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Imagine that you have been asked to design a building. You are not an architect, and you don’t know where the building will be, how much land you have to build on, or what materials you need to use. You don’t have a budget or any information on what the owners want from your design. If you have to guess at the answers to these questions, chances are the owners will be unhappy with your design and you will not be successful with this project  

Designing assessments for your students can be thought of in this same way. Assessment design is a critical component to student success. If students don’t know or understand what you will assess in your course, or what the parameters are for the assessment, how can they be successful? 

Recently we wrote about academic integrity and rethinking your assessments. We provided several ways to redesign your assessments for better student success. Below is a another quick tip.

“Work backwards and highlight in the instructions for the assessment how students will meet each of the learning objectives for the module and what competencies they will gain.”
Claudia Arcolin
Director of Digital Learning

Now, we turn to grading those various assessments and making sure students know and understand how and why they are being assessed.

Use Rubrics

If there were one thing you could do that would make grading quicker, easier, and less painful, would you do it? Of course you would!  This is where rubrics – scoring guides with a clear criteria for assessing work – come in handy.


  • Guide students through the requirements for the assessment.
  • Provide students with clear criteria for meeting your expectations.
  • Provide you with a guide to equitably grade the assessment.
  • Build a template for providing quality feedback.
  • Allow students to submit different products to prove their learning.
  • Reduce the questions you receive about assessment requirements and specific grades.

Most importantly, rubrics can reduce the time it takes to grade.

If you’ve never used a rubric:

  • Review this module, video, and the Rubric Worksheet created by Duquesne University’s Center. 
  • Review your course learning objectives to ensure they are clear/measurable and connect them to your rubrics.

To learn how to set up a rubric directly in Blackboard, review these Blackboard resources or view the video below.

More Tips for Grading Efficiency: 
  • Allow students to submit in the format that is most comfortable for them (unless specific digital tools are part of your learning outcomes). Allowing choice and using a rubric will make grading more fun and interesting.  
  • Have students grade each other using a rubric. You can then quickly review the submissions and the peer comments to assign your grade.  
  • If you have several low-stakes assessments, you don’t have to read every word of the submission. With a little practice you will easily be able to tell if a student has included the right information. Look for key words or phrases, and don’t grade grammar, spelling, etc. unless they are part of your learning outcomes.  
"Each week, I include a "Knowledge Check" that ties together the readings, videos and activities for the week. These are generally quizzes, reflections, or the creation of small digital projects. These Knowledge Checks provide students with low-stakes assessments that don't add stress and at the same time show me whether or not they are getting the concepts."
Shelley Howell, Ed.D.
Interim Associate Vice Provost - Teaching and Learning Services

NOTE: If you are using quizzes, make sure to differentiate between automatically graded and manually graded activities, and structure the assessment into two components:

    • Knowledge Checks (with automatically graded questions and immediate feedback).
    • Reflections (manually graded activities).

This will help you manage grading and give your students immediate feedback on at least one part of the assessment.

Hide the grade column in Blackboard until you have completed all the grading.

    • This gives you time to grade and keeps students from checking and wondering why you have not graded their activity yet.
    • After grading, post an announcement to let students know you have graded their assessments.

Summarize key takeaways from the activity and provide general feedback to the class. This will provide a fresh perspective on the course, how the class did, and can enhance the connection with your students.

Don’t forget to join Academic Innovation’s Upcoming Webinars, Virtual Q&A sessions, or contact us at academicinnovation@utsa.edu – 210-458-4520. We’re here to help! 
For more review: