There are two basic strategies for grading discussion forums: (1) rating individual posts, and (2) grading holistically.
Rating posts individually: This strategy is designed to utilize the time you spend reading student posts to grade them as you go. Once a forum is configured for ratings, you will see a dropdown menu added to the lower left corner of each post (fig. 1), and the Scale you had selected will be reflected in the numbers available in the dropdoon menu (fig. 2).
Fig. 1 – Ratings method
Fig. 2 – Choose a rating based on the Scale you’ve selected
The Up-Sides of Rating Posts: Rate-as-you-go gives you the advantage of grading in the moment, rather than trying to recall a student’s work at the end of the week. In addition to piggybacking the ratings tasks while you read them, your students will see their work rated as they go, which will give them immediate feedback.
The Down-Sides of Rating Posts: If your forum assignment includes multiple tasks where each task is rated, then you may need to keep track of whether each student has completed each task. It can be easy to miss rating a post if you have a large class, or if there are students who post late on the last day of the module. You will need to monitor your gradebook to be sure the grades make sense.
How to setup your forums for Ratings: By default, forums are created with “No Rating” preset and therefore they do not appear in the gradebook. You will need to manually activate the ratings feature within the forum settings, which will then cause the forum to appear in the gradebook automatically. To do this, go to the Ratings section of the forum settings and choose an Aggregate Type (this sets how ratings will be calculated). Most common is the Sum of Ratings or Average of Ratings. Once set, the Scale dropdown will activate. You can set the scale to whatever you want, though it should correspond to your forum rubric.
A note about Aggregate Types: If you choose the Sum of Ratings aggregate type and you assign multiple tasks in the forum assignment, your Scale should reflect the SUM TOTAL of the highest attainable ratings one could get. For example, your forums may require three tasks: (1) respond to the initial prompt, (2) reply to the instructors response to it, and (3) reply to another student’s post. If your Scale is set to, say, five points for each task (based on a rubric using 0 – 5 points per post), then your SCALE should be set to 15 (5 points for each task). Sounds confusing? No? Awesome! If not, please contact your friendly Instructional Designer to help make sense of it.
Video: A demonstration on how to setup your forum using the Ratings method.
Grading posts holistically: This strategy is similar to the traditional method of grading submission assignments. Student participation is evaluated as a totality, and the grading process takes place once, and only in the gradebook:
The Up-Sides of Holistic Grading: It’s a lot less work, and it’s easy to setup.
The Down-Sides of Holistic Grading: After a whole week of forum discussion, it may be difficult to remember each individual student’s work well enough to grade them according to your rubric. (You may find yourself grading by the seat of your pants). You can always use the Activity logs*** for individual students to see all of their work in a concise display.
*** You can view individual student logs for Post participation using the “110 Student Weekly Participation” report in your course (you have to be in Edit mode to see it in the sidebar). It takes a while to load, but once it does, click on the Posts link at the end of each row to see individual student posts in chronological pagination. If you do not see the Posts link at the far right, reduce your browser display scale by pressing CMD (Mac) or CTRL (PC) + minus sign until you do. (Press CMD or CTRL + zero to reset the display to default scale).
Another way to access student posts is by clicking on the student’ profile image, and then in the student profile, click on the “Posts” link.
How to setup your forums for holistic grading: You will need to create manual grade items in the gradebook for each forum. In the gradebook, click on the “Setup” tab. At the very bottom in the center of of the page is a grey button labeled “Add grade item”. Click on it, name it and set it to go in the Forums category. When you are ready to grade, come back to the gradebook in the “Grader Report” tab, enable Edit mode, and type in the grade in the cells for each student. Click Update when you are done.
A final word about rubrics:
Remember that whichever method you use, it should align with how you have designed your discussion forum rubric. For example, whether you use one grading method or the other, the point values you offer for evaluating student work need to align to the values you use in the rubric.