How does the Grade Journey help you achieve your strategic goals? #bbtlc16

I’m off to the Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference (as you do), and I’m presenting on “optimizing the online feedback and grades journey experience”. As part of the positioning piece I thought it would be useful to share what I’ll be talking about around a Q&A. The first question is … how does the grade journey help you achieve your strategic goals?

If we define the Grade Journey as an end to end process for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of exchanging grade related data between Blackboard Learn and their Student Information System. Then the question must be, how does this granular, strategic design focus map back to the institution achieving its Strategic aims?

This can be answered through a number of different perspectives.

Firstly, placing the Grade Journey within the broader context of an institution moving from vision and strategy to implementation. This is illustrated in Figure 1, with a potential process by which the institutional strategy is achieved through a Grade Journey project.

Figure 1: Grade Journey (Strategic Design) within wider context


If it is assumed an institutional assessment and feedback review identifies the following key requirement; “students will experience flexible and innovative approaches to learning and assessment informed by contemporary pedagogical practice”, with a priority being “to promote quality in all aspects of assessment and feedback” Through a Strategic Review and Planning engagement there are a number of short and medium term operational objectives identified to deliver these strategic requirements.

One of these in the short term, is implementing a Grade Journey project as part of a wider electronic management of assessment change program.

From the institutional perspective a number of cost (time) savings are expected;

  • Realise cost savings through introduction of more efficient administrative workflow
  • Remove duplication of effort by using a single system for marking and submission of marks
  • Enable a consistent approach for all staff entering marks, and increase the opportunity for greater use technology for feedback
  • Decrease the amount of time spent by academics on the administration of marks
  • Improve potential for errors to be identified and corrected before board processing by providing early and sustained visibility of provisional marks for both staff and students

Outside of these efficiency gains there are likely to be a number of enhancement gains which are associated with the standardisation process, which will also deliver a number of wider strategic aims. These include;

  • Assessment criteria can be presented explicitly via an interactive rubric with component marks and feedback
  • Enriched feedback through margin notes, summative comments and rubrics and increased use of a wider range of assessment types
  • Provide academic with greater control over assessment process through more visible monitoring
  • Diverse and wider range of assessment methods which can be embedded into the teaching and learning journey – include journals, wikis and automated testing
  • Feedback can be more easily provided in a variety of formats (comments box, attached document, annotation, audio, video, rubrics)
  • Feedback tools are embedded as part of the process, to allow more detailed feedback against assessment criteria

The next question is, in reality have significant efficiency gains been realized? The JISC EMA Programme identified there are, with significant potential resource savings (

  • At Queen’s University Belfast the School of English moved to e-submission and marking which saved 20 working days per year in administrative staff time (in a school with c.900 students).
  • At the University of Huddersfield a time and motion study showed that an administrator dealing with 1,620 students saved 137 hours per year or 3.7 weeks based on a 37 hour working week.
  • At the University of Dundee time saved through e-submission and e-tutoring works out at around 20 mins per assignment submitted. The centralised e-tutoring approach at the University of Dundee has also generated further efficiencies in that tutor time spent responding to emails is 60 minutes per week as opposed to 176 minutes on a similar programme that does not employ the system.

The question to ask yourself is, what are your strategic goals around Assessment & Feedback, and how well do they align to the direct and indirect benefits associated with the Grade Journey?

The intention of a later post is to answer; what is the grade journey?

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