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GradeBook Pro, or One Grading App to Rule Them All

Back in 2009, ProfHacker colleague, Billie Hara wrote about grade keeping programs such as GradeKeeper that might help you to track and manage your assessment of student work. Some of you might prefer to go at it old-school with a paper grade book that you manage by hand. Others might devise spread sheets in Excel or Numbers or a GoogleDoc. Still others might use the software provided by your college or university, be it BlackBoard, WebCT, Moodle, or the like. Last semester, partly inspired by Mark Sample’s post on “Going Paperless in the Classroom,” I bit the bullet and purchased GradeBook Pro for my iPad.

GradeBook Pro isn’t cheap by my standards–I prefer my apps to be free, but on occasion, I’ll cough up the $.99 if something comes recommended by a friend or colleague.  GradeBook, priced at $9.99, then was a bit of a tough sell for me at the time, especially because I didn’t know anyone else who could vouch for it. I had already purchased Attendance, so spending twice as much for another potentially redundant app gave me more than a little pause.

But here’s what I learned: GradeBook Pro is well worth the $10. It has all of the features that Attendance offers and many more.

If you take attendance in your couses, you’ll love GradeBook. You can enter your roster for each class, import (or take) photos, and also include a student email adress. Rosters can be inputted manually, student-by-student or imported via iTunes File Sharing or DropBox (there are clear instructions on how to do this in the “Getting Started Guide”). The attendance interface allows you to indicate “Present,” “Absent,” or “Late,” and it further allows you to indicate whether the absence/tardiness was approved or not with a thumbs up or thumbs down icon. Instructors can also add a brief note to a student’s record on a given day. Attendance records are also easily edited so that, for example, absences can be converted to lates, unexcused to excused. In addition, the app allows instructors to create an attendance report, and to track attendance either by date or by student.

But GradeBook pro offers many more features in addition. It allows instructors to create assignments according to either standard grading scales or weighted ones (point-based vs. percentage based), and once you have done this for one class, it’s easy to copy assignments between classes. Another bonus for the numerically-challenged among us is the fact that when you enter your percentages, the program will not allow you to proceed until the assignments total 100% (former students will attest to the fact that I have struggled with the 100% detail in the past).

When you create assignments, you can add notes to the assignment page. I often do this for midterms and finals; I teach English, so my notes often indicate the titles of specific novels or poems that are covered so that I don’t have to find a copy of the syllabus for future versions of similar classes. Instructors might also note what kinds of exam questions they have chosen or things they might want to do differently in the future.

As you proceed through the semester, GradeBook allows you to see how students are doing without having completed all of the assignments (this lack was one of my main frustrations with Excel), and it also will provide class averages per assignment. It also has a feature that allows you to locate missing grades per assignment, automatically excluding students who have received zeros, have been exempted by the instructor, or have dropped the class. Instructors can then email those students who are missing grades.

Another nice feature is the ability to record students who have dropped the course without deleting them from the roster.  This ability allows you to factor these students and their work into assessments of the assignments that they submitted, but it then excludes them from latter grades so that overall class averages for subsequent assignments are not affected.

Lastly, the app allows you to email your students, either as a group or individually, and if desired, you can also email individual grade reports.

And, lest you worry that you’ll lose your data if something happens to your iPad, GradeBook syncs with DropBox to back up your files. It’s worth noting, however, that data back-up must be done manually; it’s not an automatic feature.

In a nutshell, I have found GradeBook Pro to be a robust app that offers all the features I could think of for my own grade book and then some. I’ve used it now for one summer class and three semester-length courses, and I highly recommend it.

Do you use GradeBook, GradeKeeper, or another similar program in your teaching? Tell us about it in the comments below!

[Creative-Commons licensed image from Flickr user Drew Avery].

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