Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blackboard and grading

Okay, last semester I assigned weekly reading journals to my students. They emailed them to me, or brought them to class. It worked pretty well, except that in addition to the time it took to read them, I also wrote way too much on them. My comments probably were mostly unread (as was painfully obvious when one student turned in a rough draft for the "research" paper that was just two journals pasted together, with no research and no revisions). Also, it's fine to spend that time when you only have a few students, but when you're teaching two courses, it snowballs.

So this semester I made use of the "blog" discussion threads on Blackboard. I started one thread for each week of blog writing (or one for two weeks' worth, if it was the same novel; this may be amended).

Interesting things to note:
1. In a blog discussion thread, all the blogs are displayed. All of them. There's no picking and choosing which blogs to read before all of the text shows up. Granted, Blackboard automatically will show ten at a time unless you change your settings, but if you were looking for a post by a specific student (and if you haven't selected the grading option for the thread), you have to sift through all the posts.

2. Having selected the grading option, I grade through the grade book. Clicking on the assignment for the post, I then can have it display posts for each student involved. It not only shows the blog(s) they wrote in the specific discussion thread, it also shows the comments they have written on the blogs. I have yet to start grading their comments, but this makes it easier.

3. Looking at comments through the grade book does not prevent you from reading the corresponding blog easily. Above the comments, it will say "Comments on ______". If you click on the blog title, then it comes up in a pop-up window.

4. Rather than just assign grades - or having to remember what I wanted each level of grading to be for blogs and comments - I also set up grading forms (I needed one for a week's blog, and one for two weeks of blog; though, I am pretty convinced that I will split those two weeks threads up). This has been an immense help, as the students should be able to see what is wrong with their blog without me having to type explanations for everyone. I am still trying to write some comments, but am keeping it pared down to style issues.

I am fairly certain that I will continue to do weekly blogs online rather than have them emailed, but I am still figuring out what I think specifically about the blog versus regular style discussion thread. Blackboard also has a "journal" style thread that can be kept private, but as I feel the blogs help us all interact and learn more about the readings, I like keeping it open. I may have to play around with journal threads the next time I am planning a Blackboard course, though.


  1. I was in charge of posting assignments/readings on Blackboard for the prof. I was GTF for last term. Though I did not have to deal with grading, per se, my favorite BB feature was in the grading area; namely, the column that shows you when each student last logged on to the class page. It made it easy for me to tell who was actually keeping up with readings, and who was slacking. I think it definitely affected some grades.

  2. I like that you have the option of Blackboard blogs versus discussion threads. I had no idea that there were so many options! I like that you can see a student's blogs and what he has commented on. That's pretty cool!

  3. Grading forms are great for evaluating a number of assignments *quickly* and accurately. They also keep us consistent from one paper to the next. I also like that there is nothing "secretive" about the grading process. The students can see exactly what we were looking for and where they may have fallen short.

  4. This post could not have come at a more perfect time! I've been playing around with different ideas as to how students will submit their research notebooks. They submit 3 times throughout the semester and each submission builds on the last one so I felt that handing in hard copies was not the most efficient way to do this. I haven't used anything other than the discussion option on eLC and was planning on trying out the blog/journal options. It sounds like, for my purposes, the journal option might work best. So, you've saved me A LOT of time :)

    As for how you utilize the you give them a prompt for what they should blog about for each reading or is it just whatever they want to write about the reading?

  5. I used eLC's "blog with prompts" approach for online discussion questions last semester and it worked well. I never tried the online grading though. Sounds like I'm missing out! I'll have to give that a go next time.

    Have any of you tried the "journal" option. How does that work?

  6. @Hali:

    I need to check out that "last logged on" function. I find it interesting to see who's still logged in, but being able to see when they've logged in is also interesting.


    That is exactly what I love about the grading form :D


    For the blogs, I try and encourage them to add to the discussion, if they choose something we've talked about in class. Sometimes I'll give them ideas in class, but as far as prompts go, I want them to write about something that struck them personally - in our case, about ethnicity, or why an author might have used a certain trope. One of my students wrote about the importance of Maryland in one of our readings, something I didn't know about! So it was pretty interesting!

  7. @Lincoln: I just used the journal option last week with my students. We did a research ethics values walk in class and I had the students write a reflection paper as a journal entry on eLC. It worked great. I was able to keep it private so that only I could see the student's entries and graded is as a pass/fail (full credit for writing something, 0 if you don't) which made grading really easy. I set up a column in eLC for the journal entry and was able to look at who had and hadn't submitted an entry and entered grades accordingly from there.