Everything You Need to Know to Set Up Your Blackboard Grade Center (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Second to the discussion board confusion, grade center set up is the biggest source of instructor questions I’ve gotten in the ANGEL-to-Blackboard conversion process. Here’s a few tips that I hope will clear things up.

Blackboard Defaults

Any Blackboard course comes with default columns (“columns” are either graded activities or means of calculating grades; see more about that below). These include some standards like name, username, ID and “last class access date” for the student, plus Weighted Total and Total (External Grade). In moving our courses from ANGEL to Blackboard, they also moved over ANGEL’s Overall column and category columns.

First, a reminder: If you give a graded activity (discussion, assignment, test, etc.) a point value, it automatically becomes a column in the grade center. So setting up the grade center mainly just means making sure your point values are correct. Pretty easy!

Where it gets tricky is in those columns that came over from ANGEL. If you do not “weigh” your categories — that is, there are a total number of points and the students’ final grades are just percentages of those points earned — you do not have to have categories in Blackboard.

Categories were needed in ANGEL’s gradebook for organization. This is not the case in Blackboard. Unless you want students to view how well they are doing in just the tests or just the discussions, you can delete the category columns. More on this later. For now, back to defaults.

A trick I like to show instructors working on their grade centers is to go to the Column Organization screen to see all their columns. From the Full Grade Center, hover on Manage and then click on Column Organization.

columnorg

This will show all your columns, plus their point value and due dates, in an easy-to-read, vertical list. This is also how you re-organize — just drag and drop to re-order the columns, where closer to the top corresponds to closer to the right in your Full Grade Center view.

Here, you can also hide columns from your view. I find it helpful to hide things like ID number and availability, because you (or the LMS admins) may need this info from time to time, but probably not in your day-to-day teaching. You also can hide columns from instructors and/or students from the Full Grade Center (see below), but you can’t show them from there (of course not — they’re hidden!).

columneditHide from Instructor View and Hide from Students are two different functions with two different purposes. If you don’t “weigh” your categories, for example, you may want to have columns that track category totals (how well a student has done in X type of activity) for your own information, but not for students. If you do weigh, for example, you’ll want the points-based Total (External Grade) column to ensure that the Grade Center is set up properly, but you don’t want students to see that total because it’s not an accurate reflection of their grade (no category weights).

Calculated Grades vs. Columns

A “Calculated Grade Column” is a column fed by other columns. You can use it to make a category column, showing all the assignments or all the discussions, or you could use it to calculate the total number of points, or final grade for the student.

Columns are just graded activities (called “assignments” in ANGEL). I’ve seen some courses that have duplicates caused by importing content more than once from ANGEL. You can hide duplicates, but, if you’re not careful, you may end up with too many points in your total column. So I recommend you delete duplicates. (Just a reminder: Deleting from the Lessons area won’t automatically delete from the grade center.)

There are visual cues to calculated grade columns and hidden columns (calculated or otherwise). Calculated grade columns show a green check to the left of the title in Full Grade Center. Columns hidden from students show a red mark.

hide

Delete the “Overall” Column … You Can and Should!

Overall came over from ANGEL and isn’t needed. It’s replaced in functionality by the Blackboard column Total (External Grade). Just delete Overall — it’s not an accurate reflection of the total number of points, especially if you made any changes after the ANGEL move-over. Get rid of it!

How the Heck Do I Make a Weighted-Category Gradebook?

This is a topic for a future blog post. It’s pretty easy, though — just create a calculated grade column (or edit the existing Weighted Total) and then add the columns or categories, designating their weight out of 100 percent.

weightcol

Blackboard Grade Center Tips

Here are my recommendations for an unweighted grade center, condensed:

1) Delete the Overall column.

2) Hide (from instructors) the default student-data columns like Availability and Student ID. (Last Access is one you may find helpful, though it’s not meant to be the defining measure of participation for financial-aid-reporting purposes.)

3) Delete or hide (from students) the Weighted Total column if you’re not using it.

4) Delete the calculated grade columns that correspond to the categories from ANGEL. Or use ’em, but make sure they include all the graded activities in the category.

5) Your total column should have everything. To do this, edit the column information and check the settings.

Capture

See our full Blackboard tips archive at bit.ly/IDSBbL.

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Alex is online course support technician at IDS, working to support all online, hybrid and LMS-enhanced instructors and students in using Blackboard and several media servers. She's also the administrator for the MCC Blogs network. You can reach her at acgarrison@mccneb.edu.

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Posted in Blackboard, Blackboard Learn for instructors
10 comments on “Everything You Need to Know to Set Up Your Blackboard Grade Center (But Were Afraid to Ask)
  1. […] quarter. We are not recommending that you keep old tests in a hidden folder because you may have extra grade center columns. (You can move old copies into your personal repository course […]

  2. […] “ANGEL Letter,” please change it to something else. This is a bad holdover (like the “overall” column), but we can’t get rid of it […]

  3. […] How to make sure your gradebook is in tip-top shape […]

  4. […] quarter. We are not recommending that you keep old tests in a hidden folder because you may have extra grade center columns. (You can move old copies into your personal repository course […]

  5. […] For more on calculating grades, check out Everything You Need to Know to Set Up Your Blackboard Grade Center. […]

  6. […] Now you’re on your way to setting up your new course. Next, I would recommend checking that your gradebook is in tip-top shape. […]

  7. […] “Total (External Grade)” column should reflect your course’s final grade. To make sure it’s accurate at the end […]

  8. […] “Total (External Grade)” column should reflect your course’s final grade. To make sure it’s accurate at the end […]

  9. […] Now you’re on your way to setting up your new course. Next, I would recommend checking that your gradebook is in tip-top shape. […]

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