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UCLA’s grading portals miss mark on tracking progress when students need it most

UCLA is online-only, and students need easy access to updated grades now more than ever. Unfortunately, CCLE and MyUCLA lack the efficiency to provide succinct grading information in one place. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sophia Kloster

May 8, 2020 5:34 p.m.

For students around the globe, the past month has been riddled with adjustments to online learning.

But for many UCLA students, challenges with the university’s portals – Common Collaboration and Learning Environment and MyUCLA – are nothing new.

CCLE allows students to access their course syllabuses, assignments, grades and other resources. MyUCLA, alternatively, is a website utilized for many student services, most notably enrollment and grading updates. Information is shared between both platforms to translate academic feedback from CCLE to MyUCLA.

If only that information was shared efficiently.

Currently, students don’t have a solid understanding of their letter grade until it’s carried over from CCLE to MyUCLA – which often does not happen until the last couple weeks of the quarter. Beyond that, professors and departments upload grades inconsistently between the websites, making it difficult for students to know where to look.

In a time when online resources are all students have, UCLA must strengthen the link between the two portals so that students are more aware of their grades before it is too late to change them. With no in-person office hours or feedback, students need consistent access to updated grades to succeed academically. This is especially important when students have the option to choose Pass/No Pass grading anytime before finals week, considering that missing grades could prevent them from making the decision to change their grade type. Unless UCLA can ensure better accessibility of grades, the university needs to implement a new system across the board.

And it’s not just students who are affected by this unorganized system.

“One thing I do not like right now is the fact that it’s very hard for MyUCLA and the grade book on MyUCLA to talk to the grade book in CCLE,” said Anthony Friscia, a UCLA adjunct professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology. “That part is really annoying, so it’s hard to keep students up to date on what’s going on with their grades and things like that because of it.”

So while instructors might be providing insightful comments and individual assignment grades to students on CCLE, students are still left guessing about their overall course progress.

This is a critical time for students to keep track of their grades. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to online learning, students can now take more than one class during spring quarter on a Pass/No Pass grading basis.

Pass/No Pass grading enables students to take a class without the distinction of a letter grade. As a result, this grading option allows students to take classes for units without the class affecting their GPA. This is an important decision for students who find themselves struggling with the transition to online learning.

But without a grasp on what grade they are on track for, this decision is difficult to make.

Isba Keshwani, a first-year astrophysics student, agrees that CCLE should be more efficient in communicating course grades with students.

“I never know what grade I have,” Keshwani said. “Now that we’re remote, our grades are more based on homework, and sometimes even participation for some of my classes. So I feel like (the grading portals) should make it more possible to give you your grades as you go on.”

This is why many UCLA instructors turn to third-party grading websites, like Gradescope.

Kirie Stromberg, a graduate student in archaeology, uses Gradescope to give her students a more updated look on their grades. In addition, she said Gradescope is often simpler to use.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any professor or TA right now who isn’t using at least one other online platform in addition to what we have from UCLA,” Stromberg said.

In light of this, UCLA should consider converting to more mainstream grading portals, like Canvas or Blackboard, across all departments. In fact, many other schools within the University of California system use Canvas, such as UC Davis and UC Irvine.

It would certainly be easier to have one unified grading portal instead of the countless sites that different instructors choose as supplements to the deficient UCLA option.

Stromberg noted this was another flaw with having to use other additional academic websites as companions to UCLA sites.

“Then (students) have to have like 20 different things depending on what each instructor is using,” Stromberg said.

Students are already facing major challenges with the pandemic and the transition to online learning, whether that be technical difficulties or a lack of motivation. And having to sort through multiple websites just to check grades and assignments only adds to this stress.

However, CCLE and MyUCLA do offer elements exclusive to UCLA students. One of CCLE’s advantages is that it offers one website for all of a student’s classes – one place for a class’ syllabus, assignments, readings, Turnitin and instructor feedback. But despite these distinct advantages, students still lack the ability to view their letter grade progress throughout the quarter.

So even if UCLA grading stays on the MyUCLA and CCLE interfaces, the communication between the two websites, and thus between students and their instructors, needs improvement.

Because in an era when office hours have been replaced by online portals, it is UCLA’s responsibility to ensure these websites are the best they can be.

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