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2016

Why not include all of your grading and student evaluation in the same place? That's what the "Gradebook" in LaunchPad is specifically designed to do. In this blog post, I will walk you through some of the key features of the "Gradebook" page in LaunchPad as well as describe my own experience using it for my courses - things that I have found helpful or ways in which I let it inform my teaching. 

 

On the main screen, you will notice under the menu column on the left-hand side, there is a button named "Gradebook" - clicking on this will take you to a table that lists the current scores for every student in your course. 

 

 

The below screenshot is what appears after clicking the "Gradebook" button. In this course, you may notice that I have left the display options set to their default settings. As an alternative, you may tell LaunchPad to order the grades by highest to lowest overall score, the amount of time students are logged into the system, or other factors of your choosing. In the furthest left column, this is the current total grade for the particular (redacted) student in the course. This is nice because it gives me, the instructor, as well as the student a convenient place to view the progress in the course - without having to calculate anything. You may also notice the import and export scores options in the row towards the top. This is an excellent feature if you are required by your institution to keep a copy of your grading in their own LMS platform as well.

 

 

By clicking on a specific student name, you will be taken to a screen that provides more details germane to that student. This allows you to make changes to that student's grades - for example, you may alter the points for that exact assignment, give the student an exemption, or provide individual feedback. In order to do this, you will need to click on the specific assignment you want to access. See the below yellow arrow and circle as an example. 

 

 

Once selected, the options highlighted in the following screenshot come up. Again, you will notice how the system allows you to provide two forms of feedback - one that is viewable to the student and one that is only accessible by the instructor. This screen will also allow you to see the specific items within the assignment that the student completed, either correctly or incorrectly. The yellow circle below indicates the place where you can add feedback to the content after or before the student completes it.

 

 

In order to help you evaluate the class in a way that is more fair, LaunchPad also provides several statistical analyses. This has helped me in terms of receiving feedback on specific assignments that may have been too challenging or the concepts within the assignment may not have been explained by me as well as they could have been. As a result, this sometimes leads me to alter the point structure and curve of that specific evaluation. By clicking on "Class Statistics" you will receive statistical feedback.

 

 

You will find, below, that LaunchPad represents that data in graph form making it easy to visualize the distribution of scores. This is presented with the numerical analysis adjacent to and below the graphic outputs. The "Gradebook" gives you, as an instructor, the option to see this kind of data as per each individual assignment or, in a more macro sense, for an entire student.

 

 

There are so many 'deep features' that I was not able to talk about in this post that the "Gradebook" allows you to do. In my experience, it is helpful to just get in there and play around with the different options, perhaps in a dummy or test course. This lets you change options and settings without having to worry about it effecting the grade of the students you may be currently evaluating. Furthermore, by migrating all of your evaluating to the "Gradebook" in LaunchPad, it gives both you and the students a convenient and accessible place by which to access and monitor progress in the course. "Gradebook" in LaunchPad is comparable, if not more so, to evaluation tools found in other LMS platforms and systems. It is for these reasons that I have chosen to store my evaluation data solely within the LaunchPad system - and I know the students appreciate the ease of this, too!

When I first started working with LaunchPad, I took one look at that Instructor’s console and shivered. “What could possibly be in there that I would need?” I thought to myself. I didn’t exactly vow to never open it, but I certainly avoided it. My energy was turned toward populating the course I was scheduled to teach. As a result, I knew what I wanted to do with LaunchPad, but I was unable to make it work within the grade book. I became frustrated. Assignments were not in the order I wanted them; there had to be a way to organize the grade book to suit my need for order.


Knowing that the current line-up was not what I had envisioned, the second semester I decided to populate Launchpad by simply putting in each assignment as it appeared on my syllabus. For certain, I thought, anyway, that this way my assignments would be in date order. In other words, I opted to follow the schedule on my syllabus to populate LaunchPad. This method worked a little bit better, and I found myself not needing to rearrange my grade book--or wishing I could. However, as I insert new assignments, the same problem arose: the assignments would be out of order.

 


I finally got brave. Enter the instructor console. I overcame my aversion to the console and learned that this little button could help so much. The general navigation and Launchpad settings is pretty self-explanatory. Click on that and the title of the course can be changed as well as what timezone the class is located, which is important because I teach in two different time zones, Hawaii and the Pacific Time Zone. From here, I can arrange the home page on LaunchPad. Since many of my students were requesting to have the most recent assignment on top of the screen rather than sorted by the default settings in LaunchPad, I discovered that I could change this section to suit their needs.


The batch due date update is really important if you're going to be teaching the same class the following semester. In this place you can easily plug in the previous semester’s start and end date, the new start date, and all of the assignments will fall into line (assuming, of course, that you’ve copied your previous course instead of starting fresh). In other words, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. All of the due dates will be adjusted accordingly. The only downfall to this is if you are changing your syllabus for the coming semester, keeping some items and eliminating others. If that's the case, it appears as if your new assignments will be out of order from the previously included assignments, but that is simply not the case. There is a place to go to reorder all of your assignments to accommodate changes in the syllabus.

