The Grade Center: Planning Ahead

Saira Mall, Manager of ACT Support, CTSI

Between course scheduling, assignment deadlines and mid-term exams, managing and entering grade data in the Portal’s Grade Center may be left to the last minute resulting in very late nights, usually just before grades are submitted.

If you are using the Grade Center in your Portal course, my advice is old and true: plan ahead of time.

About the Grade Center

The Grade Center is an online repository for course assessment data that allows for grades to be entered directly into their Portal course. Grade Center can be used in conjunction with other Portal tools (e.g., Tests, Discussion Board, Wikis, Blogs, Journals, Surveys and Rubrics) to develop an efficient grading and record keeping system.

Who Has Access to the Grade Center?
Those assigned with Portal course roles including Instructor, Teaching Assistant and Grader all have access to the Grade Center.  Students do not have access to the Grade Center. Students view their progress in My Grades.

Familiarize Yourself with the Policies of Use at U of T

Students should understand that My Grades allows them early access to preliminary grades, but does not represent their official final marks. The Repository of Student Information (ROSI) is the official system of record for the University of Toronto for student grades.  For more information on University of Toronto policies and guidelines regarding the posting and distribution of grades, please visit FIPPA, Q and A for Instructors on the website of the Vice-President and Provost.

Is There Grade Information I Should Not Display to Students?
Do not display the following to students in My Grades:

  • Final Exam marks
  • Final marks

Visit the Portal Information + Help web site for more information on how to Hide or Show Grade Columns to Students

Best Practices

  • Consult with your Registrar on recommended divisional or departmental procedures for displaying grades to students in My Grades.
  • Organize Grade Center columns and edit the Weighted Total and Total columns so that grade information in these columns is not displayed to students.  Note: Do not display Final Exam grades to students in My Grades.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Life Cycle of  Your Portal Course. Students automatically lose access to the course approximately 3 months following the class end date. After this date, student information and student grades will no longer appear in the Grade Center.
  • Download the Grade Center to your computer regularly throughout the course and once final marks have been submitted to the Registrar.
  • Notify students at the beginning of term if you plan to display their grade progress in My Grades.
  • Students should understand that My Grades allows them early access to preliminary grades, but does not represent their official final marks.

Portal (Blackboard) Training Sessions and Scheduled Drop-ins at CTSI

The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) offers Portal training sessions. To view the current schedule and to register, please see:

http://uoft.me/portaltraining

These workshops are free of charge but registration is required.
Registration and questions about Portal workshops can be sent to ctsi.teaching@utoronto.ca.

Portal Drop-ins:
One-on-one consultations are available for U of T instructors, TAs and staff who need help with their Portal course site. Someone will be available to review your course site with you and answer questions you may have.

Drop-in Hours: Tuesdays 1:00pm-3:00pm and Thursdays 9:00am-11:00am

CTSI is located on the 4th floor at Robarts Library.

Online and On Target for Deeper Learning

By Will Heikoop, Online Learning Coordinator

Professor Bill Ju has taught HMB300 Neurobiology of Behaviour numerous times since joining the University of Toronto in 2009. It’s an intermediate course in neuroscience that focuses on higher brain functions and mechanisms underlying human and animal behaviours. The course was taught in a familiar fashion: two hours of lecture, one hour of tutorials and one hour dedicated to office hours – all face-to-face (F2F). For his latest offering he tried something radically new. He incorporated a number of innovative approaches that transformed his teaching and enhanced student learning. The course was thoughtfully redesigned to include:

  • Online activities that reduced the need for F2F time in the classroom (a hybrid model).
  • An online student cohort that attended the live lectures Bill delivered to his F2F students at a distance using the Blackboard Collaborate Webinar tool.
  • Collaborative peer work and assessment using peerScholar, an online pedagogical tool that helps develop students’ critical- and creative-thinking skills to manage the workflow.

Bill Ju, Human Biology Program, Senior Lecturer

Sound intriguing? Let’s break down what it all means and what innovative approaches he brought to his teaching.

