Students Grade Some Professors Poorly on their Blackboard Usage

Students are tired of seeing a blank page in the “My Grades” section on Blackboard for classes where their professors choose not to post grades. Photo by Unsplash, text edit by Tiffany Chen.

How can students get the grades they want (those would be As) if they don’t receive feedback?

Some professors at Chapman don’t post grades on Blackboard nor do they give feedback to students. Others may return papers with grades but don’t post the grades on Blackboard, leaving students to do a rough form of math to figure out their standing in the semester.

“Grades aren’t posted in my Introduction to Managerial Accounting class. It is kind of annoying, because I can’t see how well I’m doing in-class,” said sophomore business administration major Jillian Yang. “There should be a policy saying that grades have to be posted somewhere.”

Chapman University does not require professors to post grades online, nor are they required to use the learning management system or to give students feedback at all, according to Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Nina LeNoir.

Complaints come in two general categories: professors who don’t post grades on Blackboard or give concrete feedback on performance. Other students say they receive feedback via email, graded papers and conversation, but want the professors to use Blackboard so they can keep track of their grades with ease.

“Blackboard is a tool for teaching and how an instructor teaches is considered their purview, so it’s up to them what tools they want to use or not. It’s called academic freedom,” LeNoir said.

Scott Anderson, Yang’s Introduction to Managerial Accounting professor, defended his choice not to post grades on Blackboard. Frequently posting grades doesn’t help students learn because it doesn’t mirror “real-world” conditions, he said.

“It is a disservice to students if they can know where they are in the class. Because in the real-world, you don’t know how you’re doing until you’re promoted or fired. You can’t log onto somewhere and see how you are doing at your job. So, I am preparing my students for the real world by not posting grades on Blackboard,” Anderson said.

He does provide verbal or written feedback after each exam, he said. Technology gives students high expectations for communication, said Anderson.

“The concept of Blackboard is fabulous, but the problem with technology is that everybody believes that because we have tech, we need to conform to what tech allows us to do. Because there’s a grading tool on Blackboard, students expect every professor to post grades. But I don’t do it because I don’t think that it is appropriate,” Anderson said.

Gordon Babst, an associate professor of political science is another professor who does not post grades on Blackboard. Babst said posting grades on the platform could compromise student privacy.

“I don’t know if there is a possibility, but if other professors can access my students’ grades on Blackboard, I am uncomfortable with the students’ grades being open to the public,” Babst said. “If students are wondering about how well they are doing in-class, they can just come up to me and I will tell them.”

Only the department chair under which the professor teaches can view and have access to students’ grades on Blackboard, said Jana Remy, the Director of Educational Technology. Her department stands ready to help any professors who need assistance using Chapman’s online learning system, and regularly encourages teachers to reach out for help, she said.

Babst prefers to give feedback on physical papers and requests that students speak to him personally if they want to know their standing in the class. He encourages students to calculate their grades by looking at the syllabus to see how their assignments are weighted and doing the math.

“Points are written on the syllabus, so if students wanted to check their grades, they can just look at the syllabus and convert their grades into points,” Babst said.

The Faculty Handbook and Curriculum, guidelines and policies the Provost suggests faculty follow requires instructors to put their method of evaluation in the syllabus. Instructors must disclose the grading weight, scale, and important dates and deadlines for all assignments and exams.

Instead of posting grades online, Anderson and Babst keep track of students’ grades in a notebook throughout the semester. Both said they are familiar with Blackboard technology but simply choose not to use it for grading.

“I have never received a complaint about how I give students their grades,” Babst said.

Students have the responsibility of keeping track of grades and progress themselves, said LeNoir.

“Students should not expect professors to constantly update them about their performance. They should understand that they are responsible of tracking their grades in college,” LeNoir said. “How grading occurs and what the weight is for every assignment can be found in all syllabus guidelines. In K-12, you’re told what to do and grades are given to you. This is not true in colleges,” she added.

The Faculty Handbook and Curriculum, issued by the Faculty Senate an Provost, recommends professors provide students with feedback. “It is good practice [for instructors] to provide students with timely evaluation of their performance in the course. Good practice means for instructors to return student work with comments and/or scores within one week,” the handbook states.

The Faculty Manual, a list of mandatory policies for professors, requires professors to grade assignments and assign grades, but doesn’t require professors to give feedback or communicate grades until final grades are due.

The faculty manual advises instructors to create a positive learning environment but does not require professors to follow a specific agenda, leaving how and when to provide students with evaluation/assessment information up to the purview of the faculty member designing their class.

“If they could input grades for students to see, that would really benefit the students and give them a peace of mind,” said junior political science major, Hannah Richardson.

While some students complain of a lack of digital updates, other students are not given feedback from professors at all.

“We’ve done four or five assignments in my visual storytelling class but so far I have received no feedback regarding my grades or how well I am doing in-class,” said Jamie Cole, a junior PR and advertising major.

Cole’s visual storytelling professor told Prowl in an email he was in meetings and not available to comment.

Students are frustrated not knowing their grades after repeatedly asking professors for feedback but receiving none in return, Cole said.

“I don’t think it matters whether professors use Blackboard or not. As long as they post grades somewhere, I’m fine with them not using Blackboard. But I think there should be some policy requiring professors to disclose grades to students,” Cole said. But, she said, the semester is almost over and she has no idea if she’s heading for an “A” or an “F.”

Cole has no use for the grading guidelines in her syllabus because she hasn’t received any grades to calculate. “I am okay with using the syllabus to convert points into letter grades by myself,” Cole said.

”My professor hasn’t told anybody their grades on any assignments even after numerous students have asked him, so there is no way for us to know how we are doing in-class,” Richardson said.

“Frequent student assessment and evaluation is a fairly recent trend,” LeNoir said. “In the not too recent past, it would not be at all unusual to have only a midterm and final in a course,” she added.

In any situation where a student is dissatisfied with the way an instructor teaches, he or she should approach the instructor, then talk to the chair of the department if the problem is not being resolved, LeNoir said.

Tiffany Chen

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