Jan 18 2018

What's New In the New Gradebook?

In the post announcing the new Gradebook, we stressed that the new Gradebook basically functions the same as the old Gradebook. We wanted to keep the learning curve for the rebuilt Gradebook to a minimum. However, as with all web applications, there wind up being some differences as we make improvements.

Most importantly, setups from the old Gradebook do not carry over into the rebuilt Gradebook. The rebuild of the Gradebook required a completely new underlying data structure. This new data structure requires that all setups in all third term, AY17-18 courses (and beyond) be rebuilt. You can refer to CoursePlus site for the last offering of your course to see how you had things set up as you rebuild the Gradebook in the new version of the tool.

Next, the main Gradebook page has a couple of changes:

Screenshot of the main gradebook landing page

Most noticeably, viewing graded activities by item is now the default view that covers most of the page. There are separate tabs for viewing grades by student and grades by group.

Additionally, "Generate Reports" has been replaced by a single link to "Export Grades to Excel." The reports page in the old Gradebook simply linked you to a page where you could download one of two versions of all grades in Excel format. In this version of the Gradebook, we've combined those two versions of the Excel file into one (including all data from both versions). Instead of making you click a link to go to a page with just one link on it (to generate the Excel file), we removed that intermediate step.

The "Enter Grades" view also looks a bit different. We focused on streamlining the interface so the listing for each student doesn't take up quite so much vertical space:

Screenshot of new enter grades page

Instead of lots of text stating that feedback is ready to send to students, we've added an icon for that. All of the icons on the page have tooltips which explain what each icon means, and change dynamically to reflect changes you make on the page as you work.

We did add one entirely new feature to the rebuilt Gradebook: students can see their current grade in the class based on the grades they currently have in the Gradebook.

Screenshot of current overall grade feature

This is different than the previously existing "final grade" feature of the Gradebook. The current grade reflects both a) the student's grade as determined by the grades entered for them in the Gradebook, and b) the student's grade as determined by the items visible to the student at that time. If an item is not visible to a student in their view of the Gradebook, it will not be included in the current grade calculation.

Additionally, there is now a log of all changes made to the setup of each Gradebook, accessible by clicking on the "History" button on the Gradebook setup page:

Screenshot of the button that opens the new history tool

On the more technical side, it's important to note that the new Gradebook uses queues for managing score import from the Quiz Generator and the calculation of current/final grades for an individual student. This has implications for seeing changes immediately in either quiz-linked graded items or in final grade calculations:

  • Quiz Generator scores are imported automatically, in the background, on a scheduled task that runs every 5 minutes. Scores are no longer imported when you open up the "Enter Grades" view for a quiz-linked graded item. This normally won't present any problems because as individual quizzes are graded, the Quiz Generator import task will pick up the grades and put them in the Gradebook. However, if someone changes a student score and recalculates a student grade in a quiz, and then goes immediately into the Gradebook, the new score will not be there (unless the scheduled task happens to run that second).
  • Final/current grade calculation works in a similar way: when a grade is updated for any student in any graded item in a course Gradebook, that student goes into a queue. Every couple minutes, the queue is checked and a batch of students gets pulled off the queue to have their current and final grade recalculated. This means that you won't have to wait for everyone's final grade to get recalculated when you pull up the "Prepare Final Grade" page because that work has already happened behind the scenes. However, again, if someone changes a student grade on an item and then immediately goes to the "Prepare Final Grade" page, the new grade won't be there immediately. It may take a couple minutes, or longer, depending on how busy the Gradebook is.

We expect that all of the above changes won't contribute to any significant learning curve for the rebuilt Gradebook. We also expect that these changes will make your work in the Gradebook faster and simpler in the long run.

As always, if you have questions about how this tool works, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:07 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jan 3 2018

New Gradebook Tool Coming in the Third Term

You may be aware that faculty in first and second term courses had ongoing problems with the Gradebook in CoursePlus. The situation is now under control and issues are now isolated to one-off problems in individual courses. Even so, the CoursePlus team began work on a complete rebuild the Gradebook tool in October. The goal was building a new, modern code base that focused on reliability and speed. This work is nearly complete. A new version of the Gradebook will be available in your third term CoursePlus site.

