Lisa Beach

Gradebook Icebergs

Discussion created by Lisa Beach on May 31, 2016
Latest reply on Jun 1, 2016 by Gregory Beyrer

We nearly ran into a couple of gradebook icebergs that I'd like to help others avoid. I apologize if you all were aware of these, but I wish someone had told me, so I'm going to pass along what I know.

Grading Scheme

When you're setting up Canvas, the Sys Admin should take a look at the grading option defaults. For example, by default course settings do not include any grading scheme:

That means that at that end of the semester, gradebook points will not be converted to letter grades. Once that box is checked (and we had our IT team do this via API for all courses), then the instructor must also set the grading scheme:

The default grading scheme is one that probably doesn't fit most CCC's:

We were able to create another one that we called "SRJC Defaut Grading Scheme" that contained the most commonly used parameters:

We then connected every course to that grading scheme. We also let everyone know that they could create their own grading scheme, and that if there was one that was used by their department, we would install it at the root level so everyone in their department could select it.

Dashes vs. Zeroes

In both of our previous course management systems, if a student did not turn in an assignment it was counted as zero points towards their course total. By default in Canvas those missed assignments appear as dashes, and the points are not counted in that student's total. So, if a student turns in one assignment and gets and A, and then doesn't turn the second one in at all, their grade appears to them to be an A. Even at the end of the semester.


In order to make sure grades reflect assignments not turned in, instructors must either manually turn all those dashes into zeroes, or they can set the default grade for an assignment to zero:

If they don't do either of those things, or don't do them until the end of the semester, students could think they are getting a much higher grade than the one they end up with. There is another very misleading setting called "Treat Ungraded as 0" that seems like it would do the trick, but in reality this is just a way for instructors to "preview" student scores as though the dashes had been changed to zeroes, but doesn't actually change them.


Students also have a setting that prevents ungraded assignments (dashes) from appearing to be part of their calculated final grade:

That box is checked by default. So if the instructor is changing dashes to zeroes after an assignment closes, the student will see an accurate mid-semester score. If they are not changing dashes to zeroes, then the student will seem to have an inflated grade because past-due assignments that were not turned in will not be included in their grade.


There is also something called "muting grades" which could affect the way a student sees their current grade, but doesn't change the actual course grade.


The bottom line is that instructors and students need to clearly understand these settings and how they will affect students' grades.