The Inline Grading Tool: Blackboard’s Electronic Red Pen

red penThe red pen has long been a symbol of correction and instruction. Professors use it to highlight items that need to be changed, striking fear into the hearts of their students.  You might miss the feeling of that pen in your hand, not to mention its ability to clearly mark portions of an assignment, when students submit assignments electronically through Blackboard. Thankfully, Blackboard’s inline grading process is a red pen for the electronic age.

Using Inline Grading

Access the Inline Grading tool by clicking ‘comment’ when grading an assignment. This toolbar will appear on the top left of the assignment window. Here’s what it looks like in Firefox (it looks slightly different depending on your browser):

capture of Blackboard inline editing_small

The Inline Grading toolbar in Firefox.

The Three Types of Comments

The first option for marking up a student’s paper, Comment, allows you to add comments in three different ways, Point Comment, Area Comment, and Text Comment.

comment choices

The comment menu choices.

  1. Point Comment puts a red ‘flag’ in the text to direct the students to a specific point. After selecting Point Comment, click to insert the point flag.

    Point Comment

    An example of a Point Comment.

  2. Area Comment works the same way, but lets you draw a box around an area.

    An example of an Area Comment.

    An example of an Area Comment.

  3. Text Comment allows you to highlight text by clicking and dragging. When you release the mouse button a comment box will appear on the right-hand side for you to type your comments.
    An example of a Text Comment.

    An example of a Text Comment.

    When you select Text Comment, the Highlight tool color options appear to the right of the toolbar. Change the highlight tool color by clicking on the yellow, orange, green, or blue box.

    The Highlight toolbar

    The toolbar with the Highlight tool options displayed.

The Draw Tool

The draw tool lets you ‘draw’ on the paper in four colors. Again, color boxes appear to the right of the toolbar.

draw tool bar

The toolbar with the Draw tool options displayed.

When your drawing is finished, Blackboard will give you an opportunity to cancel and try again or accept the image.

draw tool

The final step when using the Draw tool.

The Highlight, Text, and Strikeout Tools

The next three options are highlight, text, and strikeout. The highlight tool allows you to highlight text without making a comment. The Text button lets you add text anywhere on the page. The strikeout button changes the font style strike out.

highlight strikeout and text

An example showing highlighted text, text, and strikeout text.

Deleting Editing Marks

Right click on a drawing, highlight, or section of strikeout to delete it.

remove strikeout

An example of how to remove strikeout.

For comments, a delete option appears in the lower right .

delete commetn

How to delete or reply to a comment.

Inline Grading, a Helpful Addition to the Blackboard Toolbox

Using the inline grading tool won’t stop you from using the ‘Grader Feedback’ box on the right hand side of the screen or providing a number grade. If you’re missing your red pen or your students want more precise feedback, give the inline grading tool a try. I think you’ll find it feels familiar.


  1. April Lawrence says:

    Great post, Rachel! I’m looking forward to using this feature in the Fall. I imagine the time spent learning how to use these annotation tools is well worth the time saved in downloading essays and uploading marked assignments.

  2. Thanks for this post. I’ve been using this feature for about a month now, and it has worked very well. This is so much more usable than the previous version. (Welcome to the AT blog team!)