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Pros and Cons of Online Gradebooks

Updated on December 7, 2011

Web-Based and Software-Based Gradebooks

Technology has become an important part of education. Some technological advancements have revolutionized education and made teaching easier. Others have quite possibly changed the profession without really improving it. Many school districts are now requiring teachers to enter their grades online or use a web-based gradebook. While most teachers keep their grades in an electronic format, online grades have become quite popular with many districts, replacing written and software-based gradebooks.

Web-based gradebooks run on a central server. Software-based gradebooks are installed on a teacher’s computer. Originally, all electronic gradebooks were software, but many schools now use web-based gradebooks. This article compares and contrasts web-based and software-based gradebook programs by looking at the pros and cons of using a web-based system.

The Pros of Online Gradebooks

  • Parents can see their child’s grades online and often times in real time. This might negate the need for continuous progress reports, lists of missing work, and other grade-related updates.
  • Teachers can write comments for parents to view.
  • Unlike software-based gradebooks, online gradebooks allow accessibility from any computer that is connected to the Internet. Because of this, web-based gradebooks offer greater flexibility when it comes to entering grades from other computers.
  • In addition to grades, parents can often view their child’s discipline activity online.
  • In some web-based programs, parents can update contact information.
  • Some student identification systems (SIS) allow parents to view lesson plans. This can alleviate missed work due to absences, and it can help parents better track previous, current, and future assignments.
  • As with software-based gradebooks, web-based gradebooks are typically more accurate than a traditional method of calculating scores, pencil and calculator. All electronic gradebooks can easily organize and compute grades.
  • Most online grade programs offer parents the option of emailing questions or concerns to the teacher. Communication is the key to success.
  • Setup is often faster with web-based programs, because student names and data are often entered for teachers.
  • Administrators and IT departments have greater control over teachers’ gradebooks. Teachers tend to have less control with web-based gradebooks and more control with software-based gradebooks.

The Cons of Online Gradebooks

  • Parents and students become accustomed to immediate feedback, and additional grading pressure can be placed upon the teacher.
  • Parents and students can become demanding when it comes to makeup work being entered into the gradebook.
  • Web-based gradebooks are always slower, as much as 6,000% slower than software-based gradebooks. Each time a change is made, saving that change can take between a couple seconds and a minute depending on Internet speeds.
  • Parents can view their child’s grades and sometimes even their discipline activity online, but this often requires technical assistance by school personnel or the teacher.
  • Parents don’t always understand grade coding, weighting, and other statistics. The added transparency of having grades or discipline records online can result in misunderstandings.
  • Reliability of the Internet is a factor. When the Internet is down or slow, teachers can’t use their gradebooks, and parents won’t have access to online grades.
  • While most parents have Internet access, some don’t. Some parents will persistently check on their child’s grades, but others won’t. Because of this, teachers must still send written progress reports home.
  • Some student identification systems (SIS) allow parents to view lesson plans. This can create problems, because teachers are not always where they planned to be. Parents may assume that lesson plans are always accurate, and this can cause misunderstandings.
  • When teachers put lesson plans online, student attendance often decreases. Parents and students often believe that completing the assignments is enough to replicate all missed instruction. School districts often receive state funding through attendance. Because of this, online lesson plans may result in a loss of district revenue.
  • Schools may have to spend additional money on computer servers to back up and store such data, or they may have to pay an ongoing fee to house the data in a company's server.
  • Security is an issue with web-based gradebooks. Web-based programs need to be secure so that hackers cannot see or change the stored data.
  • Added security typically makes web-based gradebooks awkward and not user friendly. Time outs are not uncommon, and security features tend to make web-based gradebooks slower and more difficult for teachers to use.
  • Even though the setup is often easier, teachers typically lose control and flexibility with web-based gradebooks. Software-based gradebooks offer the most options and teacher control.
  • Most online grade programs offer parents the option of emailing questions or concerns to the teacher. While communication is key to success, excessive emails often result in a loss of time for the teacher.
  • Administrators and IT departments have greater control over teachers’ gradebooks. Teachers tend to have less control with web-based gradebooks and more control with software-based gradebooks.

Online or Software Gradebook Conclusion

Many student information systems (SIS) include a gradebook component. This all-in-one package is often a central reason for district adoption and is the primary reason SIS companies create gradebooks. The advantage of a system like this is that it is already integrated, and little IT adaptation is necessary. Software-based gradebooks need adaptations in order to post grades online. The disadvantage of online gradebooks is that very few SIS companies put much effort or resources into their gradebooks. They seldom consult teachers about what they need and how they use their gradebooks. Because of this, SIS gradebooks are typically highly lacking in features and are not user friendly. SIS systems are seldom liked by teachers and well liked by IT departments.

Because of a lack of teacher support for SIS gradebooks, many school districts instead choose to use a full-featured, software-based gradebook from a different company and optionally integrate it with their SIS and a grade-posting system for parents to see grades online. This format, often called a best-of-breed solution, typically offers the best functionality.

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    • msviolets profile image

      msviolets 6 years ago

      I agree that it helps the student to see their progress. Our middle school has an online gradebook, and the biggest benefit has been that when my daughter didn't turn assignments in, she could see the immediate, actual affect. Okay, it was ONE paper. But it was worth x% of the grade. Seeing the difference between a full letter grade made a big impression on her. (and improved her ability to turn in assignments...whether on time or not)

    • alphagirl profile image

      alphagirl 6 years ago from USA

      I love the convenience. But the immediacy is something as parents we have to understand. Sometimes grades don't get posted right away. Sometimes things in the system have a glittche.

      What I think It does do is helps the student see their progress and what they can do ahead of time, esp. with projects and assignments.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 6 years ago from United States

      Great hub! When my district switched to an online grading system, everyone was up in arms, especially the older teachers, since we just got used to the software based grading system. I liked it, though, except that parents wanted IMMEDIATE replies to emails about the grades, which is not possible when you're teaching for most of the day. I would input grades during my prep in the morning, and at the end of the day I would receive angry emails asking why I wasn't responding to emails sent in the morning. To remedy that, I began adding a note to grade reports to the effect that emails could only be answered during that morning prep and late afternoon due to scheduling.

      Another thing I found frustrating was when students would approach me at the beginning of class saying their parents wanted a printed grade report that day since they could not access the site. I couldn't do that since I did not have a printer in the immediate vicinity. I had to let parents know I needed a day in advance for requests like that.

      I did like the online gradebook. Most parents had no excuse not to know their child's progress. Even with the advanced online gradebook, I still kept grades in a binder with pencil and paper. You never know when technology will fail. ;)

      Voted up and useful!