Blackboard Grade Center Best Practices – Part 1

Grade Center Best PracticesOne of the most feature rich areas of Blackboard Learn is the Grade Center.  From schemas to to grading periods and smart views to column organization the grade center is like the Swiss army knife of of Blackboard.  Taking this into account it is easy to see where we may only scratch the surface of what “this baby can do”, or how we can become overwhelmed with all of the data the grade center records. The next few weekly blog posts will be an attempt to highlight some best practices when it comes to getting the most out of your Blackboard Learn Grade Center.  

For each area of the Grade Center we cover, we will include a best practice or two to help you along.


The Column Organization page is divided into various tables that control how different Grade Center views are displayed. Rows in these tables represent Columns in the Grade Center views. Rows can be manipulated to customize the different views of the Grade Center.  The column organization page allows you to:

  • Freeze Columns:  Frozen columns remain in place when scrolling through the Grade Center views.
    bestpracticeiconsmall Always Know the Group Name
    Trying to determine who is in what group can be a real pain when it comes to viewing students in the Grade center.  By adding the Group Name column to the “Frozen” Columns you can always tell which groups your students are in.
  • Hide Columns: Hidden Columns are not displayed in Grade Center views although the data IS PRESERVED and the column can be revealed at any time.
    bestpracticeiconsmall Improve Your Point of View
    Hide the columns you don’t need so that you can see more of the columns you want when you view the full grade center.  A common first step is to hide the User Name, Student ID, Last Access and Availability columns.
  • Edit Categories: Selected rows can be associated with a Category or have their Category association changed.
  • Edit Grading Periods: Selected rows can be associated with a Grading Period, or have their Grading Period association changed.


As you provide and view grades, you are obtaining information on how students are performing in your course. You can tailor your view of student progress by creating smart views. A smart view is a focused look at the Grade Center. It shows only the columns that match a set of criteria, and the view is saved for continued use. When the Grade Center includes a great number of students and columns, you can use smart views to quickly find data.

You have 8 Smart Views by default with 2 of them (Assignments & Tests) marked as Favorites that show up in your Grade Center area of your course’s Control panel.  These Smart views are: Assignments, Blogs, Discussion Boards, Final Grade View, Journals, Preview of My Grades, Self & Peer Assessments & Tests. The Smart views are accessed by using the Manage button on your Grade Center’s Action Bar and choosing Smart Views.

bestpracticeiconsmall Smart View for Merged Course
When you have multiple sections merged in Blackboard, the Grade Center will create a column name called Child Course ID.  You can create a smart view based upon the Name within the Child Course ID column.  You will use the Create Smart View button on the Smart Views page, give it a Name (Name of the section you want to view) and Description (Optional), then choose the Custom radio button and select Child Course ID as the User Criteria and paste in the ID for the Value.  *You will need to copy the ID from your Grade Center before you access this page and paste it.


If you utilize the Grade Center in your Blackboard course, you will find that students check it early and often (all apologies to voting strategies aside).  Heck, if you just have a Blackboard shell for your course, your students will expect it!  While students appreciate the fact that you post grades regularly, online and indeed face-to-face students want to know why they received a particular grade.

A great way to connect to your student and let them know the reasons for their particular grade is to leave feedback.  Even just a quick word of encouragement will go along way toward promoting student engagement in your course.

bestpracticeiconsmall Put a face or voice to the name with Audio & Video Feedback
One of the largest concerns voiced in the distance learning community is that online students rarely get to see or hear from their instructor.  The Grade Center in Blackboard Learn allows you to leave audio or video feedback directly to your students for a particular graded item.  You can use the Wimba Voice Authoring tool to add a quick audio message or use the Video Everywhere tool to post some video feedback to your student.

Tune in next week for our next installment of Grade Center Best Practices.


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