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Blackboard’s new feature lets students see grade average in classes

DeKALB – In March, Blackboard Learn introduced a new element to the Grades page: the “How Am I Doing” page. The purpose of this addition is to show how individual students’ grades compare to others in their class.

To access this page, students must go to the Grades section of Blackboard Learn. Then, in each class, there will be a pie chart icon. Once the icon is clicked on, a student’s grades will be shown in a graph alongside the average grade of the class. Through this graph, students can see how their grades change week by week and what the class average looks like.

Through this new update, students can determine whether their grades are better or worse than the class as a whole. The “How Am I Doing” page is part of a monthly update to the Grades page, said Stephanie Richter, the Director of Teaching Excellence and Support at NIU’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.

“If you see that your grade has increased, you can feel more confident in your knowledge and your learning strategies,” Richter said. “If you see that the time you spend in the course in Blackboard has decreased compared to your classmates, it can help you determine whether you need to spend more time engaging with course materials or participating in course activities in Blackboard.”

Blackboard Learn is an educational software first licensed by NIU in 1999, according to NIU Today. Through this platform, students have submitted assignments, checked their grades and attended online class meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Asynchronous and synchronous online courses completely exist on Blackboard.

“I think it could motivate students to work harder and improve their grades,” Grace Miller, a first-year English education major said.

How students view this new addition to Blackboard is going to depend on how students value themselves through their grades, Miller said. If a student strongly identifies themselves with their grades and sees that they’re below average of the rest of the class, it could be harmful.

Miller thinks that there’s a better and more personal way to gauge how a student’s grades compare with their classmates.

“A better way without showing everyone’s information is to sit down with your teacher and just ask them,” Miller said.

Miller is also concerned with showing the class average to every student and that grades, even class average grades, should be kept private.

“If I see an outlier that brings the average down, I’m going to want to know who it is,” Miller said. “I won’t dwell on it but that thought will still be there.”

This feature could also prove to be a strong motivator for students, Nate Stokes, a senior economics major said.

“I think it’s informative, not just for you, but to compare it to the class,” Stokes said.

In terms of privacy, there’s no concern for students as long as the grades that are shown are the class average and the grades of the student’s Blackboard account, Stokes said.

“If it doesn’t show individuals or even Z-IDs, then there shouldn’t be a problem,” Stokes said.

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