The hybrid portion of the course involved moving tutorials and office hours online. Normally held in person on campus, the move online reduced the need for direct F2F time. To ensure a sense of community and a virtual presence, the Blackboard Collaborate Webinar tool was used to support interactive work and conversation.

Turning to the lectures, Professor Ju had an in-class section of 70 students as well as an online section of 40 registered students attend together. Lectures were delivered synchronously using Blackboard Collaborate to online students while simultaneously providing the same lecture material to the students in-class using a streaming model.  Active learning was emphasized in both sections and Bill was careful to incorporate opportunities for both the F2F section and the online students to interact using Collaborate to answer specific questions during class. Additionally, his course re-design involved the development of a strategy for effective engagement of students through peer-based activities – specifically problem sets to be discussed in lectures that required students in-class to interact with their online cohorts.

Finally, his capstone writing assignment utilized peerScholar to encourage active learning between both the F2F and online student groups.  Students designed and peer reviewed infographics/online posters related to specific aspects of neurobiology, which were then made available in an online environment.

What did Professor Ju think of having a F2F cohort, an online cohort and general class activities moved online?

He admits,  “Running a 3 in one classroom was definitely a lot of fun – in person, streaming live and off-line self-paced study.”

For more on Professor Ju’s approach to teaching and learning take a look at this recent CTSI interview.

Tales from the Grade Center

November draws to a close; the snow settles gently outside.  “Has it really been three months since this madness began?” you wonder.  Favourite hot beverage in hand, the Grade Center slowly blinks into being on the screen.

A sample Grade Center view

Figure 1 - A sample Grade Center view. The context menu of "Grade Column" has been opened.

By now you are likely reviewing your grade center and finalizing marks, or are working to get your affairs in order for the coming semester.  Here are a couple of reminders and pointers to help ease you into the Winter break.

Totally Weighted Weighted Totals

If you’re looking at the Grade Center and the numbers don’t look right, it’s often because of confusion about how the Weighted Total column interacts with the marks you’ve given in your Grade, Assignment or Quiz columns.

Grade Center weighted columns

Figure 2- Mr Weighted Total, a Calculated Column, and Mr Grade Column, made using “Create Column”

 

Keep it simple:

  • Create all of your Manual, Assignment and Quiz columns first.
  • As a general rule, keep the “primary display” of all your Grade columns as “Score” and set the points possible to the number an assignment is going to get marked out of, (e.g. If a perfect score is 20 out of 20, you set this as 20. Simple, right?).
  • When you’re done making your other columns, you can define their syllabus values in the Weighted Total.

What might happen if you’re marking an assignment that’s worth 20% of the final grade out of 20 points possible, you ask?  Nothing is wrong – provided you actually marked it out of 20.  If, for instance, you forgot and decide to give the students a mark out of 100 for that particular assignment, that student who got 90/20 is going to be having a much better day than originally intended.

If your numbers in the Weighted Total column look too high, check the grades given on an assignment against the points possible in the column’s “Edit Column Information” screen.

 

Grade Center context buttons

Figure 3: Each column has a context button which can provide you information and editing options.

Playing Hide and Seek With Your Columns

Were you setting things up for winter and have a column disappear on you?
Can your students see a grade that you can’t see?  There’s a difference between:

Show/Hide to Users:  Hides the grade data in the column to students.

Show/hide columns

Figure 4 - If a circle with a slash through it exists to the left of a columns name, it cannot be seen by students.

And

Hide Column – Hides the column from you, the instructor.

Enable and disable column with a click

Enable and disable column with a click

The former can be enabled or disabled  toggled from the column menu, or from “Edit Column Details.”
The latter is accessed from Grade Center >> Manage >> Column Organization.

If your students are seeing something you can’t, there’s a good chance this is part of the problem.

Still Confused?

