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Sakai 12 - Gradebook: How should I handle gradebook items not pertinent to the entire class?
How should I handle gradebook items not pertinent to the entire class?
If your gradebook contains one or more items that are pertinent to only a subset of the entire class and assuming those items are intended to count toward the course grade, the calculation of students’ course grades is susceptible to a blind-spot with the Set Zero Score for Empty Cells feature. If an instructor uses the “Set Zero Score for Empty Cells” feature, note that zero scores are inserted into all empty cells for all gradebook items. This occurs regardless of whether or not a given student or group of students are intended to be part of a particular graded activity. For such students, the zero scores inadvertently added will negatively impact the course grade calculation. Avoiding this warrants special attention.
Course sites where different course sections (e.g., BIOL111-01 and BIOL111-02)-- multiple Course Reference Numbers (CRNs)-- are combined into the same Sakai site, are particularly susceptible to this problem. More details regarding this are in the Common Scenarios section of this article. Methods for circumventing this problem are further below.
For the vast majority of courses, graded activities that count toward the course grade will pertain to all students in the course. For instance, in the Assignments tool and Tests & Quizzes tool, such activities are marked as released to the Entire Site.
While exceptions to this norm may vary, the most common exception occurs for course sites where different course sections (e.g., BIOL111-01 and BIOL111-02) are combined into the same Sakai site. In this scenario, each course section is represented in Sakai by a group. One course section, for example, may have class meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while another section meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Given this scenario, instructors may reasonably want due dates for particular assessments in Sakai to track with the different meeting times for each course section. To accomplish this the instructor may create distinct assessments, each released solely to a distinct course section (group) to enforce a particular due date pertinent to that course section.
In some instances a single gradebook item created within Gradebook to represent all students in the site will suffice. In other cases multiple gradebook items to represent that activity are unavoidable and need to be handled with care accordingly.
Cases where a single gradebook item would suffice
For some cases, such as activities using the Forums tool or the Assignments tool, a single Gradebook item can be created in the Gradebook tool to represent all students in the Sakai site for that graded activity. In Forums and Assignments, this gradebook item can be referenced by multiple objects (i.e., multiple topics in the Forums tool or multiple assignments in the Assignments tool) so that only one item in Gradebook is needed to represent all students in the Sakai site for that graded activity.
Using assignments in the Assignments tool as an example, implementing a shared gradebook item would mean selecting the option, Associate with existing Gradebook item. To use this option, first create a gradebook item (e.g., “Lab Report 1”) in the Gradebook tool. Then each assignment in the Assignments tool (e.g., “Lab Report 1 for BIOL111-01” to be released solely to group, “BIOL111-01,” and “Lab Report 1 for BIOL111-02” released solely to group, “BIOL111-02”, etc.) can reference the same gradebook item (“Lab Report 1”) to cover all students in the Sakai site.
Cases where a single gradebook item will not suffice
For graded activities in Sakai such as assessments in the Tests & Quizzes tool or graded in-line questions posed in the Lessons tool, the aforementioned method for Forums and the Assignments tool will not work. Gradebook items for Tests & Quizzes originate solely from the Tests & Quizzes tool. Likewise for in-line questions from Lessons.
Using Tests & Quizzes as an example, a quiz (e.g., “Quiz 1” worth 20 points to be counted toward the course grade) is to be deployed to two distinct course sections in order to implement distinct available dates and/or due dates for those sections. This means creating two distinct assessments in the Tests & Quizzes tool (e.g., “Quiz 1 - Section 1” and “Quiz 1 - Section 2”). Because gradebook items for assessments from the Tests & Quizzes tool originate solely from Tests & Quizzes, the gradebook items for these assessments would appear in the Gradebook tool as two distinct gradebook items. Each of these gradebook items is intended to encompass only a subset of students in the Sakai site. The image below depicts how this example would display in Gradebook.
