Day 7: Setting Up Your Grading System

Now that your course is up and running, and hopefully all of your students/participants are functioning, it’s time to think about grading. Grading in an online course can be challenging on several levels. Students expect quick feedback in online courses. It is challenging to find time to grading. Grading online assignments may be initially difficult if you are used to grading paper assignments.

Managing Student Expectations

The first thing you should do is communicate clearly on what students can expect. When will you grade? How often will you grade? What is your late work policy? What should students do if there is a technical problem in submitting their assignment?

  • Timing of Grading. I like to grade weekly on a Sunday or Monday. I set aside a couple hours to carefully work through all the assignments from the past week, providing feedback, nudging students, updating grades. This works well for 8 week or semester long courses. For shorter courses, it may be better to grade twice a week. Find a pattern that works for you. Carve out the time needed.

    Image from Microsoft Clipart
  • Communicate. Tell students your grading pattern. Include it in the syllabus. Mention it in your first few weekly emails. Sometimes, if when grading I find a problem that several students encountered, I will send a separate email informing students that I just finished grading, and addressing the issue or problem.
  • Late Work. It is very easy for students to forget they are taking an online course and stop turning in work. Students can easily slip into procrastination. Nip this in the bud right away! We highly recommend that you do not accept late work (except in extreme life/death/health situations). Be sure to email or call students who aren’t functioning to nudge them into participation and let them know consequences.

Set Up Your Grading Documents

  • Do you like to grade on paper? Create and print a chart/checklist for grading.
  • Do you like Excel? I always keep an identical copy of my gradebook on Excel (backup habits!). Once a week I update the grades online for the students.
  • What other ways do you prefer to grade? How can you make that work in an online environment? Make a system that works for your style.

Technology Tips

We use Moodle at Andrews University, but you can use Google to search for tutorials on your LMS. Search tip: “task LMS tutorial” i.e. “grading in Moodle video tutorial” if you want to see a video of how to do it.

Weekly Routine

I recommend that you build these activities into your weekly routine to supplement your daily routine.

  • Review and grade all new work.
  • Send your weekly email.
    • Give an overview of the upcoming topics.
    • Address any issues you discovered in grading / reviewing discussion forums.
    • Include a suggested schedule for the week.
    • Include an invitation to ask for help with at least two methods to contact you (i.e. Skype, email, phone).
  • Be sure all student emails from the previous week have been addressed and answered.

Your Turn

Reflect. What tips do you have for grading online courses? What strategies work for you? What do you include in your weekly routine?

This post is Day 7 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

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