If you need to get things cleared up before the break, remember to contact us at portal.help@utoronto.ca.  There are Instructor/Staff drop-in hours on Tuesdays and Thursday’s 1-3pm at Robart’s Library in room 4034.  Portal Training sessions are available at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) throughout the year.  For more information, and to register for a training session, visit http://uoft.me/portaltraining

 

Using Learning Portal Organizations to Inform and Train Library Staff

by Susan Bond−Circulation Supervisor, John W. Graham Library, Trinity College

At John W. Graham Library we started a Blackboard organization  in U of T’s Learning Portal to help manage student staff at our campus library two years ago. Here’s a look at how and why we found the organization tool to be an effective means to communicate with and train our library staff.

The Problem
As a campus Library with two full-time staff and twenty-three student assistants, we have major communication needs. Most of our staff only work with a maximum of three other people, so in order for there to be any kind of consistent user experience, we need to have a good way of keeping each other informed about changes to policies and procedures, and the day-to-day state of the library.

Potential Solutions
We had previously used a variety of cumbersome paper-based solutions to organize our staff. When I initially made the transition to an electronic system, I was just looking for a discussion forum and a way to provide access to our employee manual. We tried a number of other electronic solutions before settling on the Portal. Google sites had all the functionality I was interested in, but we ultimately weren’t comfortable storing our proprietary information on servers outside of the university. Our administrative unit at the university has an intranet that we used in the library for two years, but it ultimately didn’t offer the flexibility we required. It was in frustration with this system that I lighted upon a better option: the Learning Portal (Blackboard). In addition to meeting all of my basic requirements, it was a system my student employees were already using as part of their studies, so I knew it would be relatively easy to incorporate it in one more place!

Why Blackboard? The Forum
What first drew me to the platform was the Discussion Board. It provided a great way for the staff to communicate with each other: both for me to send messages to the students, and for them to communicate about situations in the library with me and with each other. Also, it meant I could contribute to the conversation even when I wasn’t at the library or even in town!

Why Else? The Flexible Content Areas!
The other thing Blackboard allowed me to do was to build an html connected job manual. By separating different topics into different content areas, I was able to build a manual that was easier to use, and allowed my staff to easily find instructions and policies related to specific tasks.

Bonus: A Place for Us to Be Together
After we had been using Blackboard for a while, I started finding other features that could benefit our staff. Because we have so many part time staff who don’t interact with each other, I used the Contact Information area to post not only staff contact information, but also photos, so that staff would recognize each other even if they didn’t ever work together. Between this and the forum letting us communicate more effectively, Blackboard has actually become a site of community for our spread out staff!

Our Organization is (Slightly) Famous!
This past May, I gave a presentation at the Toronto Ryerson York Library conference about how we were using Blackboard, specifically as a tool for asynchronous communication. The audience was interested in my results, and several of them are now considering Blackboard organizations for their own libraries.

Plans for the Future
At the moment, I’m starting to develop Blackboard learning modules to help training my new staff, and we’re considering using the test tool both during training and for in service quizzes.

Blackboard Singing in the Dead of Night: Tools for Asynchronous Communication (Prezi presentation)

CTSI: the view from the 7th floor

With the start of the new year, we have settled in our new, albeit temporary, home. Our space on the 4th floor of Robarts is under renovation – our office has grown considerably over the last few years with the amalgamation of offices (Office of Teaching Advancement, Teaching Assistants’ Training Program and Resource Centre for Academic Technology) in 2009 and the addition of staff and services – so we are residing on the 7th floor of the library until July 2012.

We packed up our old space just before the holidays and many of us felt a little sad. There were no actual tears (at least not that I know of) but it was hard to say goodbye.

Throughout the time we occupied the space (as individual offices then one big pedagogical family), we enjoyed countless workshops and events, facilitated 6 Teaching & Learning symposia and many conferences, supported the implementation of the UofT portal (Blackboard) and training for instructors, graduate students and staff, supported teaching award files and facilitated the TATP Teaching Excellence Award and met with many, many instructors and graduate students on a number of teaching related issues and questions.