Continuing with this example, if the instructor does not implement an appropriate prevention or compensation method described below, use of the Set Zero Score for Empty Cells feature would adversely affect all students’ scores in the following manner: Students who are members of Section 1 would receive a ‘0’ score out of 20 points for “Quiz 1 - Section 2,” and students in Section 2 would receive a ‘0’ score out of 20 for “Quiz 1 - Section 1”. This is so, even though students in Section 1 are intended to be responsible for “Quiz 1 - Sections 2,” and students in Section 2 are not intended to be responsible for “Quiz 1 - Section 1.”
Prevention and Compensation Methods
If your gradebook contains one or more items pertinent to only a subset of the entire class, setting a zero score for all empty cells in the gradebook can adversely affect scores for students not intended to be included for those items. Implementing one or more of the following methods should circumvent this problem:
Method 1: Where possible, use a single gradebook item for the graded activity.
If you are able to use a single gradebook item as described above in the section, Cases where a single gradebook item would suffice, this may be best. Doing this also has the benefit of reducing the number of gradebook items to track in Gradebook.
Method 2: Use ‘Keep highest’ or ‘Drop lowest’ to account for group-specific items.
Especially if you anticipate cases in your course where a single gradebook item for a graded activity will not suffice, you can set up your gradebook to use Categories only or Categories & Weighting in order to take advantage of either the Keep highest or Drop lowest features.. For instance if you have a quiz (Quiz 1) to distribute to two distinct course sections, you create a Category called “Quiz 1” where you set 'Keep highest' to 1 and assign “Quiz 1 - Section 1” and “Quiz 2 - Section 2” to this category. When using Set Zero Score for Empty Cells with this gradebook setup, the students’ course grades would not be negatively impacted.
Similar schemes can be devised using “Drop lowest” instead of “Keep highest”.
Likewise, you can bundle more such quizzes within a single category if all the quizzes in question have the same point value, provided that you also use an appropriate ‘Keep highest’ or ‘Drop lowest’ value to compensate for the intended number of quizzes to keep/drop.
Finally note that all gradebook items that you intend to count toward the course grade must belong to a category. Any items in the default category Uncategorized will not count toward the course grade. Thus, this method may be manually intensive to implement if retroactively applied to a gradebook that was not already set to use categories or categories and weighting from the start.
Method 3: Implement alternatives to “Set Zero Score for Empty Cells.”
If all of your gradebook items pertain to all students in the site, then using the Set Zero Score for Empty Cells feature is a convenience. Otherwise, avoid using that feature in order to preserve empty cells as appropriate for gradebook items that do not pertain to all students in the site. For the gradebook items that are pertinent for every student in the site, try the following alternatives to the “Set Zero Score for Empty Cells” feature.
For gradebook items pertinent to all students and created from within Gradebook, you can use the “Set Score for Empty Cells” feature for that particular item in Gradebook.
For gradebook items pertinent to all students and which originate from other tools (e.g., items created by configuration options from tools like Assignments, Tests & Quizzes, etc.), use the corresponding features in those respective tools, if they are available, to apply a ‘0’ score for incomplete work. These features exist in the grading views for the Assignments tool and Tests & Quizzes.
Method 4: Revise appropriate gradebook items if you’ve already implemented “Set Zero Score for Empty Cells.”
For gradebook items created within the Gradebook tool, you can manually click within each pertinent cell to keystroke ‘delete’ to remove the inadvertent ‘0’ scores. (Note that if your Grade Entry setting is set to display Percentages instead of Points, you may need to temporarily set the Grade Entry to points, edit your appropriate cells, and revert the Grade Entry to percentages for the aforementioned removal of ‘0’ scores to save correctly.)
For gradebook items originating from other tools (e.g., Assignments, Tests & Quizzes, etc.), temporarily reconfigure the respective assessment to not propagate its scores to Gradebook. Then configure the assessment once more to propagate scores to Gradebook. This should supplant inadvertent ‘0’ scores with empty cells.