What is happening?

A number of projects are planned to provide additional functionality to Blackboard's inbuilt grades management system, Grade Centre. The objective of these projects is to allow the improvement of processes used to manage component marks and calculation of final grades.

The management and security of grades will be improved by eliminating or limiting the use of spreadsheets and other in-secure systems. Using Grade Centre offers the additional benefit of built-in security with the logging and monitoring of data. 

What projects are planned?

Assignment Files Upload tool

ITS are currently developing an Assignment Files Upload tool (previous working title for this tool was Multiple File Upload tool) for Grade Centre. Currently, while staff can download all Blackboard assignments from Grade Centre at once (bulk download) for marking on specialised applications, the marked files can only be uploaded one by one. This functionality should make it viable for staff to mark a larger range of assignment types online.

Grades Upload Process (SI-net button)

Additional Grade Centre functionality to allow the direct transfer of grades to SI-net as an alternative to the current CVS file upload process.

Hurdle Capability

Additional Grade Centre functionality to allow add hurdle capability to the Blackboard grading schema.

Grade Centre limitations

Currently there are some limitations with Blackboards inbuilt grades management system, Grade Centre. 

  • Transfer: Currently the Student information system (SI-net) does not facilitate direct transfer of grades from the Learning Management System (Blackboard). Marks must be exported to a spreadsheeet and then uploaded manually.  Direct transfer is long standing request from the faculties. Meanwhile ITS has provided a SiNet Merge tool to make sure the order of students is compatible between the systems for the manual transfer.
  • Manipulation: Grade Centre does not currently cater for ‘hurdles’. Many instructors therefore currently export marks to a spreadsheet or alternate systems (e.g. iMark) for manipulation before uploading to SI-net.
  • It is not possible to display the same mark automatically in a number of formats i.e. Raw mark, Percentage, Weighted mark
  • It is only possible to create total columns based on a) summing marks or b) weighted marks, more complex formulas are not possible.
  • Large Classes: Grade Centre does have smartviews to help manage large classes but this could be improved.

It may be helpful to provide a grade management system supplemental to Blackboard, if demand can be identified, and if requirements are sufficiently similar across schools.

Given this functionality requirement would appear to be common across universities, due attention should be given to the possibility this will be solved by: a) Blackboard; b) another university; or c) an existing commercial off the shelf (COTS) system. The possibility that requirements will be too disperate to justify a bespoke solution will also need to be considered. Other universities have hired BAs to design a system but found that the variety of business practices and complexity of the tool that would make the cost of development and change management prohibitive. UQ is currently considering a modification to Blackboard allowing hurdles on our system.