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Creating a Gradebook with the Grades Setup Wizard

If a grade book has not already been set up or imported for your course, you should see the Grades Setup Wizard when you enter the Grades tool. If a different area of the Grades tool displays by default, click Setup Wizard on the top to open it.

Setup Wizard

The Grades Setup Wizard takes you through a list of setup options that you should set before you create grade items and categories. For example, it helps you drive decisions about how grades should be calculated and displayed in the grade book.

Tip:  Most of the options in the Grades Setup Wizard have Help descriptions that explain what they are.


Step 1: Choose Grading System

Selecting a grading system is the first step in setting up your grade book. The grading system determines how the grade items in your grade book contribute to users’ final grades. There are three options:

  • Weighted: Grade items can count as a percentage of a final grade worth 100%,
  • Points: Grade items can be worth a certain amount of points that are totaled for a final grade.
  • Formula: You can define a custom formula for how grade items contribute to a final grade.

Choose the option that best matches how you plan to evaluate users.

Weighted System

The weighted system calculates grade items as a percentage of a final grade worth 100%. The maximum number of points you assign to individual grade items can be any value, but their contribution towards the category they belong to and the final grade is the percentage value (weight) assigned to them. Grade items in a category count as a percentage of that category not of the final grade. Therefore, grade items in a category should combine to a weight of 100%.

For example, if you have a category worth 10% of the final grade with two equally weighted grade items, the weight of each grade item is 50% (its contribution to the category) not 5% (its contribution to the final grade). Since it's a category’s weight and not an individual grade item’s weight that counts toward the final grade, the final grade is inaccurate until all the items in the category are graded. Therefore, releasing calculated final grades to users before the end of the course might be misleading.

If your grade items do not add up to 100% you receive a warning message, which you can ignore if you choose; a balanced grade book is not required. If the weights assigned to grade items do not sum to 100%, the tool adjusts the weight of each item. For example, if you have three grade items with a weight of 25% each, each item is actually calculated as 33%. This is true for categories and the final grade.

Weighted System Tree

Points System

Use the points system when you want the maximum number of points assigned to a grade item to be equal to its contribution to the final grade. Final grades are calculated by adding a user’s score on all grade items together and dividing by the sum of the maximum point values. The sum of the maximum point values for all grade items does not need to equal 100. With a points system, you do not need to assign a weight or point values to categories. It is the maximum point values assigned to an individual grade item that counts toward the final grade.

Tip: Make sure the maximum point values assigned to grade items reflect how much you want them to be worth. For example, don’t grade each of your 20 homework assignments out of 50 points and then your final exam out of 80 points. Another option in the point system is to exclude an item from the final grade calculation. This enables you to evaluate a grade category, numeric grade item, select box grade item, or pass/fail grade item without including the grade in users’ calculated or adjusted final grades. The “Exclude from Final Grade Calculation” checkbox is available from the Grading section of the New/Edit Item page and the New/Edit Category page. You can achieve similar functionality in the weighted system by setting the grade item or category’s weight to 0%.

Points System Tree

Formula System

Use the formula system when you want to calculate final grades using a custom formula. The formula system is based on the points system, but allows you to set conditions around grade items to determine the final grade. For example, you could require that users receive at least 50% on their midterm and final exam to pass a course.

To set a calculation formula, edit the Calculated Final Grade.

Note: The formula system might not be available at your organization. If you do not have this option, you can release the adjusted final grade and calculate your custom formula manually, or you can contact your site administration about getting access to this functionality.

Step 2: Final Grade Released

Selecting the type of final grade to release lets you decide if you want to modify users’ grades before releasing them.

Calculated Final Grade

A user’s calculated final grade is calculated based on the grading formula set up in the grade book. You cannot adjust it to accommodate special circumstances without editing individual grade items or categories and recalculating the total.

Examples of when to use a calculated final grade:

  • You have a large class and you release the calculated final grade because it is the fastest, easiest way to release grades to users.
  • You are designing an online training course without an active instructor to lead the course and the course consists of reading topics and automatically graded multiple choice quizzes that keeps grades current as users complete the quizzes.
  • Your school board requires that you set up their grade book in a particular way and release the calculated final grade to ensure consistent grading.

Adjusted Final Grade

The adjusted final grade enables you to modify or adjust a users’ grade before releasing it. You can use the calculated grade for final grades that don’t need adjustment.

Examples of when to use an adjusted final grade:

  • You review users’ grades before releasing them and round up users that are close to achieving a benchmark, such as rounding 79% to 80% so a user receives honors, or rounding 47% to 50% so a user passes the course.
  • You apply a bell curve to users’ final grades to raise the class average, but you leave individual grade items unadjusted so you can compare results to previous years.
  • A beginner graphic design course teaches users to use publishing software. You use the same criteria to grade each user on individual assignments, but can adjust users’ final grades to account for previous knowledge with the programs and improvement.

