Blackboard Grade Center

Note: Official final grades MUST be submitted in Banner/MyUVM

This article covers the use of Blackboard tools to manage, calculate, and communicate grades to students. Grades entered in Bb do not automatically appear on student transcripts.  As such, all official final grades need to be entered in Banner/MyUVM.  Steps for submitting grades (PDF) are available on the Registrar’s site.

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If you would like help with setting up your grade center, verifying the calculations, or resolving other issues, please submit a ticket request to the Center for Teaching & Learning by emailing ctl@uvm.edu.

I. Access The Grade Center

The Grade Center, accessible only to instructors and TAs, is accessed in the Course Control Panel at the bottom of the left side menu. You can expand or collapse the Grade Center main menu by clicking “Grade Center” in the Control Panel. (Note: students are only able to see their own grades by clicking My Grades in their side menu.)

Once you click on the Grade Center link, you’ll see the submenu that provides a few different access points:

  1. Needs Grading shows a list of students’ submissions (assignments, tests, graded blogs/journals, etc.) that require your attention. Once you grade these items, they are not shown on this list any more.
  2. Full Grade Center shows you a grid view of all students and all Grade Center items.
  3. Smartviews:
    Smartviews show a filtered view of the full grade center. Tests and Assignments are “Smartviews” that will show you only only columns associated with tests and assignments you have created in your course. You can create additional customized “Smartview” filters (such as for particular groups) and add them to this menu list for quick access.

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II. Your View of the Grade Center: Customize and Fix Some Issues

  1. Two common problems that impede easy use of the Grade Center:
    • Can’t see the column titles while scrolling sideways
      A frustrating problem when working in the Full Grade Center grid is that, depending on your screen size, you may not be able to see both the column names and the bottom scrollbar at the same time. You can fix this by clicking the “Edit Rows Displayed” button underneath the Grade Center grid on the right side of the window. Try setting the number to 6 or 8 rows until you can see both the scroll bar and the column titles simultaneously. .
    • Mac Issue Only:
      If you do not have a bottom scrollbar to go left and right, this is an easy fix. Click the Apple image in the top left of your computer screen, choose System Preferences. In this pane, choose General (top/left of pane). Where it says “Show scroll bars” choose “Always” and then simply close the System Preferences pane. Refresh your browser window with the Grade Center and you should now be able to scroll left-right.
  2. Column Order: Blackboard appends newly added columns to the far right in the Grade Center. It is fairly easy to rearrange the sequence of columns, to better organize the display for you and your students. Here’s how:
    From the Full Grade Center, click the “Manage” button and select “Column Organization.” See image. On this page, you can re-sort columns by moving them up and down (up moves it to the left in the Grid). After you’re done, click Submit. (Read about other things you can do in the Manage Column Organization section.)
  3. Hide or Delete Columns Sometimes, especially after copying an old course, you may want to hide columns to get them out of your way.

    Important caveat: There are two hiding options in the column menu (See image.), from your view in the grid OR from students’ (or users’) view in My Grades. A common mistake is to hide a column from the instructor’s grid view of the Grade Center thinking that students won’t see it anymore, but unless you’ve hidden it from them, they will see it and may be confused! (There may be specific situations where hiding from the grid, but not from students is useful, such as for practice tests or quizzes that don’t need to be tracked on by the instructor.)

    • To hide an individual column from students, click to open the column menu at the top of the column and choose “Hide from students (on/off).” This is a toggle. When a column is hidden from students, you will see an icon with a red slash through it.
    • If you wish to show a hidden column from students, re-select “Hide from students (on/off)” to make the column visible.See image.
    Recommended practice: If you have a number of columns you’re not intending to use, do not hide them. Instead, make a backup (see below) of your Grade Center and then delete columns you don’t need. (Click the column menu and choose Delete).

    Not seeing an option to delete?: If you want to delete a column but don’t see the option on the column’s menu, it is probably associated with either a deployed test or an assignment. You will need to find where it is in the content of your course and delete it there, checking the option to remove it from the Grade Center, as well.

    Note regarding deleting or hiding the Total column:
    One column, usually the Total column, carries a green checkmark. This indicates that the column is designated as the External Grade column. This feature is designed to allow a way for an institution to collect grades from courses, for instance, to populate a student information system with final grades. Although this feature is not enabled at UVM, Blackboard still requires that one column in the Grade Center carries the External Grade designation.To hide or delete a column with the green check-mark, you will have to designate a different column as the External Grade. To do so, access the column menu (See image.) for a different column and choose “Set as External Grade.” The green check-mark will move to this newly designated column and you can now delete the other column.

