Get the grade: ASA’s initiative for continuous grading system


ASA is trying to change the way students get the grade.

Right now, most students receive their grades at midterm and after finals, but ASA’s grade availability initiative, if successful, would allow students to check their grade anytime, anywhere. It would recommend that professors continually update grades after every quiz, assignment or essay, said Tyler Beck, chair of the Co-Curriculum Council.

The initiative started with John Nelson, a former ASA senator and recent graduate. He was a part of the Co-Curriculum Council last year and floated the idea but it did not gain much traction.

When Nelson took over the chair of the council late last year he decided to pursue it again.

He said it did not go anywhere.image11 (9).png

“We ran into the same problems,” Nelson said.

Nelson said there are many things running against the change. 

The extra work the initiative requires from professors, for example, may be overwhelming, he said.

For example, if a business professor had to compile all the grades from three separate class’ quizzes, with class sizes ranging from 20 to 25 students, within a few days, the work would quickly add up, Nelson said.

He also said students are able to ask professors for their grades whenever if the professor wants to disclose them.

But Beck, also vice-president-elect, said he picked up where Nelson left off because senators recently polled a number of students and the feedback suggested that grade availability is a concern of many students.

“Around 80 percent of the students polled thought the current way the grades are reported is not sufficient and that they would like some improvements,” Beck said.

He will bring the findings to the council and collect the professors’ feedback on the survey. However, Beck said he understands the professors’ concern that it may push students to fret over the grade and not the class.image13 (1)

“It is a situation where the professors bear all the costs and the students gain all the benefits,” Beck said. “Obviously, all the students will want it, but if the professors are self-interested, they will not want it.”

ASA President-elect Anna Stritecky said Beck and she will take up the initiative because they do not believe it would be that drastic of a change.

“Professors have it all somewhere,” Stritecky said. “It’s just a matter of putting it in the system.”

“The notion that it just takes up too much time or that it is too hard or too confusing—I just do not think that’s a good response,” Beck said. “It is not something new or outlandish. My high school did it.”

Nelson said he thinks it could work for some classes, such as some of the sciences, but he does not know how well grade availability would work for the humanities or government courses which are graded on participation and term papers.

He said he also does not believe the university has a system to support continuous grades. He said professors were against using Moodle or the Augustana Portal as a grade platform, mainly because some professors believe those programs are too clunky.

Peter Folliard, director of orchestra and assistant professor, said he understand the students’ concerns over grade transparency and immediacy, but he also stressed that the infrastructure would come at a cost.

“Honestly, to levy the workload of [grade availability], you would need about 10 Sharon Grays, who runs Moodle here, in order to help everyone set up a gradebook here that was specifically set up for them,” Folliard said. “Moodle is freeware, so the question becomes who will eat the cost, and it will come down to the students paying for it in tuition.” 

He said he would be comfortable continuously updating grades, but he’s not so sure about some of his coworkers.

“We have brilliant professors here who will say, ‘I am not interested in learning how to do Moodle; my system is fine,” Folliard said. “And what do you do in that situation?”

Beck argued that Moodle has improved in the last few years after a few updates and that professors may have a “false perception of it.”

“Right now it is up to the professors,” Beck said. “I do not think we are going to push for a requirement that professors continuously update grades, but at the bare minimum, we just want to get it out there that Moodle is not the same as it was a couple of years ago. It’s better. Maybe just try it again.”

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