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Archive for the 'Grade book' Category

Grades: formative and final

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

As we near the end of the summer semester (even if it feels like summer hasn’t even started yet!), calculating final grades will soon be upon us.

We’ve got general resources on the WebCT gradebook that offer PDF downloads and instructions on the many functions of the gradebook. The gradebook is an efficient way of letting students know how they are doing in the course. Most instructors use it to deliver numeric or letter grades, but there are a few other options as well.

1. The calculated column: you can create a calculated column that will automatically add up the student grades to give them (or yourself) their final grade. Download the gradebook manual for more information on creating these calculated columns (note: the link is to a PDF which requires an SFU login).

2. Import/ Export: If you are comfortable with Excel and the calculating functions within, then you can still take advantage of the benefits of both Excel and WebCT. Use the Import and Export Gradebook buttons in the gradebook to keep an offline copy of your grades, and update the gradebook by periodically uploading an updated gradebook. I recommend that you export the gradebook first, so that you have a spreadsheet in a format that WebCT understands and can import. Remember also that anything you upload will over-write anything in the online gradebook, so if you or a TA have modified grades online, they’ll be over-written by an uploaded file. You can modify your spreadsheet to have a custom spreadsheet for each tutorial, or only uploading the current gradebook column on which you are working.

3. SIMS uploads: You can also use WebCT to create a file that is ready-made to upload into SIMS, which should make your end of semester housekeeping just a bit more streamlined. The link provided has instructions on how to set this WebCT -> SIMS communications. .

What are some of the other end of semester teaching tasks that take up time? Are you using the journal tool for formative feedback? Did you you deliver a mid-semester survey to track student perceptions of the learning environment? Do you use the assessment tool to deliver practice quizzes so students can prepare for their finals? Are students using the discussion or blog tool for peer discussion or evaluation on their final papers?

Please use the comments function below, and perhaps we can brainstorm ways of streamlining the end of the semester for your time management and for student learning.

Two sections in one course?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Today someone asked about having two sections (for example, D100 and D200) in one WebCT course container. This happens regularly, as it means as an instructor, you only have to load up content once, and design and coordinate one course container.

When you (the instructor) use the course request form, you can use the Crosslisting option on the course request form to do this.  Start by requesting a course shell for one your course sections, and when you get to part two of the course request form (where it confirms your course number and title), you will have an option to choose to crosslist.
In a course container with two class lists, all of the students would be merged in the gradebook. Students are identified in the Grade Book by their section number, however, so you could search for all D100 or D200 students (for example) in order to see only specific students. To search for students, open the Grade Book, click on the “Grade Book Options” icon, and choose Find Students from the drop down menu. You can then choose the column, and the condition (“begins with”) and search for D100 (for example). Unfortunately, the system will not save your saved searches, but it will separate the students lists for you.

All of the content and tools in the course container4 would be visible to all, but if you did want to have some section-specific content, you can use the selective release to only show content (or discussion groups) to students from specific sections.

When students can’t see their grades in WebCT

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Recently, we’ve received a few questions about the grade book. Instructors were adding grades, but the students could not see them in WebCT.

There is usually a simple solution – most times, the instructor had not added the My Grades tool, or had not released the column. For information on resolving this, check our wiki for instructions.

Another incident was when an instructor uploaded an Excel file with a new column. The column was created in the Excel file, and so when it was imported, it was not recognized as a graded column. We had to go into the column settings in the grade book and update the settings so it was a graded column and numeric, not text.

The reasons behind some of these settings:

The My Grades tool is not added by default to course containers, because not all instructors choose to distribute grades in WebCT, and some non-credit course containers do not have grades associated with them. It is good practice not to add tools that are not used to a course container, and so adding My Grades remains an option, not a default.

Grades are not automatically released to students. This allows instructors or teaching assistants to upload grades over the course of a couple of days, but without some students getting access before others. If you have a large class, you will likely not enter all grades at once, so this gives you some breathing room.

Section numbers now in WebCT Grade Book

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Section numbers such as tutorial or lab numbers now appear in the WebCT Grade Book automatically.


