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 insecure systems. Using Grade Centre offers the additional benefit of built-in security, with the logging and monitoring of data. 

What projects have been completed?

Assignment File Upload tool development

The Assignment File Upload tool (previous working title for this tool was Multiple File Upload tool) for Grade Centre was developed during 2018 and made available to all staff in 2019. Previously, while staff could download all Blackboard and Turnitin assignments in bulk, the marked files could only be uploaded one by one. The Assignment File Upload tool allows both Blackboard and Turnitin assignments to be uploaded in bulk. This capability has made it possible for staff to provide feedback on a wider range of assignment file types electronically.

Working Party

This project was resourced by ITS and guided by the following working party members: 

  • Ailsa Dickie, Project Manager
    eLearning Program Manager (Training), ITaLI
  • Adam Murray, Developer
    Specialist Software Engineer
  • Professor Paul Lant
    School of Chemical Engineering
  • Dr Juliana De Nooy
    School of Languages and Cultures
  • Chris Frost
    eLearning Coordinator, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Paul Dutton
    eLearning Support Officer

Thank you also to Dr Julie McCreddan, formerly an Educational Designer for the UQ Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Julie proposed the development of this tool in 2013 and completed the original functional requirements gathering.

Upload Grades to SI-net

Additional Grade Centre functionality to allow the direct transfer of grades to SI-net, as an alternative to the CSV file upload process, was developed during 2018 and made available to all staff in 2019.

What projects are planned?

Assignment File Upload tool deployment

Promotion, change management and training activities will be carried out during 2019 to support staff with the implementation of this tool. Also, the eLearning team will collect feedback during Semester 1 on additional tool functionality that should be developed and deployed in Semester 2.

Upload Grades to SI-net deployment

Promotion, change management and training activities will be carried out during 2019 to support staff with the implementation of this tool.

Hurdle Capability development

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

Grade Centre limitations

Currently, there are some limitations with Blackboard's 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 a 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 Smart Views 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 disparate 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 would make the cost of development and change management prohibitive. UQ is currently considering a modification to Blackboard, allowing hurdles on our system.