The new Gradebook functions the same way as the old Gradebook. The setup, grading, and sending of grades and feedback works in the same way as it did before. We've focused on making things super reliable and faster, where possible. There should be no learning curve for anyone who has used the Gradebook before.

The rebuild of the Gradebook required a completely new underlying data structure. The side effect of this change is that setups from previous versions of your course Gradebook will not carry over into the new version. This means that the Gradebook setup must be rebuilt when your third term course begins. The CTL Help team is happy to assist you in this process, should you need help.

This change only affects the Gradebook. It does not affect any other tool in CoursePlus. All data in all other tools will carry over as normal.

The new Gradebook will be available in your third term course sites on January 18, 2018. We realize that this is shortly before the start of the third term. CTL Help is, again, happy to assist you in rebuilding your Gradebook setup, should you need help. CTL Help is also happy to answer any questions you have about the new Gradebook.

We appreciate your patience during this change. We're sure that the improvements in reliability and speed will make the administration of your courses simpler and faster.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 2:55 PM - Categories: CoursePlus

Dec 13 2017

Blocking Sign in to CoursePlus Using Internet Explorer 11

We've posted before that Internet Explorer Edge is the only version of Internet Explorer supported in CoursePlus. There have been system notices about this in CoursePlus at the start of the summer, first, and second academic terms. This is also stated on the terms of service page for CoursePlus.

Beginning January 3, 2018, you will not be able to sign in to CoursePlus using Internet Explorer 11. 

If you want to use Internet Explorer to access CoursePlus, you need to use Internet Explorer Edge. Internet Explorer Edge only works with Windows 10 — now the preferred version of Windows for the Johns Hopkins University. If you are running Windows 8 or Windows 7, you need to use Chrome or Firefox to access CoursePlus. 

Posted by Brian Klaas at 3:03 PM - Categories: CoursePlus

Dec 6 2017

Lots of Tweaks to the Printed Syllabus

We know that the syllabus document is an important piece of any course. The School has encouraged faculty to use the Syllabus Builder tool in CoursePlus to build their course syllabi, as it provides a consistent and easily accessible format for students viewing this information.

We get a lot of feedback about the printed version of the syllabus as well, and we've recently made a number of small changes based on faculty feedback:

  • The base font of the whole printed document is now slightly larger
  • Space between sections of content has been shortened
  • The word "Syllabus" had been removed from the document title
  • In the footer:
    • the course title and time of last update have been removed
    • the page number has been moved onto the same line as the rest of the footer
    • the font size has been increased
  • The phrase "Online Course" is no longer shown if no room number is provided in the Syllabus Builder

Additionally, on the Syllabus Builder tool itself, when you add a section to the syllabus from the "New Section" tool, that section is removed from the list of options in the "New Section" tool drop-down.

Your feedback is, as always, critical to the success of CoursePlus. If you'd like to see other changes in the printed version of the syllabus, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:22 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Nov 7 2017

Automatically Flag Students Who Leave the Exam Page During an Exam

The Quiz Generator in CoursePlus is being increasingly utilized in courses to deliver cumulative exams like midterms and finals. Faculty are rightly concerned that students do not engage in activities which violate the School's academic ethics code while taking these exams. 

CoursePlus has, for some time now, automatically logged student activity when they take a quiz or exam, including if they go off the quiz/exam page, and, since November, 2016, the ability to show if a student accessed other pages in CoursePlus while taking the exam.

This data is very useful to fauclty concerned about academic ethics violations, but faculty or TAs would have to review the log of activity for every student who took the exam to equitably check and see if there were potential academic ethics violations while taking the exam. This is a tedious process.

We've added a new option to the setup to quizzes/exams in the Quiz Generator that gives you the option to automatically flag students who leave the exam page or view other pages in CoursePlus while taking the exam. This option is turned off by default, and must be enabled on an exam-by-exam basis.