The column is titled “Section” and will be all the way to the right in your grade book. To reorder your grade book columns, consult the instructions here: http://wiki.sfu.ca/webct/index.php/Student_grades#Navigate_and_customize_the_grade_book
If you do not wish this column to appear in the Grade Book, click on the action link next to the column titled “Section” and choose “hide column” from the drop down menu.

Finding and sorting by section number in the Grade Book

  • Sort by section number: click on the column title, and choose “sort column” from the drop-down menu.
  • Use the “Find Members” function in the “Grade Book Options” drop down menu to find specific section members. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Column”, and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102). Click on “run query” to show results.
  • If you manually change a section designation (e.g., a student registers in D105, but attends the D108 section) in the grade book, the symbol “^” will appear in front of it. This will not impact the students registration – only how it appears in WebCT.


Selective release of content according to section number
If you have a folder on the home page of your course, you can use the selective release to share it only with specific sections.

  • In either the Build or the Teach tab, click on the “Selective Release” button found under the Designer or Instructor tools.
  • You will see a list of folders – click on the button “set release criteria” for the appropriate folder.
  • Choose “Add Grade Book Criteria.”
  • You will get a pop-up window. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Criteria”, set the “Condition” to “contains” (this is the most general option – other options may suit you better), and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102).

Selective release of discussion topics according to section number
If you are using the discussion tool, you can use the selective release to share individual discussion topics with specific sections.

  • Open the discussion tool, and create the topics you require.
  • Click on the action link next to the topic you wish to release.
  • Choose “Set Release Criteria” from the drop down menu.
  • Choose “Add Grade Book Criteria.”
  • You will get a pop-up window. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Criteria”, set the “Condition” to “contains” (this is the most general option – other options may suit you better), and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102).

Wrapping up your web-supported course

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

part three: wrapping up

By default, your students will have access to their WebCT course discussions, content and grades until the last day of the semester. After the next semester starts, the course container is closed to them, but they retain access to anything in their personal WebCT File Manager. You’ll still be able to access the course content.

If you have used the discussion forum, post a “good bye” message to students. You can later “lock” discussion forums so that students can read, but not post new messages, but give your students a chance to wrap up their online thoughts. If you are going to grade student postings as part of their participation grade, have them compile and email their top five postings to you. This will save you time, and they’ll be able to revisit and review some of their past contributions.

The assessment tool can be used to survey your students at the end of the semester. They’ll have formal course evaluations, but you can check how they liked the web-supported course forum. Which tools or content supported their learning, and how did it extend the classroom environment. Use the same survey to ask yourself those reflective questions. What worked, what didn’t, and what would you do differently?

The gradebook tool can give your students an overview of their semester grades. Create a calculated column to calculate and distribute provisional final grades. There are instructions available to help you move grades seamlessly from WebCT to SIMS.

Streamline things for the next time you teach: store files that you use in multiple WebCT course sections in your File Manager – you’ll be able to link to those files from any WebCT course.

Delivering your web-supported course

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

part two: delivery

Your delivery will depend largely on the communication, administrative, assessment and content-driven tools that you have chosen to use.

Write expectations and guidelines for your students and the communication tools available. Use the discussion, mail tool, chat or announcements to give and receive regular feedback. Promote the the discussion forum as a place for student collaboration or the journal function to introduce reflective practice.

Use the goals tool to remind students of the expected learning outcomes. Attach different content, communications and assessments to specific goals to reinforce how goals and assessments connect to the syllabus and the whole semester.

Create formative evaluations to track student understanding or surveys to request feedback. When using the assessment or assignment tool (for small quizzes or homework), create a test quiz or assignment to reduce student anxiety. Create a rubric to attach to the assessment or assignment, and read all the options available. When you are done, use student view to complete all assigned assessments as the demo student.

Encourage student community by setting it up so that students can contribute URLs to the weblinks tool, add the roster tool or ask students to publish their assignments to the class.

The gradebook is a quick and secure tool to provide grades and feedback to students. Give the demo student grades so you can preview in the student view, release each column as you finish adding grades, and download grades into a spreadsheet for backup or to enter grades offline.

Keep your course design simple, so students can easily navigate it, and be consistent in your communications, grade delivery and content release.

