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.

Tuition Increases will continue, diversity efforts geared to replicating population of Orange County, Struppa reveals

Chapman’s main focus for 2018-2023 is the Fowler School of Engineering, according to Struppa. Photo by Tiffany Chen.

Tuition increases will continue apace, and while Chapman may admit more Hispanic/ Latino students, it is unlikely that the percentage of African American students at Chapman will increase much, Chapman President Daniele Struppa said Friday.

“Tuition will continue to increase each year” and “the money will go into the university’s operational plans and financial aid for students,” Struppa said in an interview with Prowl following his Feb. 22 State of the University Address.

In 2018, the tuition rose by 4.5 percent. It is planned to jump 4.2 percent in 2019 and increase another 4.0 percent in each of the subsequent four years according to the Strategic Plan for Chapman University.

Racial and ethnic minorities were likely to make uneven progress in terms of future student body representation, Struppa said, appearing to set benchmarks based on the racial composition of Orange County.

“The majority of the student population is still white, but given the location Chapman is in, that’s not really odd,” Struppa said. “My goal is to bring our university anywhere between 20-30 percent Latino. The African American population on the other hand, is about 1 percent in Orange County, so I don’t expect to see the numbers to grow much more.”

According to information provided to Prowl last fall by the Office of Admissions, 17.07 percent of students in the 2018 fall undergraduate class identify as Latino, and 1.64 percent as African American. In numbers, that means 1,108 undergraduates identify as Hispanic/ Latino and 122 identify as African-American out of 7,281 undergraduates , according to the Chapman website.

The Orange County Healthier Together Institute shows that in Orange County 56.1 percent is white,1.86 percent African-American, and 34.5 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Chapman will increase money allocated to scholarships as it increases tuition, Struppa said. In 2019, the university will spend $128 million dollars on scholarships, and expects to spend  $145 million on scholarships by 2021, according to the Chapman University’s Net Tuition Summary. By 2022, the university plans to increase funding in scholarships to $154 million, with the goal of reaching $164 million dollars in 2023. The amount spent on scholarships will increase from 37.2 percent to 37.7 percent by 2023.  

Responding to complaints from liberal arts majors that the school has devoted more resources to STEM fields at the expense of the humanities, Struppa said the university is responding to demands of the job market, but is not ignoring the humanities.

“We are focusing on STEM now, but the school has done a lot in the social sciences departments too. For example, we just created the new Smith Institute with a $15 million  infusion,” Struppa said. “Right now, there is a tremendous need for physicians and pharmacists to fulfill new jobs in the industry, that’s why we went in the direction we did. Californians import engineers from the rest of the country because we have so many jobs for engineering (and) we can’t fill them.”

And why isn’t the costly new Keck Center of Science and Engineering, which houses the bio-sciences, LEED certified?

“I think Keck is environmentally very advanced, but we may not have done the LEED certifications due to the costs of doing the certification vs. the cost of doing what the certifications require,” Struppa said.

Engineering school and new residence hall among goals in university’s strategic plan, Struppa says

The strategic plan states that Chapman will dedicate $202 million for 1,303 additional beds in new student residence projects, including the new residence halls across from Dodge. Graphic provided by Chapman University.

The Fowler School of Engineering and new residence hall will be completed by the fall of 2019 at which a new computer engineering program will become available, President Daniele Struppa announced in his third annual State of the University Address on Friday.

“The Fowler School of Engineering is going to be different than anything you’ve ever seen in the world of academia,” Struppa said, showcasing the architectural design and blueprints of the new infrastructure.

Struppa talked about the 2018-2023 strategic plan in the Musco Center for the arts on Friday. In the next five years, Chapman plans to expand endowment, invest in engineering majors, and finish building student housing, he said.  

The university’s current five-year plan, “Engineering the Future” prioritizes completion of the Fowler School of Engineering, which will open in fall 2019.

The engineering wing of the Keck building is going to be completely open space,” Struppa said.  “There will be no faculty offices, which is a unique feature that distinguishes the building apart from other buildings on-campus. Students can use this space to sit together, form discussions, and do homework,” Struppa said.

Chapman will also be implementing three new engineering programs as part of the strategic plan to expand the school’s research agenda: a minor and B.S in Computer Engineering (fall 2019), B.S in Electrical Engineering (fall 2020), and M.S in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (fall 2022).

Struppa also evinced pleasure at what he said was an increasing diversity of student backgrounds among the student population. According to statistics provided by the university, the largest increase by race/ethnicity was in the Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations, and 42 percent of the student population identifies as a race/ethnicity other than white. Struppa said he expected an increase in first generation students at Chapman University .

“First generation students increased from 19.8 percent of the total population in Fall ‘17 to 20.4 percent this academic year,” said Struppa..

The university has already taken measures to optimize the campus footprint, which is another goal in the 2018 strategic plan. Chapman plans to house 50 percent of its undergraduate students in on-campus housing by the end of this year. The opening of Chapman Grand in the fall of 2018 and the Villa Orchard Park Residence halls being built across from the Dodge College of Media Arts will help to meet that goal, the president said.  The remodeling and expansion of existing campus buildings, new dining and recreation facilities, and the opening of a Brain Institute at the Rinker Health Sciences campus in Irvine, are also underway, he said.

“The new dorms will be extremely beneficial for Dodge students, making it more convenient and time-efficient for them to get to class,” Struppa said.

Projects such as the building of the Fowler School of Engineering and new residence halls require funding from student tuition or endowments from donors. Consequently, the university has adopted a fundraising campaign as its last goal in the strategic plan. That, he said, is going well, with a new $10 million endowment received recently from an anonymous donor.  

The Fowler School of Engineering will open in the fall of 2019. Graphic provided by Chapman University.

“In 2018, Chapman received an endowment of $9,682,000, which is really impressive,” said Struppa, noting the university has almost $400 million in its overall endowment.

According to Chapman University’s website, the comprehensive campaign is a seven to ten year goal of raising $500 million to “expand the endowment, support capital, and academic program enhancements, and increase scholarship support for students,” that should be reached by 2023. The university has set a goal to have a $38 million endowment by 2029.