Grade Center Tips & Tricks

The Grade Center is a great way to keep track of your grades and provide feedback to your students online, but it can seem cumbersome when you first start using it. Below are a few tricks for getting around more smoothly. You can gain access to your grade center by clicking on the link located in the class menu.

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Be Sure to View the Icon Legend

The Grade Center uses several icons to indicate the status of a student’s submitted work. To review the meanings of these items click the “Icon Legend” button located in the bottom right-hand corner of the main Grade Center view.


How-To Organize and Re-Arrange Your Columns

When you create new grading columns, the Grade Center always places them at the end of your view. You can rearrange them based on due date or type of assignment to more easily find the grade column you’re looking for. This will also assist students in quickly locating their graded work in an orderly fashion.

To reorder your columns, click on Manage in the toolbar and then Column Organization.

manage menu

Your columns will be displayed in rows. Click on the small move icon at the beginning of the row and drag the row to your preferred location. Drag rows that you would like to be frozen above the gray row. These will remain fixed in place at the beginning of the Grade Center as you scroll through the columns. Note: Most faculty find having the student’s name frozen to be very helpful.

organize columns

Hide Columns You Don’t Need

You probably don’t need the Availability column or the Student ID column. They’re just taking up valuable visual real estate on your screen. Hide these from your view by clicking on the column menu and selecting Hide Column. Be aware that this does not hide the column from your students’ view in My Grades.

To hide a column from your students, select Show/Hide to Users from the column menu. The column title area will display a dark gray circle with a red bar  through it to indicate that it is hidden from the class.

show hide users

Use the Built-in Navigation Tools

Tired of clicking into an assignment and then back out to the main Grade Center and then into the next student’s assignment over and over again? Use the navigation options at the top of the Grade Details area. Click the forward and back arrows to go to another student or grade column.

navigating grade details

To access Grade Details, click on the menu icon in a grade cell and choose View Grade Details.

View grade details

Additional information about using and successfully navigating the Grade Center is available on our resources website.

Ideas for Giving Online Students Clear Feedback

By Koui² (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsStructuring a feedback cycle in online course is in many ways no different than in a face-to-face one.  For example, if you are using peer feedback, you may already be using some of these strategies:

  • Ask students to use a standard set of criteria and a protocol to guide their feedback
  • Set expectations – emphasize the value of giving feedback. Research shows giving feedback has a positive impact on students’ own work.
  • Make giving, receiving and using feedback part of assessment
  • Create  a feedback loop:
    1. Ask those whose work is being reviewed to point out to reviewer(s) what they’d like help with in particular. Encourage them to ask questions of the reviewer.
    2. Ask students in final drafts to write a brief piece explaining how they used the feedback they received.

Some benefits of this feedback structure include:

  • Increasing student accountability for quality of feedback
  • Increasing skills in giving and using feedback
  • Streamlining  final review of student work
  • Determine the success of the feedback system
  • Determine/improve students’ skills in giving and receiving feedback

Due to the lack of physical presence and changes in learning and teaching workflows, there are a few options that can improve that cycle.

Online Tools

In addition to the suggestions above, online tools can strengthen feedback and in some cases save time in giving feedback. For example, using voice rather than the written word can deepen the quality and quantity of feedback. Consider that speaking for three minutes produces about 500 words at an average rate of speech. Quality of feedback can also improve because the tone and quality of voice is retained, and this can enhance the depth and clarity of information in a message. Voice feedback has an immediacy that text does not, increasing students’ sense of your presence.  Tools using voice include Blackboard voice email and the voice authoring tool that is available wherever the full text editor exists.

Blackboard’s Video Everywhere tool allows you to record yourself speaking to students. Consider whether your feedback would be enhanced by the use of video. In the case of online course welcome messages, video of the instructor can be very useful in establishing a sense of your teaching presence.

Narrated Movies
Sometimes called “screencasts”, narrated movies can add a visual element to your feedback. For example, you may want to give feedback to the whole class, highlighting some key points in an assignment. Using VoiceThread, you can post a PowerPoint slide with bullet points and narrate those with a voice-over. You can also embed your webcam video directly into a slide.  Using SnagIt, you can record a narrated movie of whatever is open on your desktop. This might include written or visual student work. With a tablet computer, you can draw on the screen as you speak, adding emphasis to the points you speak to.

Articles on Feedback in Higher Education:

If you would like more information about any of the feedback strategies or tools in this post, please contact

How to Apply for the 2014 Summer Technology Institute

By shopware AG [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsNote: To apply for the Summer Technology Institute, please fill out the application form.

The Summer Technology Institute, sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship, is an opportunity for faculty to participate in a learning community of faculty across disciplines and schools engaged in an exploration of the effective uses of technology in teaching, learning, collaboration, and scholarship.

Faculty who consider themselves basic users or do not currently use technology in their courses are especially encouraged to apply.

A $500 stipend accompanies participation in the summer institute.