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III. Back Up the Grade Center

Backing up the Grade Center is important to do regularly, especially before editing columns.
If a column is accidentally deleted, it can’t be recovered! Instructions for doing this are found here: Backing up the Blackboard Grade Center

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IV. Add Grade Columns

Grade columns are for entering grades (as opposed to calculated columns). There are two ways grade columns can be added to the Grade Center: automatically and manually.

  1. Automatically
    Columns are automatically added in the GC when you deploy any graded tool (assignments, tests, blogs, journals, wikis, discussion boards, attendance, surveys) for students in the course. Try it out!
  2. Manually
    You can also create columns for any other work associated with your course (such as things you’re grading by hand, or recording in another spreadsheet).Try it out!

Automatic Columns: Try It Out!

Let’s look at how Blackboard automatically generates Assignment columns:
  1. Go to a spot in your course where students would access a link for an assignment (such as the Course Materials link in the upper, left menu) to create and deploy an Assignment.
  2. Click on Assessments > Assignment from the top menu. See image.
  3. Fill in the following fields:Name of the assignment (since it’s just a sample, name it something like “Delete This Sample Assignment”). Points for Assignment (just choose a number).Uncheck the option “Make the Assignment Available” (so students don’t see it and get confused).Click Submit.
  4. You should now see a column for that Assignment in your Grade Center grid. Blackboard appends any new column to the far right of the Grade Center, so you may have to scroll to see your column. If you are on a Mac and do not have a left-right scroll bar change the settings to address this issue.
  5. If this was just a practice exercise, delete the assignment and corresponding Grade Center column by going back to the place you deployed the assignment. Click the editing arrow next to the name of your sample assignment and choose “Delete.” Confirm the deletion. See image.
Let’s look at how Blackboard automatically generates Test columns:
  1. Create a test (even a single question test is enough to try out this task).
  2. Deploy the test in a spot in your course where students would access a link for a test (such as the Course Materials link in the upper, left menu).
  3. Choose no as the option for “Make available to students” (so they don’t see it and get confused).
  4. You should now see a column for that Test in your Grade Center. Blackboard appends any new column to the far right of the Grade Center, so you may have to scroll to see your column.If you are on a Mac and do not have a left-right scroll bar change the settings to address this issue.
  5. If this was just a practice exercise, delete the deployed exam and corresponding Grade Center column by going back to the place you deployed the test. Click the editing arrow next to the name of your sample test and choose “Delete.” Confirm the deletion. See image. Note – This will delete the deployment of the test, but not the test from your bank of tests.

Manual Columns: Try It Out!

To add a manually created grade column:
  1. Go to the Full Grade Center
  2. Click on “Create Column” from the top menu.
  3. Fill in the following fields:
    Column name (since it’s just a sample, name it something like “Sample Column”).Points Possible (just enter a number).”No” for the option to “Include this column in Grade Center calculations” (since it is just a sample column)“No” as the option for “Show this column to students” (so students don’t see it and get confused).Click Submit.
  4. You should now see that manual column in your Grade Center. Blackboard appends any new column to the far right of the Grade Center, so you may have to scroll to see your column.If you are on a Mac and do not have a left-right scroll bar change the settings to address this issue.
  5. If this was just a practice exercise, delete the manually created grade column from within your Full Grade Center. Click the editing arrow next to the name of your sample manual column and choose “Delete Column.” Confirm the deletion. See image.

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V. Add Calculated Columns

Calculated columns can be useful not only for giving students a running view of their course grade (described in Calculating Final Grades), but they can be used to create subtotals or to average a specific set of columns.

To add a calculated column, click Create Calculated Column in the Full Grade Center grid. Your options are:

Average Column
Minimum/Maximum Column
Total Column – by default, all UVM Blackboard spaces are populated with a total column that sums all other Grade Center columns. See Calculating Final Grades.
Weighted Column – by default, all UVM Blackboard spaces are populated with a weighted total column that will not complete any calculations until edited by the instructor. See Calculating Final Grades.

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VI. Column Menu Options

All Blackboard columns have a “column menu” available at the top of the column. (See image.) Different types of columns will have slightly different menu options.
The column menu for all grade center columns is accessed the same way: Go to your Full Grade Center and located the editing arrow to the right of any column’s name. See image.

