How much confidence do you have in the structure of your LMS gradebook? If this thought makes you uneasy, you’re not alone.
In this article, we’ve identified some tips for how to best set up a simple and accurate gradebook, but first, here are a couple of questions to consider:
- Why is an accurate gradebook important?
- Who benefits from a gradebook that is kept current?
Okay, maybe these questions are a bit obvious. Students benefit from a well-kept gradebook. That’s been true since the beginning of time. But now there is research that suggests how the gradebook is kept may be more important than we realize.
A 2016 Learning Management System study by Blackboard determined that there is a correlation between student success and the number of times the gradebook was accessed. From the report:
“The most successful students are those who access MyGrades (Blackboard’s gradebook) most frequently; students doing poorly do not access their grades.”
Thinking outside of the study, that narrative makes sense. A student who checks their grades on a regular basis is likely to care more about their performance than a student who doesn’t.
Continuing that thought, could an assumption be made that some students avoid the gradebook because it’s difficult to follow or rarely up-to-date? Regardless if there is any truth in these assumptions, as educators, the least we should do is eliminate the possibility.
So what does that mean?
To us, it means taking a simple approach to LMS gradebook setup. And, we define “simple” as creating gradebook categories, using Natural aggregation, and enabling Exclude empty grades.
First, create gradebook categories by activity type (i.e., Assignments, Quizzes, etc.) or week (i.e., Week 1, Week 2, etc.). During this process, you’ll need to select an aggregation method (how to calculate) and whether to include or exclude empty grades (when to calculate).
Do everyone a favor and set Aggregation method to Natural and enable Exclude empty grades. This is the simplest combination to ensure Gradebook accuracy.
Natural aggregation method
Natural aggregation means that the values in the gradebook add up… well, naturally.
For example, 10 + 5 + 10 + 25 + 50 = 100
If you prefer a “weighted” gradebook, should you use one of the weighted aggregation methods in Moodle? Not necessarily. Once your categories are created, enter the weight of the category (as a whole number) in the category’s weight field.
As long as your category weights add to 100, your weighted gradebook is set!
Exclude empty grades
Next, what does Exclude empty grades mean? It means that as long as zeroes are entered for incomplete assignments, students will see their real-time course grade.
On the other hand, Include empty grades means that the gradebook total will reflect every activity in the gradebook.
In short, the difference between Exclude and Include is seeing a course total after a graded 10-point activity as either 10/10 (Exclude) or 10/100 (Include).
If you’re a student, 10/10 looks a lot better than 10/100!
With the setup out of the way, we’ve taken care of the “simple” part of the gradebook. The “accurate” part is up to you. Check and update your gradebook each week to make sure students aren’t being misled.
After all, could a parallel be made from the LMS report that an instructor who checks the gradebook on a regular basis is likely to care more about their students’ performance?
Either way, keeping your gradebook simple and updated will benefit the students who are actively engaged in the course and may encourage the other students to be more attentive to their grades as well.