what happens when i forsake automation

Final grades were posted yesterday at 3pm. Within an hour I had an e-mail from a student who received an e-mail saying I gave her a B-minus when she should have gotten an A. She was right. For this class with 120 students, I had a portion of grading that was based on taking the top X out of Y scores.

You can’t do this in Northwestern’s Online Grading Center, I just calculated this part in Excel and entered in the totals by hand, ignoring the suggestion of a friend to figure out how to upload a column from Excel into the Grade Center, because I couldn’t be troubled to figure out such complicated technology when my way was easy enough. Problem was, I transposed two students totals when doing the data entry, so this woman got an official grade of B-minus when she deserved an A and another student got an official grade of B+ when he deserved a C.

So, it’s one thing to change a grade when a student deserves a higher grade than what they got, but how to handle telling somebody that the B+ on their report card is going to be changed to a C? I was going to ask y’all for advice, but then I could figure out how to compose the message myself.

After spending more time than I care to confess contemplating the right wording, I discovered that the student had been taking my class pass/fail, and so his grade is the same (pass) regardless and no grade-change was needed.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

2 thoughts on “what happens when i forsake automation”

  1. My suggestion: do not email particular students. Email the ENTIRE class. Tell them there has been a problem with Northwestern’s grading system. Tell them they cannot trust their grades at all – that there is no relationship between their posted grade and their actual grade. Then tell them you are fixing the problem, and that individual emails asking about grades will only make fixing the problem slower. You will be in touch once everything is fixed.

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  2. If it’s any consolation, Jeremy, had you uploaded an Excel column into the Grade Center–which is a Blackboard enterprise–you could well have had similar problems arise. I did earlier this quarter, because–wait for it–Blackboard is unable to correctly alphabetize student names. If you have students who share a last name (Smith, Jones, Kim) and upload a correctly-alphabetized Excel column into Blackboard, chaos ensues.

    Moral: You were right to forsake Blackboard automation. You’d have had to hand-check everything anyway.

    Blackboard cannot die quickly enough.

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