A Grading Strategy for Online Discussions

A Grading Strategy for Online Discussions

Presently, I am teaching an online graduate course, one that has a lot of online discussions. Unfortunately, the learning management system I am using does not allow for easy individual discussion grading. It is similar to Blackboard discussions. Here is how I manage the grading.

Setting up the Discussions

In the class I am teaching, there are two weekly discussions: an IRA discussion and a student-led discussion.

IRA Discussions

IRA discussions have three main parts: Insights, Resources, and Application. Based on the assigned reading, learners are to find three (3) things that resonated with them−3 insights. They must also explain why these insights are important. Additionally, they must research and report on an external resource. Finally, they must explain how they would apply what they are learning in their classrooms, in their work, or in their lives. After their IRA post, they need to reply to others throughout the week. I picked up this strategy in Rita-Marie Conrad and J. Ana Donaldson’s book, Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction.

I use this rubric to grade these discussions. In short, I simply want them to write scholarly posts and add to the discussion. They are awarded 0 to 3 points per discussion per post.

In order to try to get more learners to post earlier in the discussion period, I award 3 additional points, if they post on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday; 1 additional point, if they post Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday; and no additional points, if they post on the last day, Saturday. Posting their IRA post early in the week is equivalent to one scholarly written post worth 3 points. If they get involved in the discussion early, they have less work to do. The maximum amount of points that a learner can get for the week is 20 points.

Student-led Discussions

For the student-led discussions, I asked students to sign-up on an editable Google document, where students can choose which week they wish to lead the discussion. This document is completed the first week of class and is the schedule for the rest of the term. On Thursday of each week, the student who will be leading the discussion for the next week submits 3 questions, and from those three questions, I choose one of them.

Here is the rubric I use for these discussions. It is based on the same 0 – 3 point scale per post. Is the discussion post scholarly and does it furthers the conversation? I also use the additional points scheme for posting early in the week compared to posting later in the week. The maximum amount of points that a learner can get for the week is 20 points.

Grading the Discussions

Because the learning management system I am using, similar to Blackboard, does not have a way to grade individual discussion posts, I have I’ve developed a spreadsheet to keep track of the points throughout the week. It is also a Google document. It allows me to access it from anywhere I have an internet connection. The spreadsheet allows for multiple posts during the day. It tallies at the end of the row for each learner.

As I review the post and add my comments, I make an annotation on the spreadsheet reflecting the points awarded. There is a separate block to give the additional points based on the day the IRA post was submitted. I also highlight the IRA post within the spreadsheet. After I have reviewed all the posts and add comments, I go back and update the points for each student in the grade book. This keeps them informed on their status throughout the week.

Typically, it takes me about 15 minutes to review all the posts and update the grade book.

If you are interested in seeing more, feel free to contact me and I’ll show you what I’m doing. If you have your own method for doing this, I love to hear about it and possibly show it off to the rest of the world.

Additional Reading

Stan Skrabut, Ed.D.

Stan is Director of Technology-Enhanced Instruction. He has over 20 years experience working as an instructional technologist and trainer. He has a master’s degree in computing technology in education and a doctorate in education specializing in instructional technology.

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