Thankfully, we’ve landed in a space that allows us to continue this pace and there will be no break in our schedule or programming. The one drawback is that we don’t have a seminar rooms right next door that we can use for workshops and training but the upside is that we can explore buildings and rooms around campus with our winter 2012 workshop series. And personally, I rather like being surrounded by old card catalogues and library stacks. It’s comforting. Also, we have space for the desktop computer archive so I know that we are home.

To reach our office, take the #4 elevator from the 2nd floor of Robarts and follow the signs. All of our other contact information remains the same.

ctsi.teaching@utoronto.ca
416-946-3319

To reach an individual staff member, please visit the CTSI contact page.

A Focus on Faculty

As a part of the Student-Faculty Interaction initiative – highlighting faculty who implement alternative methods to engage with students – we (CTSI) have started a Focus on Faculty section on our website. Our first profiles are of two President’s Teaching Award winners: Barbara Murck, Department of Geography (UTM) and Andy Dicks, Department of Chemistry.

Murck discusses her online office hours – affectionately known as “bunny slipper” meetings – that she holds for her large first year class. She uses the collaboration tool in the UofT Portal and finds that these chats supplement the course material rather than replace it.  It also provides a personal touch and (despite being online) helps students feel comfortable when approaching her with a question or idea.

Dicks provides Research Opportunities (ROP) for chemistry students to, among other things, design experiments for 2nd and 3rd year courses. His goal is to involve students in pedagogical work while ensuring that his course material is always relevant and engaging. These projects have been enormously successful and led to publications in academic journals. Dicks also enjoys informing students an experiment was designed by a fellow undergraduate.

Please visit our Focus on Faculty section to learn more about these initiatives. If you have any stories to share or other initiatives you know of please let us know.

   

The Grade Center: Planning Ahead

Saira Mall, Educational Technology Liaison, CTSI

Between course scheduling, assignment deadlines and mid-term exams, managing and entering grade data in the Portal’s Grade Center may be left to the last minute resulting in very late nights, usually just before grades are submitted.

If you are using the Grade Center in your Portal course, my advice is old and true: plan ahead of time.

About the Grade Center
The Grade Center is an online repository for course assessment data that allows for grades to be entered directly into their Portal course. Grade Center can be used in conjunction with other Portal tools (e.g., Tests, Discussion Board, Wikis, Blogs, Journals, Surveys and Rubrics) to develop an efficient grading and record keeping system.

Who Has Access to the Grade Center?
Those assigned with Portal course roles including Instructor, Teaching Assistant and Grader all have access to the Grade Center.  Students do not have access to the Grade Center. Students view their progress in My Grades.

Familiarize Yourself with the Policies of Use at UofT
Students should understand that My Grades allows them early access to preliminary grades, but does not represent their official final marks. The Repository of Student Information (ROSI) is the official system of record for the University of Toronto for student grades.  For more information on University of Toronto policies and guidelines regarding the posting and distribution of grades, please visit FIPPA, Q and A for Instructors on the website of the Vice-President and Provost.

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The Portal’s Wiki: a Quick Guide

The latest update to the Portal introduced a new Wiki tool.  A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows students to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related content. Members of a course can develop content on these shared pages using only a web browser.  Students can work together to create an assignment or build on a collection of ideas.  Instructors can create a single wiki for all members of the course or for specific groups. Student contributions to the Wiki tool in the Portal can be viewed and graded.

Getting Started
To create a course wiki, the instructor selects the Wiki tool option in a content area (e.g., Course Documents or Assignments) and enables the settings to make the wiki open for editing.  Grading options and rubrics can be applied to the wiki if applicable.
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Five New Tools to Enhance Your Course Within the UofT Learning Portal

An update to the University of Toronto Learning Portal was performed at the start of the 2011 summer session.  This version introduces five new tools that can be used to enhance collaboration, content delivery and student evaluation within a course.

1. Wikis:  The Wiki tool allows students to create and edit web page content within a course.  Single or multiple wikis can be created for all members of the course or for specific groups.  Students can edit wiki content to work collaboratively on the development of documentation, assignments or projects.  Detailed version information and a history of student contributions to the wiki can be reviewed and graded by the instructor.

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