This article was written by team member Fox Piacenti.

edX.com opened in 2012 as a massive online learning destination with free courses that anyone could enjoy. Today, edX tracks hundreds of thousands of learners. When Open edX was released in 2013, the need to serve such large classrooms drove its features.

A system oriented around such large course sizes needed to manage grades in a consistent, predictable way. With little intervention, the system handled scoring. As time has gone on, the cost of running an instance has gone down. You can now start your own LMS within a couple of hours. Online learning has proven itself, and continues to grow, demanding more versatility.

To keep grading simple, edX problems score automatically via course components. You answer a question right, and you get the points. Answer it wrong, and you don’t. This works great for massive courses– but it’s less helpful for smaller ones, or ones that offer more direct advisement. Instructors need the ability to override grades based on circumstances. Extra credit, technology issues, and personal assessments are all examples of when changing a grade is helpful.

Recognizing these needs, the Open edX team has begun work on a new editable gradebook. It is not yet available in a vanilla Open edX deployment, but it can be installed on any up to date instance. Let’s take a look at what the community built so far.

A Bit of Background

You can skip this if you’re not technically oriented, or just want to see what the editable gradebook looks like.

The Open edX community is developing ‘micro frontends’ like the gradebook. Micro frontends allow for more flexibility and rapid development of features that affect user experience. These React-based frontends use REST calls to the backend to provide a modernized experience.

This is an improvement over backend template rendering, as the frontend no longer requires the backend’s instructions on how to arrange the page. As a result, we can use modern Javascript tooling.

Micro frontends aren’t easy to set up in production, but if you’re familiar with the edX devstack, you can play around with them by following the instructions in their README. Follow the instructions carefully– the gradebook may run but exhibit strange behavior if you do not. This project is still new.

Editable Gradebook Overview

A table of grades shown on the frontend of the new gradebook interface

Viewing the Gradebook for your course shows you all of your students and their grades. You can rapidly filter through students by using the search bar in the upper right.

To modify an exercise, you click the grade.

A screenshot of the grade editing interface, showing the form for adjusting a grade and giving a reason.

You can enter a new grade here, along with a reason. This allows an audit trail so you can remember who changed what grade, and why.

If you have many exercises and grades to look through, you can narrow them down using the filter panel. Click the filter button to open the panel:

A screenshot of the sidebar, showing the varying options by which you may filter grades.

You can filter by tracks, cohorts, and current score. You can also filter by the assignment type (homework or exam) and the particular assignment.

Comparison with the Legacy (current) Gradebook

The current (legacy) gradebook is able to show you an overview of the grades, much like the new one does.

A table of grades shown on the legacy gradebook interface

However, there’s no option to edit these grades. When you click on a user’s name, you are taken to their progress page.

These quick links currently do not exist in the new gradebook, but other than that, this editable gradebook handles everything the legacy gradebook did, and then some.

Final Thoughts

The editable gradebook offers many feature advantages over the old one. If you have a need for more fine-grained control over grading, it’s worth a try. We’ll be covering more of these Micro Frontend projects as time goes on.

Since the editable gradebook is not available on a vanilla Open edX deployment, we’re happy to install it for you. Drop us an email at contact@opencraft.com : )

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash