By default, gradebook items are ordered by creation date with newer columns appearing at the end of the gradebook,  as a column at the right-hand side in grid view, or the bottom in list view. Instructors can use the gradebook filter and search tools to locate specific grade items, but students do not have these tools, so arranging the full list of graded items in a meaningful way is an important part of making the gradebook more useful for students. 

To reorder items, put the gradebook into list view and then click and drag the up/down arrow icon on the right side of the list to move an item to a new position. The new order will be saved and applied to columns in grid view as well. 

To add a new item directly in the gradebook, such as a manual entry or calculattion, hover the cursor on the line between existing items where you want the new item to go. A purple (plus) icon will appear; click it to create a new gradebook item in that location. Note: this method will not create a corresponding assignment submission area for students, and is only intended for creating independent entries/columns that the instructor fills in directly. 

Thoughtful organization of graded items in the gradebook, together with use of calculations and grading schemas to display grade information in different ways, can help improve the quality and accessibility of grading feedback and give both instructors and students a clearer picture of overall class progress and any individuals or items that need closer attention. 

Gradebook list view with add item (plus) icon and move item (arrow) icons highlighted

 More detailed instructions on how to create and manage calculations, grade categories, and grade schemas can be found in the Gradebook & Analytics Answers index


Gradebook Examples

The examples below show different ways to organize the Blackboard gradebook. Each example gradebook is based on an identical course with the following curriculum: 

  • 4 course modules each containing the following assessments (200 points per module): 
    • 2 discussions (30 points each)
    • 1 paper assignment (50 points)
    • 1 unit test (75 points)
    • 1 dance-off (15 points)
  • 1 final paper (100 points)
  • 1 final exam (100 points)

The value of all assessments totals 1,000 points, grouped into the following grade categories:

  • Tests (4 unit tests and 1 final exam) - 400 points / 40% 
  • Papers (4 module papers and 1 final paper) - 300 points / 30% 
  • Discussions (8 discussions) - 240 points / 24% 
  • Dance-Offs (4 dance-offs) - 60 points / 6% 

Idea 1: Organizing by Grade Categories

One common way to organize the gradebook is to sort items by grade category. This example has columns grouped by category (i.e. tests, papers, etc), and also uses calculations to display the running grade average for each category. 


This gradebook begins with the Overall Grade displayed according to the SU Letter Grade schema (included by default in all Ultra courses).

Immediately following the overall grade are four calculation columns showing students' grade averages in each of the four assessment categories used in the course: tests, papers, discussions, and dance-offs, displayed as percentages. The calculated average columns are ordered by overall grade weight from high to low: 

  • Test Avg. (40%)
  • Paper Avg. (30%)
  • Discussion Avg. (24%)
  • Dance-Offs (6%)

Columns for individual assessments are arranged in the same pattern: all test columns together, then all paper columns, etc. Posted grades are displayed as points (the default option in Ultra courses), while ungraded/upcoming assessments are blank. 

Gradebook organized by category in instructor grid view

   

From the student perspective, the gradebook is always shown in list view.

The overall course letter grade is seen in the upper right of the screen. The four calculated category average columns are shown as percentages at the top of the list, followed by grades for individual assessments.

All grades or grade averages are color-coded according to a green (>90%) – yellow (70-80%) - red (<60%) color scheme. Ungraded items or override grades are gray. 

Gradebook organized by grade category shown from the student perspective

    

This gradebook setup helps instructors and students easily identify how a student is performing in each grade category, and where they may need to put in more effort. For example, a student might have an overall grade of B-/B, but with Paper and Discussion averages over 90% and a Test average around 70%. With this gradebook setup, it is immediately obvious that to improve their overall course grade the student needs to focus their attention on better study strategies for tests, rather than working harder on papers or discussion participation. 

If the overall class average for items in one category is lower than the average for other assessments, the instructor may want to revise their assessment strategy to more consistently reflect student achievement across all assessments.

Idea 2: Organizing by Course Unit/Module

In some courses, it may be more valuable to base student grade calculations and feedback on course units or content modules rather than by assesment type. In this example, gradebook columns are arranged chronologically, with calculations showing the total grade for each course module. 


This gradebook begins with the Overall Grade displayed according to the SU Letter Grade schema (included by default in all Ultra courses).

Grade columns are arranged chronologically by due date, following a pattern of two discussion assignments, a unit paper, and a unit test in each course module. Additionally, at the head of each set of columns is a calculation column that shows the total grade for the module. At the end of each module is a manual entry column for the unit dance-off (an assessment that cannot be collected in Blackboard and must be manually recorded by the instructor based on in-class activity). 

Module totals are displayed as letter grades. Posted grades for individual assessments are displayed as points (the default option in Ultra courses). 

From the student perspective, the gradebook is always shown in list view.

The overall course letter grade is seen in the upper right of the screen. Total grades for each module are also shown as letter grades, while individual assessment scores are shown as points. 

All grades or grade totals are color-coded according to a green (>90%) – yellow (70-80%) - red (<60%) color scheme. Ungraded items or override grades are gray. 

Gradebook organized by module shown from the student perspective

     

This gradebook setup helps instructors and students see periodic progress reports tied to each main unit or content module in the course. For example, a student might earn an A- in module 1, a C+ in module 2, and a B+ in module 3. With this gradebook setup, it is obvious that they should spend extra time on reviewing the module 2 content when preparing for the final paper/exam. 

If the average class grade for one module is lower than the other modules, the instructor may want to revise some of the content of the underperforming module to better align with the overall course curriculum and learning objectives. 


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