  1. Show/Hide Columns This is explained in Customizing your Grade Center view.
  2. Delete Columns To delete an individual column, from the column menu (See image.)for that column, choose “Delete.” Be warned that this action is permanent and will delete all student grades and data in that column. It is a good idea to back up your grade center before deleting. To delete multiple columns, it is fastest to take action through the Manage Column Organization option.Two important notes related to deleting columns:
    1. You may not be able to hide or delete the Total column. You’ll notice that by default there is a little green checkmark at the top of the Total column. This is because one column, usually the Total column, is designated as the “External Grade.” This feature is designed to allow a way for an institution to collect grades from courses, for instance, to populate a student information system with final grades. Although this feature is not enabled at UVM, Blackboard still requires that one column in the Grade Center carries the External Grade designation.To hide or delete a column with the green check-mark, you will have to designate a different column as the External Grade. To do so, access the column menu (See image.) for a different column and choose “Set as External Grade.” The green check-mark will move to this newly designated column and you can now delete the other column.
    2. You cannot delete deployed tests and assignments from the grade center. Rather, delete the assignment and corresponding Grade Center column by going back to the place you deployed the test or assignment for students. Click the editing arrow next to the name of your assignment or test and choose “Delete.” Confirm the deletion.
  3. Edit Column Information When you choose “Edit Column Information” from the column menu (often found about midway in the list), you can make the following changes to the column:
    • Rename the column (this is what is visible to students)
    • Come up with a shorthand name for the column in the Grade Center (this is what is visible to you and your TAs)
    • Choose up to 2 display options for the grade from:
      • Score (total points)
      • Letter (A+ through F) – Blackboard uses a default grading schema (that you can customize) to convert percentages to letters and letters to percentages.
      • Text (you can write in free text such as “not yet”)
      • Percentage
      • Complete/Incomplete
    • Categorize the column to an existing category. Custom categories are created from the Full Grade Center > Manage Menu > Categories. Accurate categorization is important for weighting grades by category.
    • Change the points attached to the column.
    • Assign a due date.
    • Choose whether or not to include the column in total calculations.
    • Show/hide the column from the student view.
    • After making changes on the Edit Column Information, be sure to click “Submit” in the bottom, right corner or your changes will be lost.

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VII. Manage Column Organization

When you open this page, you have a few handy options:

  1. To access the page, click the “Manage” button and choose “Column Organization.” See image.
  2. Scroll down to see all the columns in your course, whether hidden or not. This is the way that you un-hide or “Show” columns you’ve hidden from the grid view.If the course has been copied from a previous semester, sometimes you may hide columns you’re not using. The problem is that often students can see them. So, the best practice is to delete columns you’re not using rather than hiding them.
  3. To delete multiple columns
    1. First, make a backup of your Grade Center! If you accidentally delete a column this is the only way to restore it.
    2. Check the box(es) next to the column(s) and on the bottom, click Delete.
  4. You can also re-order the columns by clicking on the left cross-hairs and dragging the column up or down. (Up means more to the left of your grid.)
  5. You can select several columns and assign a category to them. First, your category must be set up (explained in the weighted column section). Then, in the Column Organization page, you can select the columns to assign and choose “Change category to…” on the bottom.

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VIII. Enter Grades

Grading Blackboard Assignments
Student assignments can be graded with or without the Rubric tool. Additionally, you can write narrative feedback in addition to assigning a grade.
These instructions detail how to grade assignments, including a video demonstrating the grading process with a rubric.

Grading Blackboard Tests
Some test question types, such as multiple choice, will be automatically graded by Blackboard. Other question types require you to review students’ work and manually assign a grade.
These instructions detail how to grade tests.

Grading Blackboard Blogs/Journals/Discussions

When you set up the options for Blogs, Journals, and Discussions in Blackboard, you can choose to make them graded. If this option is selected, you will need to review students’ submissions and assign a grade along with narrative feedback.
These instructions detail how to grade Blogs.
These instructions detail how to grade Journals.
These instructions detail how to grade Discussions .

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IX. Calculate Final Grades

By default the Grade Center has both a Total Column and a Weighted Total Column. What is the difference?

The Total column calculates the sum of grade values for each student in all columns (unless you have chosen a setting NOT to include a particular column in the Grade Center calculations). Each time you enter a student’s grade, the Total Column is updated by Blackboard and each student will see the grade as well as the updated total (for themselves only) in the My Grades view. However, because this number starts out low in the beginning of the semester, it isn’t as helpful to students as the Weighted Total.

