November 2020

Month: November 2020

Upcoming workshops

All events are held in Zoom. Refer to your email for the Zoom information.


Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 10:00am–11:30am
Moodle: Demystifying the Gradebook [more info] (Jedidiah Rex)

Tuesday, Dec. 8 from 10:00am–11:00am
What goes on in your breakout rooms? [more info] (Matthew Arau, Scott Corry, Alyssa Hakes, Andrew Sage)

Wednesday, Dec. 9 from 10:00am–11:00am
Using Perusall for Social Reading Engagement [more info] (Scott Corry, Lori Hilt, Amy Nottingham-Martin)

Thursday, Dec. 10 from 10:00am–11:00am
Using the OneNote Class Notebook [more info] (Margaret Koker)


Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 9:00am–12:00pm
Antiracism and Poor Economics [more info] (Kimberly Barrett, Ameya Balsekar, Garth Bond, Kate Zoromski)
This event is part of the FRST Symposium but is open to all faculty

Thursday, Dec. 3 from 11:10am–12:20pm
Discussion as a Way of Teaching [more info] (Stephen Brookfield)
This event is part of the FRST Symposium but is open to all faculty
Register here to receive the Zoom information

Thursday, Dec. 3 from 1:00pm–4:00pm
What (if anything) did we learn in the fall? [more info] (Brittany Bell, Erin Buenzli, Pete Gilbert, Linda Morgan-Clement, Monita Mohammadian Gray, Martyn Smith)
This event is part of the FRST Symposium but is open to all faculty

Moodle: Demystifying the Gradebook Session Summary

Session Video

The recording of the session (1:18:12) is posted below. It is only available to Lawrence University faculty and staff.

Session Summary

The Moodle gradebook can be a confusing, headache-inducing, tangle. But it doesn’t have to be. The strategies shared in this session and post can help make the Moodle gradebook more clear to instructors and students about how grades are calculated. Bringing clarity increases transparency making the gradebook more usable and inclusive.

There are a number of different methods to arrive at a grade, called aggregation methods. There are three which were the focus during the session: weighted mean of grades (WM), simple weighted mean of grades (SWM), and Natural aggregation. These three methods should be able to address the majority of desired grading scenarios.

Each of these may be used to arrive at the same grade. But they each calculate grades in a slightly different way. One big difference between WM, SWM, and Natural is that the first two normalize the grades to be out of 100 (points or percent). This can potentially create lack of clarity about how a grade is calculated. Natural used to be called “Sum of grades” and at default functions in the same way. For Natural then, the category and course totals are a sum of all the grades contained within. You can see a comparison of the three methods in the session video beginning at 0:07:50.


Whether an instructor chooses WM-SWM or Natural grading there are some strategies that can be utilized to make the Moodle gradebook more usable.

Start with your syllabus – What is meant by this is that an instructor should review how their grading strategy is laid out in their syllabus and replicate this in the Moodle gradebook. Many instructors use categories of grades i.e. Assignments, Quizzes, Exams, Final Exam, or Participation. Create these categories in the gradebook first, before adding activities or grade items. In addition to creating an organizing structure this approach allow an instructor to add activities directly to categories when they are created making less work down the road.

Use numbers – The Moodle gradebook calculates most accurately with numbers. It can use and display letter grades, but doing so can introduce some variability. For instance, does an “A” mean 100, or 94, or… ? Scales (check, check minus, or satisfactory/unsatisfactory) are difficult or impossible in some cases for Moodle to use in calculation. If an instructor desires the grades be displayed in certain way there are options for controlling this.

Keep it simple – While it is possible to mix and match aggregation methods, to use extra credit, drop the lowest ‘x’ grades, and nest categories, doing so can make it less clear to students how a grade is calculated. Anything an instructor can do to make this is as clear as possible limits challenges to grades, and through understanding created through transparency, allows the student to engage more fully.

If you have questions about setting up your gradebook, or about grading in Moodle please contact Jedidiah Rex.