Tsquare Angst – Part 2 : Grading and Assignments

As we already know from a previous post; Tsquare is quite a handful. But some short tips will hopefully help to alleviate some of the angst. This week, I will be discussing 2 of the most useful areas (tools) in Tsquare: gradebook and assignments. 

Unfortunately, these 2 tools are probably the most confusing in Tsquare, possibly because they have so much flexibility. So bear with me, I will try to ensure that this post gives you the most direct path to success.

Overview

In general, Gradebook is best used for students to see their grades and Assignments is best used to collect student work. Tsquare lets you grade work either in Assignments or in Gradebook or both. Regardless of where you grade your students’ work, you have the option to show the students their grades or not, this is called “making grades available”. These choices in combination make for quite a quagmire. 

Unconventionally, I will start by talking about the gradebook because it is the most straightforward.  

Gradebook

Gradebook is essentially a glorified spreadsheet, that you can reveal to students as you see fit. If you are using anything other than straight points to do your grading, you will need to setup the Gradebook. Choosing the “Gradebook setup” (figure right) tab gives you access to adjustments. For example, if you are going to have 2 projects, each worth 50% of the course, you would indicate it in this tab (see figure right). After saving your changes, click the “Gradebook Items” tab to return to Gradebook home screen.

From the Gradebook item home screen (shown right), we can add items or assignments. Using the available “Add Gradebook items” will take you to the screen (bottom right).

This screen lets you give your assignment a title, a point value, category, and a due date, if you want. You also have the option to release the grade to students or to include it in a final grade calculation. The category only shows up if you have created them in Setup discussed above.

2 projects added to the Gradebook setup

2 projects added to the Gradebook setup

 

Adding Assignment1 worth 50pts under Project1 to the gradebook

Adding Assignment1 worth 50pts under Project1 to the gradebook

 

Note, categories function as folders allowing you to contain the chaos of too-many-grades syndrome. For example, If you have weekly quizzes use categories. The figure below shows a course with categories and weighting. 

Categories work well as folders otherwise everything is a mess.

Categories work well as folders otherwise everything is a mess.

 

Assignments

Assignments main screen

Assignments main screen

Assignments for the most part let you distribute, collect, and grade returned assignments. However, Tsquare is flexible enough to let you use one, two, or all of these options. To create assignments use “Add” from the Assignment menu (figure right). The Assignment section does not utilize folders; therefore, is no easy way to organize a host of assignments, other than a naming schema.

Four dates to add for each assignment is a bit daunting. A tip is to keep the last 2 dates the same. 

Four dates to add for each assignment is a bit daunting. A tip is to keep the last 2 dates the same.

From there you get a rather long and involved add screen (figure right). Most convoluted are the 4 dates. 1) Open date is the date students can see, and therefore submit to the assignment. It usually defaults to the day and hour you create it. 2) Due date is the date the assignment is due. 3) Accept until is how long you will permit exceptions. Allow resubmission gives a 4th date to let you choose how many resubmits and till how long.  Since Tsquare will always tell you when something was submitted (and by whom), I suggest you put a liberal accept until date based on your policy. Also, set the resubmits to unlimited and set the resubmit date to the same date as the accept until date. Resubmits at unlimited permits students to inadvertently submit the wrong assignment and then to correct it on their own without having to involve you. Lastly, if you have a midnight submission policy, its easiest to add it as 11:55pm instead of having to roll the date forward to the next day for 12am.  

The last important and confusing section is under Grading as indicated by the red arrow (figure above). The 3 available options are “Do not add to gradebook” and “Add to gradebook” and “Associate with existing entry”.  The “Do not add…” means ultimately, if you want to grade this assignment, you have not specified where you will grade it yet. You retain the option to grade it either in Assignments or in Gradebook.  In the latter case, you would need to add the assignment to the Gradebook independently. The option “Add to the gradebook”, connects this assignment to the Gradebook and forces you to only grade it in the Assignments area. The third option, means you have already added a Gradebook entry for this assignment and want to connect the 2. I suggest you use this setting, before you do any grading, otherwise it produces some peculiar results.  Most of these options are reversible, except for the 3rd option with grades, explained below.

If you have already grades entered in the Gradebook or the Assignment area and then decide to connect them, there are some odd consequences. For example, if you have a different point value in the Assignments versus Gradebook and you have grades in the Assignments when you connect them, Tsquare will re-calculate your grades based on the Gradebook point value. If you have grades in the Gradebook and you want to connect them to an Assignment, even if the point values differ, nothing will happen. But you wont be able to grade from the Gradebook, only from the Assignment area.

Compounding this confusion is the release grades so students can see them. The release grades shows up both in the Assignments and the Gradebook. You must release grades where you want students to see them. As you create a Gradebook item, it asks you do you want the students to see these grades for this item. If you grade items from the Assignment area, you will need to release them, before students can see them. However, most students only look in the gradebook, so inevitably, you want all your grades to end up in there. 

Let me take some time to review, including the pros and cons:

Grades with linked comments Grades with linked comments

  1. Assignment separate from Gradebook. For this to work you must make a corresponding Gradebook entry (for students to see it). Then you can grade either in the Gradebook or the Assignment area as you choose. Which means if you have a bunch of grades to enter at once, you can add them quickly to the Gradebook. The gradebook does not take electronic documents and has a limited comment availability. Use this for items that do not require extensive comments or where you can instead share a link to your comments (figure above right). 
  2. Assignment and Gradebook locked together. This forces you to grade assignments one by one using the assignment section. The grades (without the comments) then show up over in the gradebook. If you have to returned electronic documents or many comments this is your best option. Please note, your students may need to be shown how to get to your comments are. 
  3. Connect assignment to existing Gradebook entry, after both set up independently. No reason to bother with this, unless you want Tsquare to perform some weirdness. For example, if you graded on a scale of 100 in the Assignments, and want Tsquare to resolve grades out of 20pts in the Gradebook. I’m not sure how reliable this situation is and I would highly suggest you have your grades recorded elsewhere before you choose this option.  

The bottom line is to think about how you are going to grade it and set Tsquare up accordingly. Only the first two options are really viable. And since students only look in the Gradebook anyway, using the 3rd option prior to grading is just an extra step. 

Pathway Forward

Here are some suggestions for new Tsquare users with 2 goals in mind, maintaining grades, and distributing and collecting assignments. 

  1. Limit the number and kind of assignments you collect at Tsquare. Without folders collecting assignments can become a mess. Collect the majority of smaller assignments via some other means. Consider Google docs or Piazza. (Look for a upcoming post about each).
  2. Maintain only some scores/grades or groups of grades in the gradebook. For example, I have many quizzes and in-class activities and I take attendance. I keep those scores/grades in my ipad and then collect them together into 5 week sprints. Therefore, every 5 weeks I post these grades in Tsquare. While students can see their quiz grades immediately, they only see the cumulative quiz grade every 5 weeks.  
  3. Create and utilize categories/folders in Gradebook. I keep my major assignment grades in categories in the gradebook.  Since I have drafts and the like for each major assignment, I collect those into one category. 
  4. Connections, keep them clear. I recommend when you want grade lots of things, do not connect Assignments and Gradebook and grade everything in Gradebook. When you have individualized feedback (returned papers and the like), connect them and grade the assignment in Assignments (be sure to release the grades). Do not branch into the other options and it prevents some confusion. 

Well, I hope this didn’t prove to be too confusing.