Assignments, Grades, and Record-Keeping
Keeping all your students’ assignments and academic information organized is crucial to teaching.
bCourses offers tools for posting assignment instructions, receiving and giving feedback on students’ written work, tracking grade information, and calculating grades. UC Berkeley provides a suite of web-based tools in the learning management system (LMS) bCourses, which is Berkeley’s name for its installation of the LMS platform Canvas.
Contact your Instructor of Record (the faculty members in charge of the courses) early to find out how bCourses will be used in your course and to gain access to any other online tools you will be using.
For substantial documentation of all of the tools used in bCourses, see the Canvas Instructor Guide. Further questions can be directed to Educational Technology Services (ETS). ETS also gives workshops for instructors on using bCourses.
Several tools in bCourses are useful for course communication. The table below shows some of the available communication tools with links to explanations in the Canvas Instructor Guide.
|Assignments||In bCourses these can include quizzes, discussions, online submissions. Connected to Grades tool if the instructor sets them up as graded assignments.|
|Grades||Tool that stores the Gradebook, allows instructors to track student progress, and facilitates communication between students and instructors about student progress.|
|Quizzes||Instructors can set up quizzes within bCourses and set whether they are connected to the Gradebook or not.|
|SpeedGrader||This is a feature within the Assignments tool that allows instructors to view, comment, and grade student assignment submissions. It can also be accessed through the Gradebook, Quiz, or Graded Discussion.|
|Turnitin||Turnitin is a tool to help students and instructors evaluate possible instances of plagiarism in assignments submitted to bCourses.|
The Grades tool in bCourses deserves special mention because, especially in large courses in which grades are based on point accumulation and percentages, they can save an enormous amount of time. These systems also keep your grading data backed up and secure. Check with your Instructor of Record to see whether this tool will be used in your course and to work out details.
The bCourses Assignments tool allows students to submit their work electronically. Additionally, bCourses Assignments has SpeedGrader, which makes it possible for the GSI to write comments to the student within the student’s paper without downloading and re-uploading the file.
Another alternative is Google Docs. Students can compose their work on their bDrive and then share the final product with you, or you can make comments on a draft. This is a safe and secure way to exchange digital copies of assignments that also eliminates the need for downloading and uploading documents.
Many instructors insist on paper printouts submitted in person, in class. One reason is that they find printouts quicker and easier to work with, particularly for marking and making comments. A second reason has to do with preventing one form of academic misconduct: some students have been known to submit corrupt or unreadable electronic files in order to buy extra time to work on an assignment. While the instructor gives the student the benefit of the doubt, the student gains an unfair advantage over those who have worked to finish their assignment on time. This tactic also throws off the instructor’s grading schedule.
The best way to avoid plagiarism is to educate students about the process of writing papers, having them submit intermediate parts of their paper before turning in a final product. These and other strategies are described in the Academic Misconduct and Working with Student Writing sections of this Teaching Guide.
UC Berkeley has a campus license to use Turnitin to check the originality of students’ papers, and for generating feedback to students about their integration of written sources into their papers. The tool is available in bCourses in the Assignments. GSIs should look to the faculty member in charge of their course for guidance on using Turnitin and responding to the results it produces.
GSIs planning to use Turnitin should attend a workshop with Educational Technology Services (ETS) to learn in detail how it works, best uses, and its limitations. More detailed information and the workshop schedule can be found on the Educational Technology Services website.