10 Lesser Known Features of the Blackboard Grade Center

The redesigned Blackboard Grade Center offers a lot of new features and improvements over the old Gradebook. Below is a list of some of the lesser known, yet very helpful, features that faculty can incorporate to make better use of the Grade Center capabilities and improve their teaching experience.

  • Extra Credit Assignments: Extra Credit columns can be used for optional assessments that not all students may want to complete. The added Extra Credit column needs to be assigned 0 points. The key is then to manually include it to be added to the Total column. By default, the Grade Center excludes from the Total any column that is set to be worth 0 points. Extra Credit columns cannot be set up if the Weighted Total is used to calculate the final grade. To learn more about setting up an Extra Credit assignment, view the Extra Credit documentation page at: http://blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/extracredit.shtml
  • External Grade Column: One of the columns of the Grade Center has to be designated as the External Grade column. By default, this column is the Total and it is marked by a green check mark to the left of the column name. The External Grade column facilitates Grade Center integration with the external to Blackboard systems. At NIU, the External Grade column can be used to send student grades from Blackboard to MyNIU using the Grade Submission Tool. The current version of the Grade Center allows faculty to execute complex grade calculations and there might be times when a different column needs to be set as the external Grade column. View information on how to set an External Grade Column at:http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/gradesubmission.shtml#step3
  • Grade Submission Tool: The Grade Submission Tool allows publishing grades from the Blackboard Grade Center directly to MyNIU. Faculty who use the Blackboard Grade Center can choose to export final grades from a column in the Grade Center that has been set as the External Grade column to MyNIU instead of manually entering the same grades in MyNIU. The tool can save time and reduce the opportunity for error. After submitting grades using the Grade Submission Tool, faculty should login to MyNIU to view the final grades and post them for student viewing. More information about this tool can be found at:http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/gradesubmission.shtml
  • Column Availability When Entering Grades: Faculty enter grades in the new Grade Center using what’s called an inline editing. The inline editing process is similar to entering grades in a spreadsheet. Each grade entered in the Grade Center is automatically saved and is visible to the student as soon as it’s entered. Some faculty may not want to display the assessment results until every student’s grade has been entered and grades have been verified. Before this is done, faculty can choose to hide the column from students by modifying its availability. This will prevent students from seeing the column and their associated scores in My Grades. Once the grades have been verified, faculty can then make the grades available to students by modifying column availability. More information about modifying a column can be found at:http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/columns.shtml
  • Smart Views in Master Courses: Smart Views provide the ability to categorize students into groups based on selected criteria. Once created and saved, these customized views of the Grade Center are available from the Current View drop-down menu within the Grade Center. Smart Views can be helpful in combined master courses where enrollments from more than one section have been combined into one Blackboard master course. Setting up separate groups for each of the sections in the master course and then creating a smart view to associate it with a specific section, will allow faculty and TAs to keep rosters separate for grading reasons. More information on Smart Views can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/smartviews.shtml
  • Hiding Columns in the Grade Center Does Not Hide Them in Students’ View of Grades: Faculty can hide certain columns that they do not need from the Grade Center default view. Blackboard, by default, adds several new columns to the Grade Center, including: Username, Student ID, Last Access, and Availability. These columns can be hidden because they are not available to students. However, some columns, such as the Total column or the Weighted Total column, or any other manually added column, is by default available to students and hiding those columns from the Grade Center view will not make them unavailable/or hidden from students. If a column is not needed and faculty want it be unavailable to students, then it’s best to remove it from the Grade Center. More information on removing columns can be found at:http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/columns.shtml#03
  • Removing Columns for Automatically Deployed Assessments: If there is no Remove Column link in the drop-down menu for a column, it must be an automatically deployed assessment in Blackboard. Automatically deployed assessments, such as tests and surveys as well as assignments added with the built-in Assignment tool or the SafeAssignment tool, first need to be removed from the Content Area of the course where they have been deployed. Only then, faculty get an option in the drop-down menu for a column in the Grade Center to be removed. More information on how to remove columns from the Grade Center can be found at:http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/columns.shtml#03
  • Dropping the Lowest Grade: Dropping the lowest quiz or test grade cannot be done in an automated way if grades are not weighted. If the Weighted Total is used to calculate the final grade and all similar assessments appear in the same category, the Grade Center now provides the capability to easily drop the lowest or the highest grade for a given assessment. Learn how to set up a Weighted Total column at:http://blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/weighting.shtml
  • Grading History: By default, the Grade Center keeps track of every change or modification of the grades. Unless specifically deactivated, the Grade History feature will have a record of all changes which occur to grades within a course. Accidentally entering or changing the wrong student’s grade or inadvertently clearing a student’s grade can be identified and resulting grades reset. In addition, the Grade History feature provides an easy was to keep track of all the comments that have been entered for students. Learn more about the Grade History featured at: http://blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/history.shtml
  • Assessment Due Dates and Grading Periods: Setting an assessment due date does not actually prevent students from submitting their work late. Assessment due dates specified while adding columns simply provide a visual reminder in the student view of My Grades when certain assignments are due. Assessment due dates can also be used in conjunction with the grading periods to create custom views of the Grade Center or to track student progress within a certain period in the semester. Additionally, assessment due dates can be used to create the Early Warning System rules to monitor student performance in the course. More information about Grading Periods and the Early Warning System can be found at:http://blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/gradingperiods.shtml and at:http://blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/assessments/earlywarning.shtml#02

For more information on teaching using Blackboard, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard

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