Grades All Entered…

I’ve been ill, and it didn’t occur to me that the office would be closed this afternoon on account of the fact that tonight is New Year’s Eve. So whileI generally managed to total up all my grades by early yesterday evening, I didn’t think to stop by the office until the afternoon. When I got a call at 12:30pm informing me that if I wanted to get help entering my grades, I’d better come to the office now, I hurried over, because we’re now using a new, and much more complicated system, and I didn’t want to mess things up.

Well, I got most of the grades entered by about 1:30 pm, and the last set of grades entered around 4:00 pm.  It’s now 5:32 pm, and I haven’t got one single email contesting a grade yet.

(Though over the last couple of days I have gotten more emails than usual from students, about assignments they failed to submit, extensions they wanted, projects on hard drives gone the way of the Brontosaurus, and more.)

Still, that’s pretty good. Some semesters, the emails begging for (or demanding, or attempting to guilt me into giving) a higher grade, asking for a complete breakdown of the grading system, and begging for last-minute meetings at inopportune times —  all this and more — begin trickling in within 20 minutes of the grades being entered into the campus system, and reach a full-on deluge by about a day or two after the grades go live. I’m glad of that, thouugh on the other hand, I find that the new system has created a LOT more work for us teachers.

It’s designed so that we no longer enter grades flat into the system. Instead, we have to enter a kind of makeshift gradesheet that shows how the grade was arrived at.

Which would be good if, you know, the columns on the gradesheet were fully customizable. Don’t get me wrong: we can pick and choose for things like “Midterm Exam” and “Final Exam” (and swapping that in for “Final Essay,” an option that doesn’t exist, is pretty straightforward). But at least one of my courses this semester was “Task Based” which is different from homework — students completed tasks and homework, in other words — and it takes some (relatively unclear) juggling to make it possible to register grades for class participation/attitude vs. online discussion vs. discussion-leading within a class vs. panel discussions.

Obviously, most classes aren’t holding panel discussions, or structured as a task-based series of projects. Still, given the fact that you can only use the “기타” column once (“기타” means “other”), it’s pretty frustrating not to be able to customize grade columns.

(And though it’s not surprising, yes, all the columns and the whole system itself is in Korean-only. Not that I can complain about it; I hardly expect an English localization for the benefit of 15 people or fewer. But it was funny when I heard the Office Assistant who helped me get into the system say, quite frustratedly, “They really ought to offer this page in English too!”)

There are other little annoyances that feature in the system. One of them is that once the grades are all entered, the system arranges the names of the students in some new order that has nothing to do with the way they appear on the gradesheet. That is to say, after you’ve entered all the grades, and saved the results, you will suddenly have to spend three times the time to check that each student has the right grades and final mark.

Also, the buttons for save, finalize, publish, load, and so on are just NOT obviously placed. As I remember, it’s like this:

[Dropdown Menu for courses]

[Finalize]  |   [Publish]

[ ? ] | [Select] | [?]

followed by the spreadsheet, and then, at the bottom of the page, in the corner, a forlorn little save button. (Which should be by the Finalize and Publish buttons, shouldn’t it? Wouldn’t that make sense?)

That is to say, the interface seems to me quite unergonomic. Plus there are very few  icons (for those who might know know what button means what, or might be in a hurry), and worst of all, the “spreadsheet” doesn’t quite act like a spreadsheet. The down arrow works, but none of the other directions do. So you’re stuck either entering all the marks for a given task, student by student, vertically (instead of entering each grade for a given student horizontally, the way most people do it), or else mousing around the whole time. Worse, if you happen to enter the grades in the wrong column, you can’t copy and paste them to another column, or I couldn’t find a way to do it. Nope, you have to just re-enter them all.

I don’t mean to complain. After all, as one of the secretaries said to me, with a great deal of chagrin in her voice, “This is actually a much better system than most universities have!” (This was just as the system choked on a change she made, and she laughed and agreed that maybe that was not saying much at all.) But the interface looks, well, like it was designed by a computer scientist, not a teacher, much less a group of teachers giving input or thoughts on what they’d like to see in an interface.

I wonder if I could offer to work on an English localization of that specific page, though. The other interface issues could probably could be ironed out easily, but I doubt anyone is inclined to do so. (Especially if, as I suspect, it’s often office girls entering grades into the system, not professors.) However, having an English version of the page available would probably help the foreign profs get their work done more independently and efficiently.

Well, we’ll see how much I have on my plate in a month or so, before I start volunteering for things just yet. After all, I have a webzine, a comic book page, and a department homepage to design, along with syllabi for four courses — I have five classes next semester, but one of them is a double — and some serious fiction-editing and new story-drafting to do. Plus exercising and all that other stuff I’ve been putting off for far too long.

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