Every syllabus handed out to Elizabethtown College students is required to contain several different parts, regardless of the class or department. One of the most important sections being a statement of class policy about grades, attendance, examinations and other expectations of the students. Each section extensively describes and outlines the course work and requirements that go along with it. A calendar marked with assignments and exams is accompanied by explanations of the “more important” assignments as well as notes about classwork and the professor’s manner of grading.
Some professors explain their intent to post grades on Blackboard; others clearly state they will not utilize the technology, some never say anything, one way or the other. Students expect to see grades shortly after examinations or assignments are returned and are often aggravated to find that they are not.
Many students argue that getting an early warning or other notice of poor standing in a class is not fair if their grades weren’t available on Blackboard, because they were not aware of their progress or lack thereof. Then, what about those students whose grades are just above the needed grade to send warnings? I’ll use a question to answer that: since when is it a professor’s responsibility to babysit his students? As college students, it is expected that students not only understand grading, but take responsibility for his or her success or failure. Students are given the choice to sign FERPA, an agreement that allows or bars parents from checking their son or daughter’s progress in college. I didn’t allow my parents to view my grades: not because they were poor, but because I feel that I have the ability to discuss grades with parents, as an adult. Should the same not apply to keeping up with one’s grades?
The convenience of Blackboard makes students argue for it, but if one simply wants to ball-park his grade, he needs to look at the syllabus and make a general guess. Three As and a B will result in a low A in almost all cases. All Ds will result in a D. But no matter whether or not one’s professor chooses to post grades on Blackboard or not, he or she has already given you the information needed to figure out one’s own grades. The College syllabi explain how grades are weighted, so that students can record their grades and keep track themselves.
While I’ll admit I like checking my grades and avoiding the math required to figure them out for myself, I don’t think it is necessary that a college professor be expected to babysit his students. Everyone is intelligent enough and capable of checking them for themselves and adjusting their classroom performance accordingly. Professors have anywhere from 12 to 100 students, each of whom are waiting anxiously to know how they did on their last project or exam. As a single person, the professor may simply not have the time to grade everyone’s work and then drop it into Blackboard accordingly. Or, how about asking one’s professor in person about his or her grades?
However, if professors start the year by posting grades, then decide they are too busy or that no one checks – be their justification whatever it is – then it is unfair to the students. Given a reasonable belief that grades will appear regularly and waiting for them creates unnecessary stress. The key here is consistency: consistently posting grades or consistently not posting them. Rather than posting only three or four assignments, be reliable about whether or not students should expect Blackboard’s use. Not only do students appreciate the convenience, but that level of predictability helps to create relationships with professors.
While I don’t believe it is in the job description of a professor to post the grades of his or her students (especially not at the rate of speed that most students seem to think reasonable) if one starts the semester with constant access to one’s grades on Blackboard, one should continue to exercise that luxury.