Seven Life Hacks for Blackboard Grade Center

Okay, so there was just another post by Rachel Kleinsorge about Blackboard Grade Center, but guess what? It’s the end of the semester and grades are on everyone’s minds. I’ve been talking faculty members through setting up their shiny new Grade Centers when they first set up their Blackboard sites now for many years, and I figured it was time to actually write down all that advice in one handy place.

1. Delete the “Total” Column in Grade Center

Okay, so the Grade Center has this weird Total column which is basically just a running total of all the points you are awarding in your course. For example: let’s say you have two tests and two written assignments each worth 100 points, and four quizzes each worth 50 points. And let’s throw in some class participation for 15 points as well. Now, add all that up and you have 615 points. This

This checkmark means the column is impossible to delete

This checkmark means the column is impossible to delete

is confusing for everyone, so it’s best to just get rid of the Total column. Problem is, when you go to Blackboard Grade Center, there’s this weird green checkmark next to your Total column which designates that column as the “External Grade.” I have no idea what that actually means, but for our purposes, what this means is that you can’t delete the Total column until you designate some other column to be the “External Grade.” I suggest setting the Weighted Total column as the “External Grade,” then delete the Total column. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the arrow by the Weighted Total column and select the option “Set As External Grade.”
  2. You should now see that weird green checkmark next to the Weighted Total column.
  3. Click on the arrow by the Total Column and now you should be able to select “Delete Column.”

2. Hide Columns You Don’t Need

It will save you lots of scrolling! Specifically, the columns I suggest hiding are the “Student ID,” “Last Access,” and “Availability” columns. Also, you might want to hide the “Username” column if you don’t care what their usernames are. “Mike,” you say, “why don’t I just delete those columns if they’re so annoying?” Because Blackboard will not let you delete those columns! Blackboard loves those columns and jealously protects them, but you can hide them.

bb_columns_to_hide

There are two ways to hide your columns.

The first way is to one-at-a-time hide those columns, which is easier, but takes longer if you’re hiding a lot of columns (and also sometimes doesn’t work depending on the browser you’re using). Here’s how:

Click on the downward arrow to the right of the column name and select “Hide From Instructor View.” That should do it. However, sometimes, that doesn’t work. (As an aside, ironically this used to say “Hide Column” instead of “Hide From Instructor View.” This has just recently been changed because faculty members would think they were hiding the columns from students and it turned out they were just hiding the columns from themselves. It’s possible to hide columns from students, but this ain’t the way to do it.) Anyway, if this first way to hide the columns doesn’t work for you, or if you want to hide multiple columns at once, you can hide columns the cool way, explained below.

The second way to hide columns is way cooler because it gives you more options and gets you started with Blackboard’s Column Organization tool, which we’re going to be using for some of the other things you want to do with your new Grade Center. Here’s what you do:

  1. In Grade Center, hover over Manage, then choose Column Organization.
  2. In the Column Organization Window, check the boxes to the left of the items you want to hide.
  3. Scroll up to the Show/Hide, then select Hide Selected Columns.
  4. Click Submit, and you should be done.
  5. IMPORTANT: You can unhide your columns the exact same way. Just go back into the Column Organization area, select the grayed-out columns you want to show, and select Show Selected Columns.

3. Minimize the Left-Hand Menu to See More Columns in Grade Center

So this isn’t something you need to do immediately, but if you’re going to build lots of columns now, it’s a good thing to do so you can visualize as many columns as possible at once. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hover over the extreme right-hand side of the left-hand menu and you should see a vertical gray bar with an arrow appear. Click on that to make the left-hand menu disappear.
  2. Once you’re done messing around with Grade Center, you probably want your menu back. To get the left-hand menu back, hover over the extreme left-hand side of the main window until you see that same gray bar with the arrow. The arrow will be facing the other way. Click on that and the menu will reappear.

4. Create Categories

If you’re going to be grading a bunch of assignments under particular headings (for example, if you have a bunch of quizzes that are worth a total of 20% of the final grade) it’s often easier to create categories and then make sure to add those categories to your columns. That way, when you set up your Weighted Total, you can grade those areas by Category instead of by Column. This has the extra benefit of letting you drop the lowest grade in a particular Category if that’s something you want to do. Here’s how to create a Category:

  1. In Grade Center, go to Manage > Categories
  2. You will see a list of prepopulated categories. You can add others to better suit your needs by clicking the Create Category button at the top of the page and following the directions.
  3. Once the category has been added, you can now assign that category to your Columns.

5. Know Which Columns to Add and Which Not to Add

If you’re ready to add grade columns to Grade Center, go ahead and start building those columns. Unless, that is, your assignments will be built into Blackboard Assessments. Any Assessment you create in Blackboard will automatically generate a column on its own. This also goes for Assignments, Tests, Self and Peer Evaluations, and any other Assessment you build in Blackboard.

6. Sort Your Columns

If you hate having disorganized columns in Grade Center, tidy them up! Just go to the Column Organization area in Grade Center and drag and drop the columns in the order you want them to appear.

  1. In Grade Center, go to Manage > Column Organization
  2. Grab the column you want to move and drag it up or down in the list. You may need to grab the column by the four pointed arrow all the way to the left of the column name.
  3. Once you have all the columns the way you want them, hit Submit and your changes should all be saved.

 7. Use Smart Views

Have multiple sections in the same Blackboard course site? Why not create a Smart View that will allow you to see just one section at a time in Grade Center? Here’s how:

  1. First, if you have combined multiple sections into one course site using the Blackboard Course Generator, you should wait until the first week of classes before creating your smart view. Those sections will be created automatically in your Blackboard course site. Now all you have to do is create the Smart View as follows:
  2. In Grade Center, go to Manage > Smart Views and then click the Create Smart View button at the top of the page.
  3. Name the view and check the “Add as Favorite” box in the top area
  4. In the bottom area, select Course Group as the Type of View (if Course Group is not an option, that means the course hasn’t been split up into sections yet. Either try back later or contact our Blackboard Help).
  5. Choose the first section in the Select Criteria area and hit Submit
  6. Repeat for each additional section.
  7. Now you should see those Smart Views appear in your Control Panel under the Full Grade Center link.

I hope that these seven Blackboard hacks help make your grading easier for this semester and next!

About Mike Blum

Mike is the Academic Technologist for the Humanities at the College