Engrade impact on course average in MS 150 Statistics

The use of Engrade during the spring 2013 term represented the first significant change in the way I handle and calculate grades in over two decades. I knew going into the experiment that I would lose some of the idiosyncratic choices I have made over the years.

A year earlier I had experimented with Jupiter Grades but abandoned the effort when paywalls prevented student log on capability. During that trial run I learned that I would probably have to be flexible, willing to change the way I grade. I was keenly aware that my participation points based on attendance were going to be a casualty of any on line grading system.

I also knew, however, that an on line grading system would be more transparent to the students. They would have continuous access to all of the details of their grades.

I knew that my one point per day of attendance, a way of rewarding those with regular attendance, was having an impact on grades in MS 150 Statistics. Fall 2012 41 attendance days represented 13.3% of the 308 total possible points that term. I expected that the loss of those points could make a difference in the final grade of one grade.

Indeed, the MS 150 Statistics course average dropped to its lowest level for the past eleven terms.


The term-on-term drop in the course average was statistically significant and the magnitude of the drop was not reflected in a concurrent drop in the final examination average.


Although the final examination saw a small term-on-term drop, the drop can be explained as a return to the long term mean for final examinations going back to 2005.

Spring 2013 would be the first term in which the final examination average was higher than the course average.


Other courses which also used Engrade for the first time this term did not show the same term-on-term drop as statistics. For SC 130 Physical Science attendance had also counted at a point-per-day, but the total possible points ranged from 800 to 1000 per term and the impact of the attendance points was diminished. In Physical Science attendance came in around five to six percent of the total points.



Fall 2012 course average Spring 2013 course average p-value Significantly different?
Ethnobotany 0.824 0.863 0.115 No
Physical Science 0.743 0.748 0.862 No
Statistics 0.794 0.716 0.002 Yes

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany not only did not see a drop in the course average, but saw a statistically insignificant uptick in the course average term-on-term. Grades in that course are based on a mix of presentations, field activities, and tests.

Only MS 150 Statistics saw a statistically significant term-on-term change with the introduction of Engrade in all of my courses. The drop can be isolated to the loss of attendance points by going back to the fall 2012 term, removing all attendance points, and recalculating the course average without attendance. One the attendance points are removed, the 7.8% drop in the average statistically vanishes.


Course average
Fall 2012 course average 0.790
Fall 2012 w/o attendance 0.723
Spring 2013 course average 0.716

Although Engrade has changed the way grades are calculated in statistics, the overwhelming positive reaction of the students to the use of Engrade ensures that I will continue to use an on line grading system.

The end result is a slightly higher standard in MS 150 Statistics and a course where grades are even more tightly driven by demonstrated learning all while providing more transparency to the assessment process for students.

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