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2 Posts authored by: Brian Bennett

I'm trying to make standards-based grading more approachable for my teachers. When I was teaching full time, I held to Frank Noschese's Keep It Simple philosophy. Single standards correlate to single assignments that are scored as pass/fail. Now, I averaged these out on a weighted scale to calculate a 0-100 grade, but that's for another post

 

Using Canvas, I was able to set up a functional reassessment strategy to aggregate demonstrations of proficiency.

The Learning Mastery Gradebook in Canvas does not translate anything into the traditional gradebook. This mean that every week or so, I would have to open the Mastery report alongside the traditional gradebook and update scores line by line. This was tedious and prone to error.

 

Using the Canvas API and a MySQL database, I put together a Python web app to do that work for me. The idea is that a single outcome in a Canvas course is linked with a single assignment to be scored as a 1 or 0 (pass/fail) when a mastery threshold is reached.

 

The App

Users are logged in via their existing Canvas account using the OAuth flow. There they are shown a list of active courses along with the number of students and how many Essential Standards are currently being assessed (ie, linked to an assignment).

 

Teacher Dashboard

The teacher dashboard

 

 

Single Course

In the Course view, users select which grading category will be used for the standards. Outcomes are pulled in from the course and stored via their ID number. Assignments from the selected group are imported and added to the dropdown menu for each Outcome.

 

Users align Outcomes to the Assignment they want to be updated in Canvas when the scores are reconciled. This pulls live from Canvas, so the Outcomes and Assignments must exist prior to importing. As Assignments are aligned, they're added to the score report table.

 

Score Reports

Right now, it defaults to a 1 or 0 (pass/fail) if the Outcome score is greater than or equal to 3 (out of 4). All of the grade data is pulled at runtime - no student information is ever stored in the database. The Outcome/Assignment relationship that was created tells the app which assignment to update for which Outcome.

When scores are updated, the entire table is processed. The app pulls data via the API and compares the Outcome score with the Assignment grade. If an Outcome has risen above a 3, the associated Assignment is toggled to a 1. The same is true for the inverse: if an Outcome falls below a 3, the Assignment is toggled back to a 0.

 

I have mixed feelings about dropping a score, but the purpose of this little experiment is to make grade calculations and reconciliation between Outcomes and Assignments much more smooth for the teacher. It requires a user to run (no automatic updates) so grades can always be updated manually by the teacher in Canvas. Associations can also be removed at any time.

 

Improvements

To speed up processing, I use a Pool to run multiple checks at a time. It can process a class of ~30 students in under 10 seconds. I need to add some caching to make that even faster. This does not split students into sections, either. 

 

I've started turning this into an LTI capable app which would make it even easier for teachers to jump in. If you're a Python developer, I would really appreciate some code review. There is definitely some cleanup to be done in the functions and documentation and any insight on the logic would be great.

 

The source for the project is on GitHub.

I've been working on an easier way for teachers to upload Quiz Items and Outcomes from a Google Sheet. The template sheet uses Google Apps Script and a user's personal API key to interact with their courses.

 

Quizzes

Teachers frequently write tests and quizzes together. This mechanism allows teachers to write and upload dozens of questions easily from a Google Sheet.

Screenshot of the template spreadsheet

The Canvas API only allows questions to be uploaded to an existing Quiz resource. Teachers can select the appropriate course and quiz dynamically using the popup.

 

Quiz uploader sidebar with dynamic course and quiz selection boxesOnce a quiz resource has been selected, users can define the number of items to upload. The spreadsheet marks an item as successful and updates the next row to be uploaded so questions are not duplicated on subsequent runs.

Considerations

  • All questions uploaded are stored in the "Unnamed bank" question bank.
  • The "Topic" and "Primary Standard Indicator" fields are used to title questions for easy bulk sorting in the Canvas UI.

Updates to come

  • Error messages are...opaque. Often a failure results in "the resource does not exist," meaning the user hasn't selected a course or quiz.
  • Questions are not batched right now, so uploading too many questions can lead to a script timeout.

 

Outcomes

The Outcomes API is difficult to use. I know there are CSV imports now, but it is sometimes helpful to upload Outcomes as they're written rather than generating a CSV over and over.

 

Outcomes have to go into an Outcome Group. If there are no groups defined in the course, the course name is used as a top-level group.

 

The template spreadsheet is similar to the quiz template, with specific fields being defined for the upload to run successfully. There is a helper sheet where users can define different rubric scoring ranges for each upload.

Outcome upload template in a Google Sheet

Rubric template for uploading Outcomes

The Outcome upload sidebar is similar to the Quiz Item sidebar. Because new outcomes must be attached to a group, a dynamic list of codes and group titles are generated when the user selects their course.

Outcome group codes displayed dynamically on course selection

 

Considerations

  • Outcome uploads are done to the course, not to the user's account. This allows them to bulk-modify outcomes semester to semester as they update their courses.

 

Updates to come

  • Improve error messaging
  • Pull all existing outcomes and their status into a sheet for proofing and updating.

 

I have a template project you can copy. You can also see the entire source on GitHub if you'd like to take a look or contribute. My plans are to eventually convert this to an AddOn for easier distribution and use.