Specifying Custom Grades
Currently, I'm marking my projects out of 100 but, as I mentioned previously, that's not how they are graded. According to the syllabus, I can only give students one of four grades: Distinction, Merit, Pass, and Referral. So how do you specify your own grades? Let's learn how to do that now.
Time for Action – Create a Custom Grade Scale
- Return to your course front page and look for Grades in the Administration block:
- Click on Grades and you'll be taken to the Grader report page. We are now in the Moodle grade book. I'm not going to worry too much about all of the features in the grade book for the moment—but while you are there you might like to spend a little time having a look. As with anything else in Moodle, you can't do any damage by doing something by mistake.
- At the top left of the page, you will find a list of view options:
- From the list select Scales. You're now taken to the scales page. We need to add a new scale, so press the Add a new scale button in the center of the page.
- On the following page, give your new scale a name and in the Scale box you can specify the possible grades contained in your new scale. Separate the grades with commas—no spaces. Make sure you specify the grades in order of increasing value:
- You don't have to worry about a description. Are the grades you are specifying here used for grading in other courses? If you tick the Standard scale box then your scale will be made available to teachers on all courses.
- When you are done, press the Save changes button. Your new scale is listed on the scales page. Because I didn't make my new scale a standard scale, it's listed as a custom scale:
What Just Happened?
I don't give students a numerical grade for the Backyard Ballistics projects. The syllabus requires a qualitative grade, but luckily the system makes it easy to import my own custom grade scales. All I need to do now is modify my two assignment activities to use the new scale. That only involves a few clicks, so let's do that now...
Time for Action – Grading Using a Custom Scale
- Return to your course front page and click on the update icon next to the assignment you want to change to use your new custom scale. The Editing assignment page is displayed.
- Scroll down to the Grade drop-down list. Click on the list. Scroll up if you need to, because the custom scale we want to use will be towards the very top:
- With the new grading scale selected, scroll down to the bottom of the page and press the Save and return to course button.
- That's it. You will now be able to grade your project using your new scale.
What Just Happened?
We've just modified the assignment to use our new grading scale. All that remains now is to demonstrate how you use it. Now that we are back at the course front page, click on the link to the assignment itself to display the assignment's main page (displaying the description of the task we've set). Click on the View submitted assignments link in the top right-hand corner of the page to take you to the Submissions page.
Choose a student and down in the Status column click on the Grade link. If you've already marked that student then the link will say Update:
Click on the link to open the Feedback dialog. Click on the Grade list at the top right-hand corner of the page to display the grades you can give to this piece of work. The grades listed are the ones from our new custom grade scale:
More Uses for Moodle Assignments
We aren't limited to using the four assignment activities just for major projects. Here are some more ideas on using the assignment activity to convert your current teaching over to Moodle...
- Include an online text assignment for discursive tasks, for example writing a short story or for short essay homework tasks.
- If you're able to display the submissions page of a single file assignment to the class during teaching time, keep refreshing the page as homework is submitted. You'll quickly find that there'll be a race on to be the first to hand their homework in. You could easily turn that into a game for younger students.
- Use an Offline activity to manage the grades of any task you set for your students—homework handed in on paper, for example. You don't have to confine yourself to just projects.
On that last point, there is another way of managing grades directly. We've already been briefly into the Moodle Grader report when we set up our custom scale. Let's revisit that page to see how we can set up custom grading items.
Grading Students on Core Competencies
Often, as educators, we need to grade assignments on core competencies, otherwise known as key skills or goals. That certainly applies to my syllabus: A percentage of the final grade for my course includes marks for numeracy, literacy, and the use of ICT. Because we are converting to Moodle, and in Moodle-speak, the competencies that I am grading are called "outcomes", in this final section, we learn how to specify the core competencies we need to grade, and how we can then grade students on them. There are pros and cons of converting to Moodle, specifically: I can choose to enable outcomes on a per assignment basis, but you can't use the default numeric grading scale to grade outcomes, only standard and custom grading scales (like my custom Backyard Ballistics scale that I created in Time for action – Create a Custom Grade Scale).
Let's start by seeing how easy it is to specify learning outcomes for an assignment.
Time for Action – Create a Custom Grade Item in the Grader Report
- Return to your course front page and click on the Outcomes link in the Administration block:
- You are now taken to the Outcomes used in course page. If the outcomes you need to grade on aren't listed in the Standard outcomes box then we need to add them. Assuming this is that case, click on the Edit outcomes tab. Now press the Add a new outcome button:
- Give your outcome a name, a short name, and choose the scale that you want to use to grade this outcome. Remember: you can create your own custom scales to judge outcomes if you need to. When you are finished, press the Save changes button at the bottom of the page.
- When you are done, click on the Outcomes used in course tab, and you will see your new outcomes listed:
Don't see the Outcomes link?
Outcomes are only available in Moodle 1.9+, so if your Moodle version is less than 1.9, then you will need to upgrade. If your Moodle is recent enough but you still can't see the Outcomes link, then you need to speak to your administrator to get this enabled. Check out the Ask the Admin section at the end of this article.
What Just Happened?
We've just seen how easy it is to define outcomes (core competencies) for our course. Now that the outcomes are defined, we need to specify which outcomes we are going to grade, on a per assignment basis.
I'm going to alter my poster project assignment. It's an Offline assignment activity, but this can be any type of assignment activity...
Time for Action – Grading Core Competencies in Assignments
- Return to your course front page and click on the Update icon next to the assignment you want to change, to open the Editing assignment page.
- Scroll down the page and look for the Outcomes box. If you needed to ask your admin to turn outcomes on for you then this box is a new addition to the Editing assignments page:
- I've ticked the competencies that I want to grade students on (all of them).
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page and press the Save and display button.
What Just Happened?
I've configured my Offline assignment so that I can now grade students on the three core competencies of numeracy, literacy, and ICT.
So how do we grade students? If you pressed the Save and display button, you should now be at the assignment main page. If you have returned to the course front page, click on the assignment you just reconfigured now. Click on the View submitted assignments link in the top right-hand corner of the page.
The table showing student submissions now contains a new column, Outcomes. If you grade a student, you will see new options to grade the outcomes you have ticked. Have a look at these new options now, for example:
Ask the Admin
Before we can specify core competencies, we need to make sure Moodle Outcomes are enabled—and this is a job only our Moodle administrator can do. The setting we need is accessed via the Site Administration block under Grades | General settings. Your admin needs to ensure that the Enable outcomes option is ticked.
We learned a lot in this article about managing student work in Moodle.
Specifically, we covered:
- How to structure converted projects and assignments online using Moodle. We discussed how to add a new topic to a course, and how doing so allows us to hide an assignment, and its supporting reference materials, until students are ready to begin their project work.
- Matching one of the four Moodle assignment activities to your course assignment or project. We discussed how each activity can be used move homework tasks online, as well as more substantial projects.
- How an assignment looks from the student's point of view. We discussed the importance of knowing how students submit assignments, so that you are ready to give help and guidance as students begin to work online.
- How to mark assignments online. We saw how easy it is to manage project grades in Moodle.
We also discussed how Moodle can be used to grade core competencies—showing how this can be configured on a per-assignment basis.