Problem (Tech) Solved: Disorganization 1

I am certain that there must be model teachers out there that never lose anything, always remember to tell students about assignments, and perfectly perform complex mathematics, like weighted grading, entirely in their heads. For the rest of us, help is here!

In past posts, I have discussed a number of learning managements systems (LMSs), for example Engrade, Edmodo, Schoology, and Google Classroom. Each is different and has its own pros and cons. Some are free or have free basic accounts, and others are paid. In the past, I may not have explicitly pointed out some of the fantastic things you could do with an LMS. This is what I want to do today. For the purpose of this post, I will be referring to D2L because it is the platform I am most familiar with.

Have you ever had a student convince you that he or she submitted an assignment that you do not recall seeing but may have unintentionally misplaced? Of course not, says your selective memory; at any rate, that is a thing of the past. Students can submit a wide variety of assignment types via D2L and the submissions are all time-stamped. I use the “content” tab to group assignments by type and have a start date, due date, and end date for each one. Students can start submitting it after the start date, should submit it by the due date, and also have a little bit of wiggle room to submit materials late but before the end date. Personally, I am willing to accept assignments late for partial credit, but I refuse to allow a student submit a whole semester’s worth of reading journals during finals week. Having the dates tied to the assignment is convenient and keeps everyone on track. Now this feature may vary from one LMS to the next, but it is certainly something to consider when choosing a platform.

Have you ever had a student “forget” the details of an assignment, the grading policy, or a deadline? If you post all this information on your LMS or class website, students can always view it online. The information has been posted, and it is their responsibility to check it. You may or may not decide to go over everything in detail in class, but my experience says that students are sometimes halfway out the door, mentally at least, for the last bit of class anyway, so they are not focused on writing down the homework for the next day. Even if they are, they are often not processing the information until later and then questions might arise. Posting the same information online keeps you and students on the same page.

Have you ever wondered if there is a simpler way to grade? An LMS can help with that, too. Though features vary across platforms, I have been very pleased with the options available with D2L. Not only can I determine what grading system to use (weighted vs. points) and add all the assignments for the semester, which does all the math for me, but I can also create rubrics for easier grading and feedback. Making a new rubric is an investment of time, but for assignments that repeat often throughout the semester, for example weekly reading journals, they are a real lifesaver in the end. Additionally, you can choose whether or not students can view their final grade throughout the course of the semester. Working with adults, I always release the grades to students so that they can ask me questions right away. These are just a few of the ways you might want to use an LMS to help with grading.

If you do not currently use an LMS, I would urge you to look at some of your options today. If you do use an LMS already, challenge yourself to find and test out a new feature. Share how your LMS simplifies your life by leaving a comment below!

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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