How to End and Begin Courses Like a Pro
Have you seen the following message recently? Let's talk about Course Archives, Grading Periods, and how Schoology saves your course materials so you can reuse them!
If you are in the US, your final marking period is coming to an end. In the Southern Hemisphere, you may be starting a new semester or quarter. No matter where you are in the world, now is a perfect time to review (or be introduced to) how Schoology's grading periods can determine course duration and final grade display.
In Schoology Basic, individual instructors optionally setup grading periods when they first create a new course. In Schoology Enterprise, it's done for you by your System Administrator, requiring no extra work from instructors.
Just like your grade reports, grading periods in Schoology calculate a score based on all the work students complete during that time frame. You may have one grading period (for the whole year) or several for quarters, trimesters, or semesters of the year.
One or more grading periods also determine when the courses are active or archived—in other words, grading periods determine the start and end dates of your courses. Only active courses display in the Courses dropdown menu.
This brings us back to that scary yellow message above. Don't be alarmed! Schoology never deletes anything you don't want it to. In fact, Schoology automatically saves all your past courses so you can access them again later.
But if they're not in the Courses dropdown menu, where are they?
Schoology saves all of your work, including materials, grades, and student interactions in a special Archived section of your Courses area. If your course "disappears," it's actually just 3 clicks away—safely archived for future reference.
- Click the Courses dropdown menu.
- Select See All.
- Toggle to the Archived tab.
So now what? How do you reuse or update this course next year? First, it's best to understand how grading periods work in Schoology and how to set them up. If you've got that down pat, skip below to the "Best Practices for Starting New Courses."
An Introduction to Setting Up Grading Periods
In Schoology Basic, you manage your own grading periods. While they are optional, we recommend that you set them up anyway. Why? The immediate benefits include automatically calculated grades (by school terms and categories) based on test results, assignments, and graded discussions.
It's simply a great way for you, your students, and their parents to see scores in real time. You can also export your grades as a CSV or Excel file!
Follow the steps below to set up your grading periods.
- Click the Gradebook menu, then Grade Setup.
- To the right of the "Grading Periods and Final Weights" heading, click Edit
- Add Grading Periods.
- Grading Period names must be unique. We recommend customizing each grading period name to the appropriate term and year (e.g. Quarter 1 2015-2016, or 2015-2016 School Year)
- In Basic, grading periods cannot be adjusted after creation. We recommend adding a small buffer to the end date to account for any emergency or snow days. However, remember—even if the course archives before you're ready, the course will still be accessible to you and your students!
- To add more than one grading period at a time, click on the Add Another link.
- Your graded items in the course—e.g., Discussions, Assignments, Tests/Quizzes—will automatically be added to the current grading period. If you'd like to associate graded materials with a different grading period, you can change the grading period at any time.
- If you have not added categories, go ahead and add them in the same Grade Setup area—i.e., "Homework," "Assessments," "Participation." These categories may be both weighted and calculated by Total Points or by Percentage (where all items count equally within the category).
- Graded items must have a grading category to display in the Gradebook. The grading period filters graded items into the appropriate marking periods. The Bulk Editor is a perfect tool to quickly view all gradable items and update their categories or grading periods like in the image below.
One of the best parts of Schoology Enterprise is that your IT Staff can setup your grading periods, Courses, and Enrollments for you, so you shouldn't have to do anything! Your courses will automatically archive (same as above) and will still be accessible to you, so you can complete your final reporting or save your materials.
We also have integrations to sync the Schoology Gradebook to your SIS Gradebook. That means final grade reporting isn't necessary because grades will already be in both systems! We're adding more integrations all the time, so if your SIS doesn't integrate with us yet, talk to your SIS provider and encourage them to add this ability.
Here's the big difference between starting new courses in Basic and Enterprise: in Enterprise, you never copy archived sections because your IT administrator loads new courses complete with student enrollments for you. In fact, your administrator may have turned off the setting to copy courses to be safe.
But you can still reuse your materials without copying your courses. How? Using your Resources area is the key! Let's dig to the best practices for creating new courses without copying them.
Starting this summer instructors on Schoology Enterprise will be able to set up tiered grading periods. Contact your Customer Success Representative to find out more.
The first step is to create a course. Schoology Basic users will need to create their own. For Enterprise users, they are generally pre-made by their System Administrators.
Best Practices for Starting New Courses (Without Copying Them)
To create a course from scratch, follow these steps:
- Select the Courses Dropdown Menu
- Click Create and fill out the information
Copy the Gradebook
If you were already using your Gradebook like a Schoology Ninja, you don't need to recreate your setup. If this is part of your workflow, you can skip copying individual rubrics; we'll take care of that here. Return to your course archives and open an archived course.
- Go to the course's Grade Setup.
- Click Copy Settings.
- Select categories, grade scales, and rubrics to copy to your new course or courses.
Always copy your Grade Settings BEFORE adding existing content to your new course. This will preserve the grading categories you used in your archived course, including how the categories are weighted.
The best way to start new courses in Schoology Enterprise or Basic is to save your course materials to Resources and then import them to a new course. This makes it easier to always have a "master file" on hand in an easily accessible location. Let's take look at the steps.
Reuse Your Existing Course Materials
- Click the Options dropdown menu in the center and select "Save Course to Resources."
- When you save your course to Resources, the due dates and student interactions (comments, submissions, grades, etc.) are removed from the copy of the material, so you can easily reuse everything with new students. Think of the copy in resources like the original Xerox copy in your filing cabinet
- Now go to your Personal Resources. You should see a folder with the name of your course. All your materials are saved.
- Finally, open the folder. Select the resources you want to reuse and then add them to your new course(s) using the Edit menu.
If you are using Rubrics (one of my favs) go ahead and save those to your resources as well!
- Go to your Grade Setup
- Click Rubrics
- From the gear menu, select "Save to Resources"
- You may also add rubrics to new courses from your Resources in the same way as you do materials.
* To share Resource collections with other instructors, make sure your collection is outside of your Home collection in Resources. "Home" is just for you.That's it! Now the new course is filled with your materials! The cool thing about Resources is that you can also edit, make changes, and share materials and rubrics with other instructors*. Getting into Resources opens up a whole new dimension to Schoology—one that can save you tons of time when building, managing, and sharing content.
DO NOT remove the students from a previous course and update the grading period to next year if you plan on using it again. Removing all of your students and adding new students muddies discussions, assignment submissions, and quiz results.
That's it! I hope this technical deep dive helps get you started strong in the new term! As always, for more complete detailed information on starting new grading periods visit our help center.