If this option is turned on, and a student has left the exam page or visited another page in CoursePlus while taking the exam, a visual alert is placed next to the student name on the main "Responses and Grades" view of the exam in the Quiz Generator:

Icons alerting that the student left the exam page.

The red circle with the exclamation point inside indicates that the student left the exam page and visited other pages in CoursePlus while taking the exam. (The brown stopwatch icon indicates that the student took less than 10% of the allotted time to complete the exam, sometimes also an indicator of potential academic ethics violations.)

Please note that, just as with the adding of the log information that shows if a student visited pages other than the exam while taking the exam, this indicator does not immediately appear the second that a student visits a page other than the exam page while taking the exam. This indicator only appears after the student has submitted their answers to the exam and the full set of CoursePlus logs has been analyzed. Typically, this process takes about 30 minutes from the time the student submits their exam.

If you have questions about how this feature works, please contact CTL Help!

November 20, 2017 Update: 

After receiving a couple of questions about this feature, here are some more details:

  • If a student loses their connection and signs back in to the course website to continue taking the exam, then that counts as viewing another page in the course website. As such, the student will be flagged.
  • If the student switches away from the exam and looks at the main course content page, or a lecture, or the Online Library, that counts as viewing another page in the course website. As such, the student will be flagged.
  • If the student switches away from the exam tab into another web browser tab or another application on their computer, the student will be flagged. We cannot look into other web browser tabs or desktop applications to see what a student did while away from the exam page. That is a basic limitation of Web browsers.
  • The flag is there to highlight a potential problem. Just like any tool which “detects” potential cheating, data needs to be reviewed. The data in this case is the log of student activity while taking the exam (“View activity log” on the individual student responses page).

Posted by Brian Klaas at 2:10 PM - Categories: CoursePlus

Oct 11 2017

Tagging and Searching Questions in the Quiz Generator

Some courses have a lot of questions in the Quiz Generator for their course. Finding one specific question out of the 300 (or 500!) plus questions in a course can be tedious, at best. To that end, we've added the ability to tag and search on questions (and tags) in the Quiz Generator.

As you create or edit questions, you can add tags to them.

Form field to add one or more tags to a question.

Tags are simple words that can help you identify:

  • the subject area of the question
  • the course learning objective or departmental competency which the question meets
  • the lecture with which the question is associated

As you add tags to questions, tags are auto-suggested to you in the "Add Tags" field so you can re-use tags across questions. 

When you use the "Add/Edit/Remove" questions page to add questions to a quiz, you can now search by either tag or perform a search in the "Search" box at the top of the page. The search tool looks through the text of any question (not the answers or text contained in linked files), and displays only questions which match the search text.

Example of filtering questions by tag.

Example of searching questions by free text.

We hope that this addition will make the organization of quiz/exam questions in your courses much more efficient, and save you time when building quizzes and exams from large question banks. If you have questions about how this new feature works, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:20 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Oct 5 2017

A Tweak to Drop Boxes for Exams

The Drop Box is one of the most popular tools in CoursePlus. Many courses use it, and many use it to collect written, take-home or open-book exams from students.

Some faculty do not know that when a student submits a file to a Drop Box, that student can download the file that they submitted at any time. If the student is part of a degree program portfolio, the student can also send that file to their portfolio. This enables students a nice degree of flexibility in having access to their course work.

If the file that the student submits is an exam, however, some faculty do not want students to be able to have long-term access to their copy of the exam. To that end, we've added a new option to the Drop Box setup: flagging a specific Drop Box as being for an exam, and to disable student downloading of their submission or sending their submission to their portfolio:

Option indicating that the Drop Box is for an exam.

This option is turned off by default, and must be enabled on a Drop Box-by-Drop Box basis. 

Please note that this in no way prevents a student from storing a copy of the file they submit to the Drop Box  on their own computer, or in the cloud. CoursePlus cannot delete a file of a student's computer once it has been submitted to a CoursePlus site.

If you have questions about how this new feature works, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 2:36 PM - Categories: CoursePlus

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