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A basic expectation of online students is timely feedback, including grades. Moodle gives you a gradebook that allows students to see how they're doing at any point in the course (provided, of course, that you've actually graded their work and entered the grades in the gradebook!). If you set up your gradebook to calculate course averages automatically, Moodle's gradebook also automates that chore.

You can reach the gradebook this way:

  1. From the menu with your name on it in the upper right corner, select “Grades”.
  2. Under “Courses I am teaching”, click the link to the desired course.

Setting up the gradebook

In order to calculate course averages automatically, you need to put your assessment items in categories. Your syllabus already has the categories you want, with their percentages of the course grade, so the work here is all in the implementation.

You set it up as follows:

  • Go to the gradebook.
  • In the upper-right corner of the gradebook, you will see a dropdown menu that initially reads “Grader report”. Click on that dropdown menu. Underneath “Setup”, choose “Gradebook setup”.
  • For each category of grades from your syllabus, do the following:
    • Click the “Add category” button at the bottom. You'll be taken to a page for the new category.
    • Enter a name for your category (probably the same name as in your syllabus).
    • In the upper right, click Expand all.
    • If you want to drop the lowest N grades in a category (where N > 0), click “Show more…” under “Grade category”. Among the new boxes shown is one marked “Drop the lowest”. Enter your value of N in that box. (If you do this, be aware that early in the course it will make your averaging look funny.)
    • Underneath “Category total”, in the “Maximum grade” blank, enter the percentage for your category as a whole number between 1 and 100. (For example, if the category is worth 40% of the course grade, enter 40.)
    • Click the “Save changes” button at the bottom. This will take you back to the “Gradebook setup” page.
  • When you've entered all your categories, click the “Save changes” button right under the categories on the “Gradebook setup” page.
  • As you add assessment items (assignments, quizzes, forums, etc.), put each item into its proper category. Every grade should be in some category, if the weighting is to work right.

The way this works is as follows: Moodle will average the grades in each category, weighting each grade in accordance with its number of points. (So, for example, a 10-point item will be weighted twice as heavily as a 5-point item.) Moodle will automatically ignore items for which there are no grades.

Moodle then takes the average from each category and scales it so that it's out of the maximum grade for that category. So, for example, if a student has an 80% quiz average and the quizzes are supposed to be 40% of the course grade, Moodle will make the category grade be a 32 (i.e., 80% of 40). Moodle will figure this out regardless of what the quiz scores actually sum to; it just figures the (weighted) average as a percentage and multiplies the percentage by the maximum grade for that category.

Result: since your category percentages sum to 100%, and Moodle reports the course grade out of 100, the course grade is automatically weighted correctly right through the course. (Moodle will actually do this correctly even if your category percentages don't sum to 100%, but it's far easier to get everything right if they do—not to mention being far less confusing for the students!)

Exporting grades

Many people prefer to keep a backup copy of their grades in spreadsheet form. Given that, in computing, paranoia is often your friend, here is how to do that.

  1. Go to the gradesheet.
  2. There is a dropdown menu in the upper right (showing “Grader report” when you are on the gradesheet). At the bottom of that menu are four options for exporting grades; “Excel spreadsheet” is the one most commonly used. Pick it.
  3. You'll be taken to a page where you can set the options for what grade items to include in the export, and some other parameters. Set them to your liking, and then click the “Download” button at the bottom of the page.

The downloaded file will contain values only, not formulas. Normally, however, you can regenerate your formulas far more easily than you can regenerate the actual grades.

Editing the gradebook directly

Do you really want to do that?

Editing the gradebook directly is usually (but not always) a bad idea. If you enter grades through their assignments, the students can see the grades, plus your feedback, either by clicking the assignment or by checking the gradebook. If you edit them directly into the gradebook, they may not display when the student looks for them via the assignment.

In addition, entering grades via the assignment gives you some error checks that you don't have when you're using the gradebook. It's not hard to produce some truly incomprehensible averages by editing the gradebook directly; it's very hard to do if you enter your grades via the assignments.

Editing via the grader report (slow)

This was the only way to edit the gradebook before Moodle 3.3. It tends to bog down the browser if your computer isn't pretty fast.

  1. Go to the gradebook.
  2. Click the button marked “Turn editing on” in the upper right.
  3. Go to the particular grade for the particular student you want to edit. Just above the little box for the grade is a row of three icons. Click the Edit grade icon.
  4. Make the desired changes. If you want to edit the grade itself, you will normally need to check the “Overridden” checkbox first, before you can enter your new grade.
  5. Click the “Save changes” button at the bottom of the page.

Editing via the single view (faster)

This is a newer way to edit the gradebook, which tends to be much more responsive.

  1. Go to the gradebook.
  2. In the upper right of the page is a dropdown that says “Grader report”. On that dropdown, select “Single view”.
  3. You'll be taken to a page with two more dropdowns, one marked “Select grade item…” and the other marked “Select user…”. If you want to edit grades for a grade item (assignment, quiz, etc.), select that grade item on the grade-item dropdown. If you want to edit grades for a given user, select that use on the user dropdown.
  4. If you chose a grade item, you'll see the grades on that item for all the students. If you chose a student, you'll see that student's grades on every item in the course. In either case, however, the format is the same.
  5. Make the desired changes.
    • To exclude a grade from the student's average: check the “Exclude” box in the rightmost column.
    • To change a student's grade, or enter a new grade: check the “Override” box in the second column from the right. This will enable editing of the grade and feedback. Make the desired changes in those boxes.
  6. Click the “Save” button at the bottom of the right-hand column. If you don't do this before leaving the page, your changes will not be saved.