The Weighted Total column gives the students a running tally of their course grade. It is percentage based, so, for instance, a single assignment could have a possible score of 100, 500, or 50 and it doesn’t make a difference because what % the student earned out of what was possible is the first factor.

The second factor is the weight that you assign to a column.

Example: A student might earn a 70 out of 100 for an assignment that you have indicated is worth 5% of their final grade. Later, the student might earn a 70 out of 100 for a different test or assignment which you’ve indicated has a heavier weight such as 50% of their final grade, so because of the weight you have assigned that column, the impact of the latter grade is much greater.

The distinct advantage is that from the first grades a student receives in your course they can see how they’re doing at any given time. A caveat is that precision and accuracy are important for this to work. A consultation with CTL is strongly advised to make sure the pieces work together properly.

How to set up a Weighted Column

The place to start is your syllabus and how you’ve described students grade to them, for example:

6 Quizzes = 20%
1 Midterm = 25%
1 Paper = 25%
1 Final = 30%

  1. Prepare columns: Whether you’re using Blackboard for quizzes and tests, or whether you’re collecting them in class, you’ll need to set up a Grade Center column for each quiz, test, and assignment.
  2. You’ll want to set up a category in the Grade Center for the quizzes or any grouping of multiple columns, such as reflections, homework, etc. To set up Categories:
    1. Click the “Manage” button in the Grade Center and choose “Categories.”
    2. On this page you’ll see some categories that are there by default, but we want to differentiate your quizzes, so we’ll click “Create Category,” give it the name “Quizzes,” and then click Submit.
    3. Next, you have to assign those 6 quiz columns with the “Quizzes” category. The fastest way to do that all at once is to click “Manage” and then “Column Organization.” On this page you’ll see all of your columns in the course:
      • Check the box next to each of the six quiz columns.
      • At the bottom of the page, click the button that says “Change Category to…”, choose “Quizzes” from the list, and click Submit.
  3. Set up the Weighted Total column
    1. At the top of the Weighted Total column, click menu and choose “Edit Column Information.” Lower on the page are two left-hand boxes titled “Columns” and “Categories” and one empty right-hand column titled “Selected.”
    2. In the Categories box, choose “Quizzes” and then click the small arrow button on the right of that box to move it over to the “Selected” area. You’ll see a box in which you enter the value, in this example it would be 20%.
    3. Next, in the Columns box, select “Paper, Midterm, and Final” columns and click the small right-pointing arrow. (Do not click quiz columns because they are represented by the category.) Enter the percentage value – or weight – for each column. You can now click Submit.
  4. Test your Weighted Total column A step that the CTL can help you with or you can do on your own is to test the forumula to makes sure it works out.

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X. Miscellaneous

Offline Grading

There are times you may wish to record grades in a spreadsheet and then upload them to Blackboard. This can be done with a properly formatted and coded spreadsheet.

  1. Start by creating a Manual Column in the Grade Center with a clear title and the appropriate point value. This is the “holding container” for the grades you will upload.NOTE – Make sure the “display of grade” accurately matches the type of data you will be uploading. For instance, if you’re uploading a numerical score, choose “Score.” If you’re uploading a letter grade, choose “Letter.” If you’re uploading a percentage, choose “Percentage.”
  2. Once the manual column has been created, from the Full Grade Center, go to Work Offline > Download (accessed on the right side of your screen, just above the grade center grid). See image.
  3. On the next page, under Data, on the choose a Selected Column (the one you created in step 1), leave all other settings as default, and click “Submit.” See image.
  4. On the next page, click the gray Download button.
  5. Open the downloaded file from your downloads folder. You may see a pop-up asking if you trust the source. Affirm the download by clicking “Yes.”
  6. “Save As” the file to a place on your computer where you’ll be able to find it later. You may get a pop-up warning that some features will be lost if you save it in the existing file format. Affirm that you want to keep using the existing file format by clicking “Yes.”WARNING – DO NOT ALTER THE FILE NAME. It contains information that Blackboard needs when you upload it.
  7. Locate the column on the spreadsheet that matches the manually created column you created in Step 1.WARNING – DO NOT ALTER THE NAME OF THIS COLUMN HEADER IN YOUR SPREADSHEET, OR YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO UPLOAD GRADES FOR STUDENTS.
  8. Enter individual students’ grades in the row that corresponds with their name. You can copy and paste from another spreadsheet, ensuring that you are aligning each student’s grade accurately with their row.WARNING – DO NOT DELETE THE USERNAME COLUMN OR ALTER THE NAME OF THIS COLUMN HEADER IN THIS SPREADSHEET. ALSO, DO NOT DELETE AN ANY DATA IN THE USERNAME COLUMN. IF YOU MAKE ALTERATIONS TO THIS COLUMN, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO UPLOAD GRADES FOR STUDENTS
  9. Save your spreadsheet. Again, you may see a pop-up warning that some features will be lost if you save it in the existing file format. Affirm that you want to keep using the existing file format by clicking “Yes.”
  10. Close your spreadsheet.
  11. Go back to Full Grade Center in Blackboard. Go to Work Offline > Upload (accessed on the right side of your screen, just above the grade center grid).
  12. On the next page, browse your computer to the file you saved in steps 7 and 10 and click “open.” Leave all other settings as default and click “Submit.”
  13. On the next page, you’ll see a preview of the scores that will be uploaded. If satisfied, click “Submit.” You should now see your uploaded data populated in the column you created in step 1.