 

   


The grade book preferences really is the Holy Grail of the instructor console. In this spot, you can easily put in the percentage for passing the class (even though the universities I work for state that 60% is passing, I put it as 70% so that the students strive for that “C” grade), ask LaunchPad to put in zero grades for any assignment that has not been completed on time, and re-arrange each of your assignments so that they line up according to your syllabus and sensibilities. A word of caution here with respect to the automatic “0” grades: if you have assignments to be graded manually, on the day after the manual assignment is collected, “0” grades go through. My students didn’t panic here--I told them what was going on, and they seemed to accept it as if it were a part of daily life.

 


To re-order the assignments, click on the blue “Show Assignments” toggle. There, your categories will appear. You can then open up the categories to show everything that is contained under each category. You can not only re-number the categories here, but you can also re-number the assignments within each category. You can also remove categories that you may have accidently set up. This is now your customized grade book that reflects your own sensibilities and your own preference for order.


One other fast note: You don’t have to go back out to the assignments page to go to another section on the Instructor Console. Just click on the blue button on the top that says, “Instructor Console” and you will arrive back at the main navigation for the Instructor Console.


I hope this blog on using the Instructor Console is helpful for everyone! I can assure you that I was frightened of this spot--I didn’t want to break anything. But now that I have figured out how this can help me and make my life easier, I’m happy to share my findings with you! As always, email me if you have questions. My email is jilldahlman@yahoo.com, and I am happy to answer questions, share course materials, or even help you to come up with ideas to make your classroom LaunchPad friendly.

The discussion board is one of the great features of LaunchPad that is not enabled by default and can sometimes go unnoticed. In this blog post, I hope to show you how to take advantage of this really useful pedagogical tool as well as offer my own insights as an instructor on how I use discussion boards, and what I have found as helpful in the past. Discussion boards are especially essential if you are using LaunchPad for an entirely online course or as your primary LMS platform. By integrating discussion board posts, responses, and feedback directly into the chapter module, the student gets a seamless learning experience being able to click through the content all in the same place.

 

I will assume that you have a basic understanding of how to set-up and log into your LaunchPad (if not, there are excellent tutorial videos and blog posts on this site as well as others). On the main screen, under each chapter or module, you will see a button that says "Add to this Unit" - when you click on it, you will get the option to "Create new..."

 

Add Discussion

 

Clicking on "Create new..." gives you the "Add a new assignment" window. You will notice that I circled in yellow the discussion board option. Once clicking on it, a blank discussion board is added to your chapter or module.

 

 

If the screenshots are any indication, I tend to place my discussion boards at the end of the chapter or module. There are really two reasons why I do this: First, it makes sense that applied learning should come after the more didactic material presented during the assignments and eBook. This gives the student a chance to show off what they have learned. Second, I have found that by being at the end of the chapter (and being worth 10 points, a large portion of the chapter grade), the student engages more rigorously with the material. I weight my discussion boards in this way in order to encourage original and substantive thinking - stressing that a couple sentences as a response is never going to be sufficient. 

 

 

Once clicking on what I have labeled as the "Chapter 7 Discussion" the below window will appear in LaunchPad. You will notice that this image is taken from a course that I have taught in developmental psychology. I create my discussion post prompts by scanning for the main themes of the chapter and trying to have the students integrate them with other major topics that we have covered in the past. Here, you will see that I ask them to revisit the nature/nurture debate (discussed in earlier chapters) but this time in terms of autism spectrum disorder. My goal here is to push the students to engage critically with the material - not necessarily taking either the nurture or nature side but being able to cogently argue for each side of the paradigm. 

 

 

When the posts are expanded, you can see the entire original contribution done by the student as well as the two responses that I require as part of their grading. This is helpful because the students are able to click through and easily see what post has responses, which ones don't, or whose post may be exemplary - garnering several responses or a longer discussion. While the below image is taken from my instructor view, the student sees a very similar layout and user interface. 

 

 

Strickly accessible to instructors, in the image below, the "Results" button lets the professor grade the posts easily and efficiently. On the main page, you will see the various statistics for this particular discussion post allowing you - if you want - to curve or alter the assignment grading. Or, this can also be useful if you want to see how well the students performed on this assignment thereby perhaps providing feedback regarding the retention of the chapter content or the efficacy of the discussion prompt.  

 

 

By clicking on the student name (redacted below), you can see where I circled in yellow the quick information that LaunchPad provides about the number of posts the student has completed and their number of replies. This allows me to quickly see if the student has met the criteria of one original post and two replies to their classmates. Furthermore, it brings up all of the students' responses so that I can grade them in one place - as opposed to having to search through all of the posts for this specific student. Not pictured but at the bottom of this screen, there is a place for the instructor to leave direct feedback to a particular student. This is really useful in providing individual instruction to a student that may be struggling with some of the chapter concepts or if you want to address a specific issue with the student's discussion board post; for example, 'you forgot to respond to your classmates' or 'the authoritative parenting style has shown to be most efficacious for healthy development and functioning, not the authoritarian style (see page 211)'.

 

 

I hope that I have given some useful tips that will help you integrate discussion board assignments into your LaunchPad course! From my past experience, I can for certain say that students really appreciate having all of the assigned content grouped together in one place. Plus, it makes for a more streamlined grading and teaching process.