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Set Up the Grade Center for your Course

The Blackboard Learn Grade Center works pretty much as you might set one up in Excel; names of enrolled students automatically appear, each in a row, with columns for student information and grades.  Any graded object, such as an assignment or quiz, automatically gets a column.  Moving beyond these basics, however, is not so obvious.  This article will walk you through setting up a typical course grade book. It will not be exactly like your course, but the principles will be the same.
Let us imagine a course with six quizzes, five reaction papers, four graded discussions, one project and a final exam.  We have specified in the syllabus that the final grade will be based on:

  • Quizzes (best 5 of 6) – 20%
  • Reaction Papers – 20%
  • Discussion – 20%
  • Project – 25%
  • Final Exam – 15%

By following the steps below we can set up the Grade Center so that it will generate a final grade for each student, without expending a keystroke in Excel.

  1. Create any needed grade columns.  You will not need to create columns if your graded activities take place in Learn; the columns for each exam and paper will be automatically created. (Watch this video on Grade Center columns for Tests.) However, if quizzes and exams, for instance, are paper-based, use the Create Column button to create a column for each test.

    Tip: If your Column Name is long, use a shortened version for the Grade Center Name. For example, you might use "RPaper 2" as the Grade Center Name for "Reaction Paper 2", so that the numeral "2" in the column header is not cut off.

  2. Create any needed summary columns. Use the Create Calculated Column button to create an average for each type of grade, Quizzes, Reaction Papers and Discussion, so that you add three new columns, Quiz Average, Reaction Paper Average and Discussion Average.
  3. Tip: While you can select each column to average when creating a calculated column, it is possible to generate the average for every column of a certain type or "category."  All Learn tests are automatically given the "test" category.  When creating an average, by selecting the category instead of the individual columns, we also have the option of dropping the lowest score. 
    Tip 2: If the Final Exam also has the category of "test" but should not be averaged in with the quizzes, we can create a new category of "Quiz" and apply it just to the quizzes.  To do so, click the Manage button and select Categories. Create a new category called "Quiz" and submit. Then apply the "Quiz" category to each Quiz column by choosing Edit Column Information from the context menu at the top of each Quiz column, selecting the desired category and submitting.

  4. Create a Weighted Total score.  In a new or existing weighted column, select columns for each of the components of your final grade and specify the appropriate weights.  To create a weighted column, use Create Calculated Column – Weighted Column.  You can add a Letter Grade as a secondary display to show both the percentage and letter scores in the Grade Center.  Students see only the primary display.

    Tip: Create your own letter grade schema through Manage – Grading Schemas.

Hiding Columns from Students - "Hide Column" means hide from you!  To hide columns from students use "Show/Hide to Users."  If you become confused about column visibility, use Manage – Column Organization to see all of your columns at once and to unhide any lost columns.
Show/Hide to Users works for every column except the Totals column.  Blackboard always designates one column (by default, the Totals column) as the external grade column, where an external service could find the grade. Although we do not use the external grade column as such, the only way to hide it from students is to Edit Column Information and change availability to students to No.
For more information and video tutorials on the Grade Center and other assessment topics, visit the Blackboard On-Demand Learning Center section on Assessment.

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