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Tool of the Month - Engrade (March, 2012)


Why use Engrade?

Online grading and course management systems are easy-to-use Web services that allow you to set assignments, track attendance, grades and scores, collect turned-in works and do other administrative tasks easily via the Web.

Here are some advantages of online grading:
1. Automation and saving time. The online grading systems are designed to make as much as possible by themselves. They automatically compile attendance reports, calculate average grades, track extra credits, build databases, store and organize files and more. If there is anything about course management that a machine can do—the online system does. This saves time.
2. Parent and student access. Most systems let students in to track their own grades, some even allow parents to register and track their children’s grades independently. This saves from unexpected outcomes at the end of the semester.
3. Integrity of the data system for easy analysis and keeping everything in order. Online grading systems don’t just track things independently. They track and manage everything systematically. You can track attendance, discipline, quiz performance and general performance on four separate grading sheets, and when you pull out a student profile, you will see his/her performance across all grading sheets. For advanced systems, you will even see all of their hand-ins, all of their quizzes and in-depth breakdowns of their tracked activity during the course.

Engrade is a free Web tool for online course management, grading and basic testing. It is lightning-fast, mind-numbingly easy to use and has enough options to accommodate most course requirements. You can start it up in under 10 minutes and get your course running in another 10. Engrade basic features include:
• Online gradebook, including academic scores, attendance and discipline sheets
• Spam-free private messaging
• Homework calendar for effortlessly posting assignments, events, reminders, and lessons online
• File storage for student hand-ins and course materials
• Multi-course support for teachers in charge of more than one course

In addition, Engrade features a handful of advanced features that greatly improve the quality of online course management:
• Wiki hosting to create collaborative digital learning spaces
• Interactive flashcards for quick review
• Automated interactive quizzes
• Discussion boards to engage students in online discussions and quickly answer homework questions
• Parent access and flexible privacy settings
• A seating chart to track student seating and remember students in unfamiliar classrooms
• A reading list for the course
• Progress point tracking in a beautiful graph

Online grading and course management is simple, effective and time-saving. There is really no good reason not to use it with your digitally familiar students.

Getting started with Engrade

To start off your Engrade course, go to www.engrade.com and click “Sign up free”. Enter the data as required by the service. Make sure you enter a valid e-mail, so the system could contact you in case of password loss or other emergency.

Once registered, Engrade will offer to create your class in three easy steps.
1. Enter the class name, school year, grading period, grading level and the subject area on step 1.
2. Select a grading scale that suits your teaching style. You can go with the percentage system, a custom alphanumeric system or a manual mode. In manual mode, Engrade will not automatically calculate and process your students’ grades.
3. In step 3, enlist your class students. Use their student ID numbers or any other random identifiers for the SchoolIDNumber section. Follow the example and read the instructions on screen if unsure.
4. Your course is now set.

To invite your students to your Engrade course, go to ”Students“ —”Automatically create accounts for all unregistered students” and provide your student e-mails. Click “Submit” to send out invitations to the course.

Using Engrade

Now when your course is set up, let’s get to creating the content. To create a gradable assignment in the gradebook, click “New Assignment”. Fill in the form as required by the system (Assignment name, due date, points possible etc.). If the task requires students to hand in their works, click “More options” and tick “Add this assignment to class Turn-ins”. You can also disable discussions or calendar reminder for this assignment, if you wish. Unchecking “Allow students to see this assignment” will hide the assignment from students.

When you create an assignment, you are not required to grade your students straight away. Once created, you can review the assignment any time and grade the students in the “Student Scores“ section below. You can review all course assignments in the “Assignments” section. The “Calendar” section will list all course assignments and events with due dates. To add a new event, click “Add new — Calendar event“.

The “Attendance” section lets you track student attendance and print attendance reports. You may use any symbols you like to track various kinds of attendance and participation, but make sure your symbol system is consistent. E.g., you can mark an absent student with “N”, a present student with “P”, a student who was late with an “L” etc. Try clicking Print to see the possible attendance report options.

Click “More” to explore Engrade’s additional features, such as quizzes, turn-ins, seating chart etc. All of these features are very self-explanatory and require a mere look at the screen to start using them.

Make sure you explore the “Apps” tab in the top menu. It allows creating course objects, such as wikis, flashcards, rubrics etc. These objects can later be used in your course.

Successful course management with Engrade

Here are some tips on how to get the best out of Engrade and effectively manage your course.
1. Plan and publish assignments ahead of time.
2. Do not allow hand-ins other than through Engrade.
3. Encourage students to ask questions via Engrade and not in-class. Try not to spend your class time commenting on the assignments.
4. Avoid announcing the grades and commenting on them in class. Direct your students to Engrade for their grades.
5. Make Engrade quizzes often and set them as assignments.
6. Master the Allthink course authoring environment and create your courses in it. Allthink is Engrade’s featured application that allows to embed media-rich lessons into your course.

With Engrade, your next course could run twice as easy and effective as it is running now.

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