Engrade: Beginnings

Over the past few years I have know about grading packages with on line log in capabilities for students. Most of these required up front purchase of desktop grade book software. Last year a colleague introduced me to Jupiter Grades. I experimented with the package briefly but found that I hit pay walls when I wanted to do something beyond maintain a personal grade book. I could not generate student log ins with purchasing an annual subscription. I was also not all that impressed with the interface which felt almost DOS like at times.

This term I went back looking for a package to handle my grades on line and discovered Engrade - a market leader that is free. I set up five sections in Engrade fairly easily using a function to convert the college's SIS output to Engrade input format. I used a spreadsheet parsing function to convert the SIS lastName, firstName to two columns in the order firstName lastName. In the third column was the ID as required by Engrade. The ID used must, absolutely MUST, be the official college ID number or the results will be scrambled spaghetti.

First Last ID Name
=RIGHT(D2,LEN(D2)-FIND(",",D2)-1) =LEFT(D2,FIND(",",D2)-1) 12345678 Donkor, Kweku
Tulpe Nena 12345678 Nena, Tulpe

I then used a text editor to replace the spaces with underscores as per the Engrade help file. I deleted any punctuation characters. A copy and paste into Engrade and my classes were set up.

I did have to manually enter the email addresses for the students. I would later learn that I could either register the students myself and then print slips with their username and password, or I could send them an email with a log in link. I actually did both rather than choosing one, but thus far no harm appears to have been done. Some students used the email to log in, some the slip of paper I handed out.

The password changing process that students first faced was a little confusing for some. There were issues of needing to scroll down, and when the process succeeds, nothing happens. One simply clicks on Classes and is taken to the students class list. This is non-obvious.

Click on any image in this blog to enlarge the image.

Another colleague who was using Jupiter Grades was interested in looking beyond Jupiter, so he set up a couple sections in Engrade. Students who happened to be in both of our classes would face the need for separate log ins and passwords for each instructor. The only way to present students with a single login was to generate a school account and associate us with that school account.

In keeping the division chair in the loop, another faculty member became aware of what we were doing. They had used Engrade before and they added their classes to the system on their own, using the school code I had shared to add themself to the school I had set up. This morning the division chair added classes. We were having our own unique teething problems, and I undertook to iron these out. Minor issues such as we all picked different term code options, which was resolved in 24 hours. We settled for using term 2013 period 1 where the 1 is spring. Note that the current default in Engrade is 2013-2014 - the next academic year for elementary and secondary schools.

Engrade includes a gradebook screen, assignments, and a messaging system.

 Other functions include an academic events calendar and attendance tracking.

I would later change the "L" for late to "T" for tardy as at the admin level T is coded for tardy but L is not coded. I also chose to use E for excused, although this is not coded for in the default school set up. I recommended using P, A, T, to other colleagues using Engrade for consistency.

The settings screen was where we had made different term choices. The option we all settled on is above.

Student rosters by class. Names intentionally blurred to protect identities.

The above is a screen showing shared contacts among multiple classes.

 Setting the term, a detailed view of the drop down list for this screen.

Student log-ins are tracked in the Students screen. My log in rate is excellent, far better than the response I get from asking students to come and see me.

Assignments are added from the Assignments screen. Note that in the assignment below I have checked  boxes that permit Discussion and I have enabled Turn-ins.

Under the "More" menu I can access the Turn-ins menu and see how many students have uploaded assignments to Engrade.com using Turn-ins. I did not train the students to do this, they are figuring this out on their own.

Clicking on an assignment opens a dialog box. The icon on the right can be clicked to download and open the document. 

Engrade also enables tracking of performance against student learning outcomes ("Standards").

The package can also support the tracking of performance on student learning outcomes using the Standards screens. Above the student learning outcomes are entered.

