TLSS - Teaching and Learning Support Service

Info Professors

Gradebook | Decimals

Executive summary

On January 24 2018, we were made aware of a potential issue with the way the Brightspace system rounds up grades in relation with the university of Ottawa grade schema. Essentially - for a small range of values – the grades displayed seem to not match the letter grade linked to them. This can create, in some cases, a strange situation in the grade center:

Student

Grade on 100

Letter Grade

Student A

90

A+

Student B

90

A

Why is this happening?

The results obtained are due to the method used while rounding up the displayed final calculated grade. The actual (non rounded-up grade is in fact used to associate the letter grade to the numerical grade. In the above table, Student B has an actual grade of 89.7. The system displays this grade as 90, but uses 89.7 to apply the letter grade scheme.

Grading system

Academic regulation I-10.1 Official grading system states that letter grades do not consider decimals. A student who obtains a final grade of 89.99999999999 should be assigned an A, not an A+. The grade schemes set in Brightspace: uOttawa Alpha and uOttawa Num10, were designed to respect the uOttawa official grading system.

What impact did this have on grades from the Spring and Fall 2017?

None. Brightspace does not allow you to submit directly from Brightspace to uoCampus, you have to download an Excel-type file and manually upload it to uoCampus. An Excel type file must be downloaded and then manually uploaded to uoCampus. If the grades were downloaded with decimals, uoCampus rejected the file with an error message requesting the removal of the decimals. If the letter or numerical scheme was downloaded, the official grading conversion has been respected.

Rounding up the grades

The rounding up of grades is the Instructor’s prerogative. This has always been the case at the university of Ottawa, and it will continue to be so. Brightspace already allows the Instructor to adjust the final grade before submitting it to uoCampus. 

TLSS’ recommendation

Based on the discussions we had with Brightspace, we recommend that Instructors adopt the following strategies when using Brightspace’s Grade Center:

  1. Avoid using decimals when grading student’s work.
  2. Submit the Final Adjusted Grade column to uoCampus instead of the Final Calculated Grade column.

Furthermore, Instructors should verify that the following settings are applied in the Grade Center:

  1. Under the Grade Center settings > Org Unit Display Options tab > Managing View Display Options, make sure the number of decimals to display is set to 0 (zero).
  2. Under the Grade Center settings > Org Unit Display Options tab > Student View Display Options, make sure the number of decimals to display is set to 0 (zero).

These settings will be the default settings for all courses created after May 1st, 2018.

However, should you decide to use decimals to grade student work, we recommend the following strategies when using the Brightspace Grade Center:

  1. Limit the number of decimals to one or two.
  2. For all columns except final columns, use the percentage scheme instead of the letter or numerical scheme.
  3. Submit the Final Adjusted Grade column to uoCampus instead of the Final Calculated Grade column.
  4. Be aware that because of the way Brightspace works with decimals, you may experience discrepancies

Instructors who chose this option should verify that the following settings are applied in the Grade Center:

  1. Under the Grade Center settings > Org Unit Display Options tab > Managing View Display Options, make sure the number of decimals to display is set to one (1) or two (2).
  2. Under the Grade Center settings > Org Unit Display Options tab > Student View Display Options, make sure the number of decimals to display is set to the same value chosen for the previous option.

Should you require assistance to verify or change these settings, contact the Brightspace help line.