Points-Based Grading: Choices, not Zeroes

As I explained in yesterday’s post, the Canvas quiz system is not very congenial to my points-based system with student Declarations of work completed, but I am happy with my work-around: Canvas Hack: Repeated Quiz Content. What I want to write about today is one way in which the Canvas system really does suit me, and that is the way that a “blank” in the Canvas Gradebook is exactly that: a blank… and not a zero.

For me, blanks-not-zeroes is just what I need, and it is a big improvement on D2L for my approach to grading. Each week students have a long list of activities to choose from, and every assignment they complete brings them that much closer to their final destination. Their points accumulate, and their percentage total is always 100%. The grade is based on points, not a percent. Students get credit for the work they choose to complete, and it really is a choice. There is no penalty for assignments they choose not to do. There are no zeroes.

Of course, many people do not use a system based on student choice. Instead, the grade is based on a fixed set of assignments that all students must complete, and failure to complete an assignment is a zero that brings down the grade. When people realized this around midterm time at my school, there was a rush to inform people about this difference between Canvas and D2L (which we used until this year). Here is one of the messages we received telling us that we needed to enter zeroes manually: In Canvas, you *must* enter a 0 for assignments with no submission or the assignment will be dropped for that student. 


Of course, for me it is just the opposite: I say thumbs UP to the blank, and I say thumbs DOWN to the zero. That’s because I build my system on student choice, and I’ll have more to say about that in a later post.

Meanwhile, what I wanted to emphasize here is that the nitty-gritty of the LMS really does matter: is a blank just a blank, or is a blank really a zero? There are lots of possible approaches to grading and, just speaking for myself, I am glad that in Canvas the blank really is just a blank.

And now, a final take-away: the more conversations we can have about grading, both about the nitty-gritty and also about our personal philosophies, the more we can learn and grow! Share your thoughts at the OU Canvas Community or in the comments here or in your own blog or at Twitter. I’m posting with the hashtag #OUCanvasCommunity. 🙂

Learn to love the diversity.