The student learning outcomes are mapped one-to-one to assignments. This forces one to make decisions that parse data tracking so that the relationship remains one-to-one. Thus a midterm that serves two learning outcomes would only map to one, not both. In other words, one-to-many is not supported. Not at least in the free version. One instructor saw information that suggests this option exists in the pay version. Maybe clever parsing of a single assignment into multiple assignments could handle one assignment-to-many outcomes.

With "standards" (or SLOs) set-up, Engrade will show performance levels against that student learning outcome. Whether or not this will integrate with the new Nuventive TracDat back-end remains an unanswered. An email to Nuventive support generated no response.

Multiple choice quizzes can be constructed in Engrade.

A quiz being built.

Of note is that by clicking on a blank answer box and then clicking in the box again, a drop down box appears of other answers you have typed for that particular quiz. This sped up creating the multiple choice answers.

Question preview screen above.

 Assigning a quiz.

A quiz as seen in the Quizzes screen. When you close a quiz, then Engrade offers to save the results as an assignment to the gradebook. I opted to run my first four point review quiz as extra credit (EC in the assignment points possible).

Within Engrade one can upload files that students can access. The file is most likely going to be an assignment in the form of a document, but functionally any form of file could be uploaded.

The above screen tracks files I have uploaded against a 250 Mb file limit.

There is a relative new app called "Allthink". I watched an Allthink presentation which presented a Bill Nye YouTube video followed by a quiz. Allthink is part of Engrade, you access it by logging into Engrade and then choosing Allthink on the apps menu.

The intro video on the page at https://www.allthink.com/ notes that one can embed PowerPoint presentations into Allthink. The PowerPoints appear to be embedded as image files, thus a video in a PowerPoint would have to be separately embedded in Allthink.

There are already 40 physics Allthink lessons on line, ample starter material for physical science.

I did not see a system for searching the Allthink presentations, I gather this portion of Engrade is new. That said, when I went looking for a grade book I was not even thinking of capabilities such as uploading homework, on line homework submission, embedded presentation capabilities. This is not a grade book, this is an academic support system.

The following are administrative screens only available to an administrator with a school log in. The first is termed the Dashboard and provides an overview of performance metrics in the school.

The school is an unofficial rig-up created only to provide our students with single log-in capability across multiple classes. The pie charts are drill down in the Pro/Plus (pay) version and produce lists of students underneath a given pie slice.

There is no pay wall for any instructor level functionality. Pay walls are only encountered at the administrative/school level. Still, that one can set up a school is phenomenal.

School-wide our attendance reveals the impact of multiple attendance marking choices. This is where sticking to P, A, T, and possibly E for excused would be beneficial.

Integrated attendance across sections in an admin screen.

Totally technical notes to myself:

Today was another steep learning curve for me. I invited in an instructor who had approached me on using Engrade, but the email had not arrived. I discovered I could get at the username and temporary one-use password from a school subscreen. I was able to use that to log on the new instructor whereupon the instructor changed their password.

When I went to add class lists for the new instructor, I wound up on the new screen for adding existing students instead of the raw class list edit text box. This screen does not allow new students to be added, only "clicking across" existing students. This was a real problem for me as the instructor's students were not in the system yet. I wanted to get back to the raw text data entry screen. Of course, in an actual institutional set-up, OAR would have preloaded the student lists into the school using admin authority. Then you could populate your classes from registered students.

I discovered, however, that I could at this point, step 3 or so, click on the classes menu (effectively aborting out of the process), navigate back to the new class (which has no students but already exists), and from the Options access the raw text box class list edit screen. Then I could paste in the whole list (after massaging and cleaning the list).

One then prints out the flyers. On the flyer are access codes unique to each student and a URL. The student goes to the URL, clicks on Join, and then enters the access code. At the next screen the student enters a username, password, and checks "student" (not student's parent!). The following images are of that log in screen on a student lap top.

Exporting data. The grade book can be exported as a CSV file, but values are enclosed in quotes. Hover over the Print button to access the export option.

Save file. On import into LibreOffice.org, remember to uncheck the Quoted field as text box.

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