The program features a weeklong institute in June, held at Washburn Lounge on the Brattle Campus. Here, faculty will engage in a rich mix of dialogue, hands-on practice, project-based learning, reflection, and application to explore innovative ways technology can be integrated into their teaching. Regular gatherings over the course of the academic year will extend conversations and deepen learning begun at the Summer Institute.

Major topics addressed at the Summer Institute include:

  • Instructional Design
  • Technology-Enhanced Course Design Strategies
  • Use of Instructional Technology tools including myLesley (Blackboard, myLesley Voice Tools, Voicethread, Collaborate, and Blackboard Instant Messenger)

Expectations for Summer Technology Institute Participants

Faculty are expected to:

  • Participate in a 5-day training seminar: June 9-13, 2014
  • Develop a technology-enhanced learning activity for a 2014-2015 course
  • Attend at least 2 “brown bag” discussion workshops during the 2014-15 school year
  • Present a workshop or poster session at the 2015 eLearning Institute

Important Dates

March 7, 2014 Applications Due
March 31, 2014 Participants Announced
June 9-13, 2014 Summer Institute
January 2015 eLearning Institute


To apply for the Summer Technology Institute, please fill out the application form.

Simple Ways to Save Time Using myLesley

It’s a busy and rapidly changing world. You need tools to help you keep the chaos under control and make sure you have time for the important things. Below are a few ways myLesley can help you simplify some of the course administration tasks, leaving you more time for teaching.

Send Email

Looking up email addresses and setting up contact groups for your students can take a lot of time. Stop doing it! Email your students directly from your myLesley course using the Send Email tool. Email the entire class, groups of students, or select individual students. A copy of the message will be sent to your email address for future reference.

send email select users

Are you better at speaking than typing? Try Voice Email instead. voice email icon

Many faculty find they can provide more information in the same amount of time by recording their message.


The Announcements tool is a great way to share time sensitive information to the entire class.

announcement example

Use Announcements to kick off a new week, wrap up content and remind students about upcoming due dates. It’s a great way to summarize discussions and highlight key points for feedback to the whole class. Do you need to clarify information and clear up confusion that multiple students are having? Don’t send 15 emails. Send one announcement.

Announcements are visible on the home page of the myLesley course, but check ‘Send a copy of this announcement’ to also send an email to everyone. This will provide students two opportunities to receive important course information.

Create a Course Repository

Even if don’t teach online, having course content in myLesley can be incredibly helpful. Placing your syllabus, links to readings, and assignment information online allows students to easily find information when it’s needed, 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Clear organization and instructions translates to less frustration and confusion for students and fewer clarification emails for you.

Performance Dashboard

The Performance Dashboard provides a quick overall view of student activity in the course. The dashboard lists all the students and how long it has been since they last accessed the course. It is a quick way to identify students you may need to reach out to.

performance dashboard

The dashboard also shows students’ discussion board activity. Click on the number in the ‘Discussion Board’ column to access details on an individual student’s posts.

These are just a few easy to apply tips for using myLesley as a time-saving tool. Check out our Faculty Instructional Technology Resources to learn more about myLesley’s features.

New Blackboard Feature – “Video Everywhere”

Now it’s easier than ever to put YOU in your course.

  • Want a quick and easy way to record and embed a short video introduction of yourself in your course?
  • Looking for a simple way to provide video feedback for your students?
  • Thinking about a way to record and post a short video demo?
  • Hoping to repurpose a video from your YouTube channel and add it right into your course in seconds?

You can do all of those things right in Blackboard with Video Everywhere!


Video Everywhere is a new feature in Blackboard that lets you record with your computer’s webcam, upload the video right to your YouTube account, and embed it into your course – all at the same time and all without leaving the Blackboard environment. If you already have a video in your YouTube channel that you’d like to quickly insert in your course, you can use Video Everywhere for that too!

Got a computer, a webcam, a Google account, and a YouTube Channel? You’re good to go!

Getting Started
When you choose to add an item to your course, you’ll find the “Video Everywhere” icon in the Content Editor. It looks like a small webcam:


You can find the icon located in the lower left-hand corner of the content editor:


When the “Record” window opens, just sign into your Google/YouTube account (you’ll need to create a Google account if you don’t have one already and you’ll need a YouTube channel if you don’t have one yet.).


Note that the default is the Record screen but you can choose the Browse tab to insert a video you already have in your YouTube channel.

Once you sign in, you’ll be walked through the process to easily Record, Upload and Insert your video right into your course. Just grant access when asked along the way.

Once it’s in your YouTube channel, the video will be available to insert in any of your other courses using Video Everywhere’s Browse option from within each course.

That’s all there is to it!

A word about privacy: Please be aware that any video recorded with Video Everywhere will go directly to your YouTube account and have a default privacy status of “unlisted”. This means that it can only be viewed by those who have the URL for the video, and it won’t come up in a search, but the status is NOT “private”.  More information about this is available on Blackboard’s Video Everywhere Support site (see link below).

For More Information
You can find a step-by-step guide to using Video Everywhere here: Blackboard’s Video Everywhere Support Page, including information about privacy issues and making videos accessible.

You can also view Blackboard’s quick video introduction.

For more help with this new feature, contact