Special cases

Moodle's course grades are coming out far too low. What gives?

This is usually because the attendance activity that is automatically added to nearly all undergraduate courses is fouling up your averaging. You can fix it as follows:

  1. Go to the gradebook.
  2. On the dropdown menu at the upper right, choose “Gradebook setup”.
  3. The attendance activity will be a grade item titled simply “Grade”. Mark it as extra credit using the procedure described below (approach A under “How do I give extra credit?”).
  4. Return to the grader report”. Verify that the course averages shown are now realistic.

I have grades entered in a category, but the category total for the students is blank. Why?

You can get this result if you told Moodle to drop the lowest N grades in that category, and you don't yet have N grades in that category. For example, suppose you told Moodle to drop the lowest 3 quiz grades, and you have grades entered for 2 quizzes. Those 2 quizzes will be (by definition) in the lowest 3 quiz grades, so they get dropped. That leaves the category empty, so there's no category total.

The problem fixes itself as you get more grades in the category. Moodle doesn't forget what those initial two quiz grades were; if they're not among the lowest 3 at the end of the course, they'll be counted (and 3 others dropped), just as you'd expect.

How do I exclude a grade from a student's average?

You will almost inevitably face a situation where a student comes to you with an unimpeachable excuse for missing a scheduled exercise (“I'm sorry I'm going to miss today's quiz, Professor. I'm on my way to the hospital right now for an emergency appendectomy.”), and you decide that administering a makeup exercise is not appropriate. To ensure that the missing grade is not counted as a zero in her average, you want to exclude it from the calculation—but only for that student, not for all of them.

To do this, see Editing via the single view, above.

How do I give extra credit?

There are actually several useful ways to do this, depending on the exact situation.

  1. You give a separate extra-credit assignment. This is straightforward.
    1. Go to the gradesheet.
    2. Use the dropdown in the upper-right corner to get to “Gradebook setup” under “Setup”.
    3. Find the row for the assignment you want to make extra credit. On that row, in the “Actions” column, is a dropdown menu marked “Edit”. On that menu, choose “Edit settings”.
    4. You will be taken to a page marked “Grade settings”. Second from the bottom of those settings is a box marked “Extra credit”. Check that box.
    5. At the bottom of the page, click “Save changes”.
    6. You'll be taken back to the “Gradebook setup” page. At the bottom of that page, click “Save changes”.
    7. You'll be taken back to “Gradebook setup”. Click the “Save changes” button just under the categories.
  2. You want to award extra credit on a regular assignment. There are two ways to do this.
    1. Edit the gradesheet directly. When you are editing the gradesheet directly, either via the grader report or via the single view, you can enter a grade that is more than the maximum grade for the item. VoilĂ ! Extra credit!
    2. Create a separate grade item for the extra credit. If you want to keep track of the extra credit separately from the credit on the main assignment, you can split it out.
      1. Go to “Gradebook setup”, as described above.
      2. Click the “Add grade item” button at the bottom (just below the “Add category” button).
      3. Give your item a name.
      4. Give your item a maximum grade. In order to make the weighting simple and predictable, give the same maximum grade as the assignment itself has (so that points on the extra-credit item will be weighted the same as points on the assignment itself).
      5. In the “Parent category” box, choose the grade category you want the extra credit to go into.
      6. Click “Save changes” at the bottom of the page.
      7. This will return you to “Gradebook setup”. Mark the item as extra credit in the same way (described above) that you would mark an assignment extra credit.
      8. You will need to edit the gradesheet directly to put grade values into the column for your extra-credit item.

I have a cross-listed graduate/undergraduate course, and the grad students have a different grade calculation from the undergrads.

Short answer: ugh. Moodle doesn't support this directly.

Longer, more helpful answer: you can do this, but not in Moodle. The best you can do is the following:

  1. Figure out which group of students is bigger. Set up your categories to do the average correctly for that group.
  2. Set up a spreadsheet to calculate the averages for the smaller group. Tell the smaller group not to believe what they see on Moodle's grade sheet for their course average.

I want to give fractional points on an assignment, but Moodle won't let me do that.

First, are you sure you want to do that? I used to be a devotee of fractional points myself, until I realized that I was (in effect) claiming to be able to make distinctions of one part in a hundred on assignments when in fact my grade distinctions were much less precise than that. On some assignments, making distinctions of 1 part in 100 may be a realistic claim about the precision of the grading process; mostly we use a 0-100 scale for ease of averaging, however. Claiming anything over 1% precision in assigning a single grade is seldom if ever realistic. Save the fractional percentages for averages, where they make sense.

If, however, you have weighed your options and decided that you really do want to use fractional points, you can do so by directly editing the gradebook.

Last modified: Saturday, August 18, 2018, 10:11 PM