Step 3: Grade Calculations

The grade calculations step provides additional choices for calculating users’ grades. Specifically, it lets you decide how you want to calculate ungraded items and whether you want to keep users’ final grades up to date automatically. You are given two options:

  • Drop Ungraded Items: Grade items that you have not entered grades for are not counted towards users’ final grades. They are ignored in the final grade calculation. You must manually assign a 0 to any grade item you want to be graded as 0.
    • Select this option if you plan to make users’ grades available to them before the end of the course.
  • Treat Ungraded Items as 0: Empty grade items automatically count as a 0 towards users’ final grades. Please note that if you add new items to the grade book later, users receive a 0 until you update their score.
    • Select this option if you leave grade items blank because no work was submitted and you don’t want to manually change the grades to 0.

You can also decide whether you would like final grades to be automatically adjusted after changing a grade item by checking the appropriate checkbox. If this option is not selected, you must tell the grade book when to recalculate final grades.

Tip: Turn this option off to reduce page reload times for large classes.

Step 4: Choose Default Grade Scheme

Grade schemes define how grades are organized or labeled within a course or for a particular grade item. By default, the only available scheme is a percentage-based scheme (grades will be posted as percentages). It is possible to create your own custom schemes if, for example, you would like to post letter grades instead of percentages. To learn how to create and set your own schemes, see Creating a Grade Scheme.

Step 5: Instructors View Display Options

You can set the number of decimal places you want to see for items in your grade book. The default value is 2 and the maximum value is 5.

Note: This option only changes how many decimals are displayed, it does not control how many decimals the Grades tool rounds to when calculating grades. The calculation logic is set by your organization’s site administration.

Step 6: User View Display Options

This step controls how grades appear to users. You can set whether they see their grades as straight values, percentages, or scheme levels. You can also set whether they can see the calculation method (logic) behind their final grade. You can choose to display:

  1. Various grade details:
    1. Points grade: A student’s score over the maximum possible points for that grade item (e.g., 6/10).
    2. Weighted grade:  The weight of a grade item in relation to the final grade (e.g., 3/5 [for a user who scored 60% on a grade item worth 50% of a category worth 10% of the final grade]). Note: This option is only available for the weighted grading system.
    3. Grade scheme symbol: The scheme symbol associated with their score on the grade item (e.g., “Good”). If you are not using a custom grading scheme, we recommend leaving this feature enabled since the default scheme displays to score’s percentage. To learn about creating a new grading scheme see Creating a Grade Scheme.
    4. Grade scheme color: Highlights the grade in the scheme color associated with their score on the grade item. If you are not using a custom grading scheme, we recommend leaving this feature enabled as the default scheme includes an intuitive color scheme for each grade level. To learn about creating a new grading scheme see Creating a Grade Scheme.
  2. The number of decimals a user sees in their grade percentages. The default value is 2 and the maximum value is 5. Note: This option only changes how many decimals are displayed, it does not control how many decimals the Grades tool rounds to when calculating grades.
  3. The number of characters to display for Text items before the text is truncated. Try and find a balance between presenting enough information for users to recognize the text item and keeping the item short enough that it displays nicely. The default value is 15 and the maximum value is 50.
  4. The final grade calculation that allows users to see how their grade was calculated.

Student View Display Options

Step 7: Grade Setup Summary

The final step summarizes the choices you made while setting up your grade book. If you change your mind on any of the choices, click the Back button to return to the step and adjust it. Clicking Finish on this page completes the set up and takes you to a list of options for continuing work in the Grades tool:

  • Create a New Grade Category
  • Create a New Grade Item
  • Import Grades
  • Create a New Grade Scheme
  • Manage Grade Items and Categories
  • Enter Grades

Optimal Grades tool settings for Large Courses

If your grade book contains a lot of users or grade items you might find that it loads slowly. Consider the following tips to improve performance.

  • Set the number of users to display per page to a low value.
  • Sort the User List by user instead of grades.
  • View the User List by group or section if possible.
  • Do not show decimal places in the grade book.
  • Do not repeat user details or grade item details in the grade book.
  • Do not repeat the calculated final grade or the adjusted final grade at the start of the grade book.
  • Do not select the Automatically keep final grade updated option.
  • Only display one user detail (i.e. Email, Username, First Name, Last Name) in the grade book.
  • Only display one grade detail (i.e. Points grade, Weighted grade, Grade scheme symbol, Grade scheme color) in the grade book.
  • Only display grade items and categories that you want to edit in Spreadsheet View in the grade book.
  • Do not create unnecessary grade items or categories.
  • Do not create unnecessary Calculated or Formula grade items.
  • Avoid making changes to grade schemes, the grading system, or the final grade calculation type once grades are assigned to users.
  • Only import users and grade items when data has changed.