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Exempting Grades

You may wish to excuse a student from a particular graded assignment or test. Blackboard allows you to exempt a student’s grade, which means the value for that particular graded item is removed from the numerator and denominator of all calculations.

To exempt a grade, in the Full Grade Center, locate the cell that corresponds with the appropriate column and row. Click in the cell and from the drop-down menu, choose “Exempt Grade.”

NOTE – If you are using a Running Total, leaving grades blank is equivalent to exempting those grades. Therefore, if a student hasn’t submitted or completed an assignment that you expected them to complete, you’ll want to enter a 0 in that cell. Otherwise, they will not have that failed assignment calculated into their grade. To clarify: a null grade does not impact their weighted grade total, but a zero does.

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Clearing, Ignoring, and Adding Attempts

Tests can be set to allow students multiple attempts for pedagogical and technical reasons. If students have taken a test multiple times, you may want to ignore or clear a previous attempt. Ignoring the attempt will discount it from the grade center. Clearing the attempt will delete it, entirely, from Blackboard.

Ignoring or Clearing an Attempt

  1. To ignore or clear a test attempt, in the Full Grade Center, locate the cell that corresponds with the appropriate column and row. Click in the cell and from the drop-down menu, choose “View Grade Details.”
  2. On the next screen (under the Current Grade box), the list of all attempts should be listed. Next to any single attempt, click the button for “Clear Attempt” or “Ignore Attempt.”

Adding an Attempt

Depending on how many attempts have been permitted per test, a Test Availability Exception may need to be implemented for an individual student, if their existing number of attempts have matched the number of permitted attempts. This is not done from the Grade Center, but rather from the test options.

These instructions will show you how to add an attempt for an individual student.

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Smart Views

Smart Views allow you to add filters to your Grade Center. Two Smart Views are included, by default, with every Blackboard course space: Assignments and Tests. You might want a Smart View to filter the columns that are displayed (such as the default ones do). Or, you might want a Smart View to filter the rows that are displayed (to show a subset of students, such as Groups or by TA).

To add a Smart View that will display a particular subset of rows (students), you must first put those students in a Group. During the group creation process, you’ll see a Group Option to create a Smart View for the group by checking a box. Check that box.

To edit which Smart Views are listed in your left Grade Center menu:

  1. From the Full Grade Center, choose the Manage menu and select “Smart Views.” See image.
  2. Click the star on the row at the far right side of any Blackboard Tool or Student Group to add it to your favorites (the star will turn green). Conversely, if a Smart View is listed as a favorite, but you do not want it listed on our Grade Center link, click the star to remove it from your favorites. See image.

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Running Totals

By default, total columns in Blackboard calculate values as a “Running Total.” This means that Blackboard ignores blank cells so they are not included in the calculations. Therefore if a student actually earns a zero grade in a column, the zero must be entered because null cells (showing “–“) are not factored as zeros. Unless a 0 is inserted into the cell for a missing/non-submitted assignment, their total grade will be inflated.

Example With a Running Total
Total (%) Column 1
worth 100
Column 2
worth 100
Column 3
worth 100
Column 4
worth 100
Column 5
worth 100
Student A 80% 90 70
Student B 53.33% 90 70 0

The next table shows student grades without using the running total, assigning zeros for the null columns, instead of ignoring them.

Example Without a Running Total
Total (%) Column 1
worth 100
Column 2
worth 100
Column 3
worth 100
Column 4
worth 100
Column 5
worth 100
Student A 32.00% 90 70
Student B 32.00% 90 70 0

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Updated on May 8, 2020

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