Establishing a Grading Structure

It is essential that the grading structure is very clear to learners and that they understand how they are being evaluated in the course. The grading structure should be consistent with other courses in your department.

For print-based correspondence courses, the grading structure should be clearly defined in the course syllabus. However, depending on the age of the course and the last revision to the syllabus – this structure may be out of date, out of sync with changes in the department, and in need of revision. It is important that you check it and bring any discrepancies to the attention of the Department Head and Course Coordinator. Decisions can then be made how best to deal with communication about the change to learners – either via a minor revision to the syllabus or errata sheet.

For online courses, the grading structure should be clearly outlined on the course website. It should include (where appropriate) some consideration for the assignment of marks for online participation – with specifics regarding the kind of participation required.

How is the grading structure established?

The grading structure was likely established by the original course author in consultation with colleagues in your department. You will need to review it regularly and recommend changes for clarity and consistency. It is advisable to be consistent with the grading structure established for other courses in the department wherever possible. Some departments have department wide policies on grading structures (i.e., psychology, nursing).

Unclear guidelines for grading leads to lengthy student appeals. This can easily be avoided by thinking through the answers to a number of questions and ensuring those answers are made available to learners by way of print and/or materials and/or on the course website. For example:

  • Is a passing grade on the final exam a requirement for passing the course?
  • What constitutes a passing grade?
  • Is this consistent with other courses in the department?
  • Is this clearly specified in the course syllabus and on the website?
  • How many marks are awarded for online participation in discussion forums?
  • Are learners expected to post weekly?
  • What constitutes an acceptable posting in a discussion forum?
  • Are these expectations made clear on the course website?

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