Planning your web-supported course

Friday, June 8th, 2007

This is going to be part one of a three part series: the planning, delivering and wrapping up a web-supported course.

With some simple planning, you can reduce the basic administration associated with the classroom and connect with students. Alternative texts, video or audio can provide depth or context to student learning. Extending the classroom discussion to an online environment or reinforce concepts with regular assessments and feedback. How might this save you time in basic tasks, help you connect with students, recognize diverse ways of teaching and learning, and increase student learning?

part one: planning and setup 

To start, get some inspiration by looking at other web-based courses (http://www.webct.com/exemplary), attending a workshop or asking colleagues.

Advance planning will help you set your objectives, manage expectations and prioritize your time. What do you want your students take away from this course? What materials, approach and assessments can help you reach these objectives? Incorporate ideas that you’ve seen in other web-supported courses or that your colleagues have told you about. Which administrative tasks take up time in the classroom? How can a web-supported course help?

Write a list of the content, links, resources, and media that you currently use or would like to use for a course. Use this content to reinforce concepts, use different learning and teaching styles or to provide alternative resources and viewpoints. Review the tools available – is there anything new you’d like to try? Take the content, the communications and the assessment and put it in a logical order.

Write a welcome message using the announcements tool or the discussion forum to state your expectations, and what students can expect from you in this environment. Describe to your students the learning path this course will take and how the combination of the web-supported and face to face classrooms will support their learning.

When you are ready, request an online course section using the form at http://webct.sfu.ca

Your course container is yours to customize. Start by adding the tools you want to use. Add your syllabus and any course material – you can hide it or set release date to manage student access. Using the assessments described in the syllabus, setup the gradebook, and give your “demo student” some grades. Use the student view tab to see how the content appears, which grade columns are visible and which tools are available. Reinforce the prerequisites needed for your course by creating a low-stakes quiz to bring students up to speed, and help connect your course with the prerequisites.

Students are added to your web-supported course section automatically at SFU, as they register in SIMS. By default, students will be able to access the online materials in WebCT on the first day of classes.

Why use the selection list in the Gradebook?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

The selection list can be a good way of organizing student information. In the gradebook, you can create a new column with a drop-down menu attached. When entering informattion, therefore, you can avoid typing, and ensure consistency in spelling by using the selection list. Consistency of spelling will make it easier to search in the gradebook later. One typo can eliminate a student from a search. The selection list appears in the gradebook, and can be released (or not) to students.

For example, if some students had specific experience that others did not, your selection list could be yes/no (where the selection list column title would be: Co-op student experience). It could also identify what area students are majoring in.

It could also be a very simple grading matrix (very good/ acceptable/ needs work). This might be useful if you had several TAs and wanted a consistent but very general matrix, or if it was just simpler than typing things out. Using complete words (rather than VG/A/NW for the above example) will reduce student questions. Maybe you want to avoid assigning a numeric or letter grade for something that you are assessing that may not be part of the final grade.

Any other ideas?

Export final grades from WebCT to SIMS

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

You can now download final grades from your WebCT gradebook into SIMS. If you are using the Gradebook in WebCT, the process described below will create a file that can be imported to SIMS without any formatting changes necessary.

  1. in the gradebook, create a letter column and title it SIMS Grade (without this column you will not be able upload final grades into SIMS. The column name must exactly match SIMS Grade or it will not be recognized.)
  2. go to http://www.sfu.ca/webctgradesdownload
  3. login with your SFU ID.
  4. choose to export the grades from your course
  5. save to desktop, and it is ready to send to SIMS.

Consult the WebCT wiki for more instructions.
For information on loading grades into SIMS, please consult the SIMS site.

Export grades from WebCT to SIMS

Monday, March 12th, 2007

As the end of the semester approaches, final grades are coming.

The WebCT administrators at SFU have cooked up something to streamline moving final letter grades from WebCT to SIMS. It is not quite a one-click process, but it does all the formatting for you, creating a file that will not require any more edits and ready to import to SIMS.

If you are a current user of the WebCT gradebook, and you are comfortable with creating columns and entering grades, then this can streamline your end of term.

A .pdf file is below, outlining the requirements and steps.

Export final grades from WebCT ready for SIMS