Mar 14 2018

Better Handling of Add/Drop Combinations in the Same Course

A long-standing problem in the processing of enrollment data from SIS has been the ordering of data based on the exact date and time a student added or dropped a course in SIS. This normally does not affect the vast majority of students. However, for courses where multiple sections of a course use the same CoursePlus site, a student who dropped one section of the course but then added the other section of the course could end up having the DROP processed after the ADD in CoursePlus. If a student added and dropped the same section of the same course, this could sometimes result in a similar problem. This problem would result in the student constantly being dropped from the course in CoursePlus, even though the student was registered for the course in SIS. This is because the data from SIS lacked an original transaction date that could be used for sorting and ensuring that ADDs were processed after DROPs.

We have worked these past few months with the SIS team to get the information we need to prevent the issue where a student drops one section of a class and adds the other section (or re-adds the same section), but then has the DROP processed after the ADD in CoursePlus. The SIS team now provides us with the exact date and time on which an add or drop is created in SIS. This gives us the ability to ensure that records for courses that have multiple sections using a single CoursePlus site are always processed in the correct order.

We know that this will avoid problems we see at the start of every term with students switching between .01 and .02 sections of a course. Anything that reduces problems with accessing CoursePlus sites is always a win for the CoursePlus team!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:29 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Feb 28 2018

Gradebook Updates in February

The team behind CoursePlus has been busy since the launch of the new version of the Gradebook. In addition to sqashing a small number of bugs that came up since releasing the new version of the tool, the team has also added a couple of features which couldn't make it in for the initial release:

  • If categories are used in the Gradebook setup, the weight of each category and the weight of each item in each category are now shown both on the student view of the Gradebook and the export of all Gradebook information to Excel. This makes it much easier to see how an individual grade weighs in the overall grade for a course.
  • Changes made to the final grade scale on the "Final Grades" page are now saved between visits to the page. Prior to this change, the actual final grades for each student were always saved, but the grading scale of what grade range equals an A, what grade range equals a B, and so on, was not. 
  • Every time you moved an item in the Gradebook setup, a modal (screen-blocking) dialog would appear at the top of the page indicating that the change was saved. This became fairly annoying fairly quickly. We've changed that modal dialog to an inline confirmation displayed in the item which was just moved.
  • Deleting items throughout the Gradebook previously caused a modal (screen-blocking) popup to appear to confirm the deletion. Delete confirmations now appear immediately next to the delete icon or button.
  • The "Enter Grades" page for an item in the Gradebook is now paginated in classes with more than 75 students.

The CoursePlus continues to work on the Gradebook, making changes based on feedback we've received thus far. We'll have more changes to share in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the new version of the Gradebook, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:25 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Feb 20 2018

Change Scores When Grading All Responses to a Single Question

Faculty and TAs find the "Grade All Responses to a Single Question" tool in the CoursePlus Quiz Generator to be immensely useful. It allows for quick grading of all student answers to a question at once, and provides better context for evaluating different student responses in a consistent way.

One limitation of this tool was that once you scored an individual student, there was no way to change that score from the "Grade All Responses to a Single Question" page. You had to drill down to the page showing all questions and answers from an individual student. This was tedious to do if you wanted to change more than one student score for the question. Additionally, the "Grade All Responses to a Single Question" page does not show individual student names by default, so forcing you to drill down on to an individual student response set page revealed the student name, eliminating any pretense of anonymity during scoring.

Fortunately, we've removed this problematic limitation. You can now change scores for individual students while on the "Grade All Responses to a Single Question" page:

Example of changing student scores on "Grade All Responses to a Single Question" page.

Changing scores on this page works exactly the same as it does when entering a score for the first time.

We hope that this change will make the scoring of all responses to a single question a little easier and more useful for you. If you have questions about how this feature works, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:41 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

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 see in their personal view of the Gradebook.

Screenshot of current overall grade feature

This is different than the previously existing "final grade" feature of the Gradebook. The "final grade" is what is sent to SIS for the student's official records. The current grade reflects both a) the student's grade as determined by the grades entered for at that time 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‚Äč

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

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