Each quarter during the transition year as Northwestern moves from Blackboard to Canvas, we’ve asked for faculty and student feedback to gauge how well the transition is going and what issues the users are experiencing.
In the most recent survey, performed during Winter quarter (Jan-March 2015), 192 faculty took time to give us their reactions. One of the areas that they are passionate about is grading – and in particular, SpeedGrader.
More than half of the respondents say that they use SpeedGrader; 80% say they use Canvas Grades tools.
In response to the question, “what do you like best about Canvas?” respondents often mention grades, grading, and SpeedGrader. Of the 150 or so responses, 27 cited their favorite feature as SpeedGrader. People said things like, “I’m using Speedgrader for the first time this term, and it’s pretty good too.” And, “[I like] the possibility to add oral and/or written comments to the grades.”
When asked, “What do you like least about Canvas?” and “If you could change one thing about Canvas, what would it be?” the faculty took the grading functions to task. People called the gradebook clunky and they cited a lack of flexibility in calculating final or overall grades from component grades. One person said, “The gradebook insists on posting running “totals” for assignment groups which do not correspond to my grading scheme… I want to mute the totals… This is really important to fix – it is creating havoc for the students.” One person complained that SpeedGrader was dropping text comments on student assignments. At least four drew attention to the fact that SpeedGrader’s functions are not supported on mobile platforms.
A few more comments on SpeedGrader:
* “Speedgrader needs to be improved so that view available to faculty is the same view/screen size available to students when they access comments.”
* “It’d be nice if we could turn off the final % the students see which is their overall final grade. We weight grades for certain assignments, but not until after the course is done, so the final grade % is always inaccurate.”
* One faculty member was surprised that once he or she had selected “letter grade” as his grading scheme that students were given points – s/he had to explain that an A was not an automatic 100.
Several faculty members suggested improvements to the grading features, including:
* a tab feature so the instructor sees only a particular class of assignments;
* ability to email students from within gradebook view;
* ability to add columns that are not tied to assignments;
* a function to sort students according to secondary ID (student NetID) so as to ungroup students with similar last names and avoid grading bias;
* increased flexibility in calculating overall grades from component grades with spreadsheet-like functions allow instructors to do things like drop highest or lowest two scores before calculating a mean;
* “Grades – please replicate the feature that was in Blackboard – both the mean & median were numerically displayed for students per assignment;”
* “add real weighted grades to grade book. In the current implementation, Canvas totals up the number of points in a category (e.g. quizzes) and divides by the number of items in the category. This means if you don’t make each quiz the exact same point value, then different quizzes are differently. There should be an option to weight items equally (i.e. calculate the average of the percentages of the different quizzes). This should be a easy change. One option and simple math ….) It’s annoying that Speed Grader doesn’t advance automatically to the next student’s assignment after I have submitted a score, and that the advance button is so far from where grades are entered, so that I have to go back-and-forth with the mouse. (Or am I missing a trick?)”
* “Fewer clicks to get to a student’s paper in Speed Grader so I can start grading it!”
* “I’d also like some additional tools or “stamps” I could use in Speed Grader to mark up a student paper, like a simple check mark or exclamation point or “OK!” or question mark”.
So what’s the grade on Canvas grading? Seems like there is room for improvement. As my English teacher in high school used to say, “I’m giving you a B+, but if you work really hard you can bring it up to an A.”
Interested in having your say? Be sure to respond to the Spring quarter Canvas survey when it is announced in Canvas.