How do I set up my gradebook in CourseWorks? (Some Suggestions from the CTL)

The Gradebook is a "feature-rich" (read: complicated) tool, but if it's set up correctly it can be very useful.  This article will describe some of the setup and weighting options that the Gradebook will support.  Please keep in mind that you can contact CTL (columbiaCTL@columbia.edu or 212-854-9058) for one-on-one assistance with your gradebook's setup.

Before you proceed, be sure to visit “site settings” —> “edit tools” and enable the Gradebook tool.  Also keep in mind: in no cases can students see other students' gradebook items.

Gradebook Setup

Proceed to the Gradebook tool and click on the "Gradebook Setup" tab.  At this point you must determine whether you want to use "Points" or "Percentages", whether you want students to be allowed to view items that have been released to them, and whether you want to use categories and/or weighting.

Weighting Options

There are three different ways to set up a gradebook that can have the effect of using weighted averages or weighting:

Use Points: If your course assessments add up to a specific point value (e.g. 500 points), you can give smaller assignments lesser point values (e.g. 5 points) and high-stakes assessments higher point values (e.g. 125 points).  Their relative point value will weight them accordingly within the gradebook. 

Use Percentages: If you choose to use the "percentages" option (under the Gradebook Setup tab) new gradebook items will all count towards a total of one hundred percentage points. Each individual item will be assigned a "Relative Weight" when you add it to the gradebook.  So if you have ten lab assignments that are worth a total of 20% of the course grade, you would assign 2% to each lab assignment as you add it to the gradebook.

Use Categories & Weighting: The "Categories & Weighting" option (at the bottom of the Gradebook Setup tab) is very flexible, but requires more setup and planning early in the semester. In this scenario, you define categories and their corresponding percentage value with respect to the final course grade.  Each item within a category can be graded using percentages or points and their values (and relative weights) can vary within a category.  Regardless, your categories must add up to 100% when you establish them at the outset.  In the "lab assignment" scenario above, the corresponding category would carry 20% of the course grade, but items within that category could vary in points and weights depending on their stakes.

CTL's Recommendation With Respect To Weighting:  If you're able to determine the relative percentage value of each item, we at CTL recommend that you use the Percentages option.  Each item in your gradebook will be graded out of a possible one hundred percentage points and assigned a relative weight throughout the course of the semester.

How To Make Grades Visible To Students

There are three "gates" that must be opened in order to allow students to see their grades.  First, when you add an item enable the "Release this item to Students" option.  Second, be sure to enable the "Display released Gradebook Items to students" option under "Gradebook Setup".  Finally, under "Course Grade Options", enable the "Display course grade to students now" option.  

Add A Curve

Under "Course Grade Options" you may raise or lower the minimum percentage value that qualifies a student for a specific letter grade. 

Additionally, under the "Course Grades" tab you may manually override each students' final grade. When you do this, the gradebook will assign the lowest minimum percentage number (as defined in the Course Grade Options panel) to the student's grade.  This feature is useful if you simply wish to communicate the student's current running course grade throughout the course of the semester, without the ambiguity of mathematically calculated grades that closely border the next-higher letter grade.

Import Gradebook Items

There are two ways to import grades into the gradebook.  Though it is a bit more complicated than the other option, CTL recommends that you use the "dock" feature to import grades into CourseWorks because this option is most reliable.  To start, go to "Import Grades" and click "Download Spreadsheet Template as CSV". Open the document in your preferred spreadsheet editor.

Add new column headers for each item you want to add to your gradebook and update scores of old gradebook items (if applicable).  New items should have a title and [bracketed] point (or relative item weight) values depending on the way that your gradebook is configured.  So if you add an item called "Assignment 2 [20]" the new item will be called "Assignment 2" and students' scores will be out of 20 points (if you've chosen to use points) or out of 100 percentage points with a relative final grade weight of 20% (if you've chosen to use percentages)

Caveat Emptor: if you use excel, be sure to check the students' UNIs in the "Student ID" column.  Sometimes Excel changes UNIs to dates and CourseWorks will refuse to upload gradebook spreadsheets that have erroneous UNIs in the roster list. Only Columbia UNIs of students currently enrolled in the class are allowed in the "Student ID" column.

Once the spreadsheet has been updated, proceed to "Gradebook Items" and click "Import gradebook item from spreadsheet".  Click "Upload spreadsheet (csv or xls format) to Loading Dock" and provide an appropriate title, which you will be able to locate in the dock later (e.g. "assignment 2 and other updates 10-31-2013").  Click "choose file".  Counterintuitively, this will take you to another page that will provide an option to "choose file". Once you've uploaded the file (this can take a very long time--you'll see an "uploading file(s)" message), click the "Continue" button.  You will be returned to the screen that you saw when you clicked on "Import gradebook item from spreadsheet" and you should see the spreadsheet that you docked a moment ago.  Click on the link to that spreadsheet and choose the item you wish to update or import.  If the item already exists, the changes that you uploaded will overwrite the extant grades. If the item is new, it will add a new column to your gradebook.  Repeat this last set of steps to import all of the pertinent items from the docked spreadsheet into the gradebook.

Sorting Gradebook Items

As the number of items in a gradebook grows, the page can become unwieldy.  You can use the headers at the top of each column to sort the items or you can tick the up/down arrows to manually move items around the list.  Once you have the items arranged in a logical order, be sure to click the "Save current order as sorting order".  A long list of gradebook items also makes the case for using categories (weighted or not) in the gradebook.

How To Remove An Item

Click on the "Gradebook Items" tab and then click on the Title of the item you wish to remove. Click "Remove gradebook item from gradebook" in the Gradebook Item Summary page. When prompted, tick the checkmark and click "Remove".

A Warning About The "All Grades" Window

The All Grades tab is a very useful place where you can see the entire class' performance on all graded items.  However, especially in courses with very, very long rosters, the student information (on the left) and individual graded items (on the right) can sometimes go out of sync in some browsers.  When you're scrolling down the list of students be sure to notice whether the list goes out of sync.  Better yet, use the "Student Name" box at the top of the list to search for an individual student and avoid any confusion.

Some Notes About Parentheses and Gray Text/Backgrounds (Released Items and Items Not Counted In Final Grade)

Items listed with numerical values in parens are not counted in the student's final grade. Items listed with gray text (or, in some cases, gray backgrounds) have not been released to students.  Items that have been released to students are eligible to be counted in the class members' final grades.  You can change either of these options under the gradebook item's settings (click "Edit" or "Edit gradebook item settings", depending on the page you're visiting).

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