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Clarity and Transparency with the Moodle Grade Book

Tue Jun 1, 2021 at 07:30 AM

Reduce Disputes and End-of-Semester Surprises

One of the most awkward situations faculty members face is dealing with grade disputes during the semester and after final grades are assigned. My best tool for avoiding these dreaded scenarios is the Moodle grade book. This teaching tip describes steps for using the Moodle grade book to give students clear information about their performance in the course. Complete, transparent, and up-to-date information in the grade book effectively motivates students to continue their solid performance in the course or to improve their performance to avoid unpleasant outcomes at the end of the semester.

Using the Moodle Grade Book

I have provided my preferences and processes. If you find you would require a different process, sign up for a one-on-one appointment with e-LIS for customized grade book support.

Use a simple sum of grades for the grade book set-up.

I prefer Moodle’s sum of grades option for calculating students’ total points in the course, which is the Natural aggregation option in Moodle’s gradebook. I like this option because it keeps a running total of the student’s points during the semester and gives them a “real-time” view of their course grade.

In the “Course Grade” settings under User Report, I also select “Show Percentage” to show the student’s current percentage. The “Course Total” row in the student's User Report appears as follows, indicating the student’s current total points, the current course total, and the student’s current percentage. (See a sum of grades screen shot). I contact students whose current percentage falls below a certain level to encourage them to improve their performance in the course.

Use No/Yes grading for “participation”-style assignments.

I track everything students do in the course in the grade book to create a comprehensive record of each student’s participation -- and to indicate that all activities “count” in students’ learning! Ungraded participation-style assignments are recorded individually and contribute to the student’s final participation grade. (For example, I might ask students to provide a video link for a class discussion, responses to a survey, etc.) In these cases, I create assignments that are recorded in the grade book but do not have individual point values.

In particular, I create Moodle Assignments that may just have a description of the task students need to complete rather than other content. Then, under “Grade,” I select “Scale” and “No/Yes.” (“Pass/Fail” is also a possible setting.) If a student completes the task, they receive a “Yes”; if they don’t, they receive a “No.” (See a Yes/No Grade example.) This system effectively tracks how actively the student participates in ungraded course activities, which makes calculating their final participation grade much more straightforward! (e-LIS note: A 0% weight can be given to any individual items that should not count toward the course total. Or a gradebook category can be made for all items that have 0% weight.)

Use informative titles for all assignments.

As part of my effort to create an organized, user-friendly grade book, I give all assignments descriptive titles. This helps me and my students keep track of everything we’ve done in the course. The assignment in the screenshot above is an example. I state the week or module the assignment is in (“Week 6”), what type of assignment it is (“Homework”), and the title of the assignment (“Compliments, Part II -- Send …”). If I need to discuss an assignment with a student, we both know exactly which one it is and the week in which it occurred.

Provide the assignment title, grade, range, and feedback in the grade book but omit other information.

The Moodle grade book allows you to provide various kinds of information in the student’s User Report, but you and your students need only a few key pieces of information about each assignment to track student progress. Including other information in the User Report can make the grade book confusing for students.

I override the default settings for User Reports (under “Grades” > “Course Grade Settings” > “User Report”) to show only the assignment title, student grade, assignment point range, and feedback for each graded item. (If you have no feedback for an item, the feedback cell will remain blank.) (See an example of this type of entry in one of my grade books.) The student can easily see their score, the point range, the percentage they received, and my comment, all in one row.

Keep the grade book up to date.

It is critical for student success that you grade course items in a timely manner and post grades in the Moodle grade book quickly. This improves the effectiveness of the grade book as a tool for helping students keep track of their course progress. Indeed, a survey conducted by OUSC between 11/20 and 3/21 found that a popular answer to the question “What do you wish faculty did more of in Moodle/online classes?” was “have grades up to date and posted.”

Use the feedback section for all feedback in the course.

Moodle allows instructors to provide feedback in various ways, but in my experience, it is most efficient to concentrate feedback in the grade book and to direct students there to read my comments. When I discuss course performance with a student, it is also helpful for me to be able to skim all of the feedback in the student’s User Report to pinpoint issues of concern.

Keep the grade book open all semester, and encourage students to check it.

I encourage students to check the grade book frequently to monitor their progress and make sure they have the current grade they are aiming for. This gives them ownership of their course grade rather than just a vague hope that they are doing well. A past teaching tip provides students an opportunity to check their grades and reflect on their performance, which is helpful if students aren’t sure how to check their grades. By knowing their standing in the course each week, students can choose to maintain their current performance or improve it.

Use Letter Grades to show the student’s final grade in the Moodle grade book before you post it on Banner.

After I have calculated final letter grades at the end of the semester, I show them in the Moodle grade book before I post them in Banner. The student can check their final grade in the “Course Total” row. (See how the letter grade is displayed.) The student can see they received 546 out of 560 points in the course, or 98%, which corresponds to a final grade of A. It is beneficial for students to have this information so they know exactly how I arrived at their final grade.


The points I described here have helped me avoid many stressful discussions of student grades. Giving students complete and up-to-date information in the grade book takes the guesswork out of their grade. I let them know where they stand so they can decide whether to stay the course with their performance or amp up their participation in a timely manner to improve their final grade.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

About the Author

Helena Riha is a Special Lecturer in the Linguistics Department and the International Studies Program. Helena has taught linguistics and international studies at OU since 2008. She has taught over 3,200 students in 15 different courses, and she is currently developing a new online Gen Ed course. Helena is the 2016 winner of the OU Excellence in Teaching Award. This is her ninth teaching tip. Outside of the classroom, Helena enjoys watching her fourth grader build Lego Star Wars sets, and she works toward her fitness goals at Orangetheory Fitness.

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