A Grading Rubric for Online Discussions

In this paper from JOLT the authors, Ann M. Solan and Nikolaos Linardopoulos, believe the rubric below makes a valuable contribution to the field of online learning and teaching.

The authors share their experience of creating and implementing a comprehensive grading rubric for online discussions that evaluates the following criteria: quantity, quality, timeliness, and writing proficiency. Student perceptions regarding the use of the discussion rubric are also analyzed and areas of future research are suggested. Findings from their research show almost 83% of the students found that the discussion grades corresponding fairly/accurately with the rubric.

I have used similar asynchronous discussion rubrics for years. Personally I do not assess spelling and grammar in asynchronous discussions. It’s a discussion not a scholar paper. When I’m talking and discussing with another individual, and they say something grammatically incorrect,  I don’t stop them and correct them on what they said. I want learners to be able to think critically and compare and contrast different sides of an issue.

Also what does it mean to post respond fully to the question or topic? The rubric appears very linear and detailed yet some of the criteria appears to be subjective. A common problem with assessment?

Online Discussion Grading Rubric
Quantity (25%):

100% (25 points) 75% (19 points) 25% (6 points) 0% (0 points)
Student has submitted one substantive original post responding fully to the question or topic. Student has submitted at least one substantive reply to a classmate’s post. Total word count for the unit is at least 250 words (at least 5 minutes for audio posts). Student has submitted one substantive original post responding fully to the question or topic. Total word count for the unit is at least 200 words (at least 4 minutes for audio posts). Student does not submit a reply to a classmate’s post. Student has submitted one substantive reply to a classmate’s post. Total word count for the unit is at least 50 words (at least 1 minute for audio posts). Student does not submit an original post. No discussion posts are submitted.

Quality (25%):

100% (25 points) 80% (20 points) 60% (15 points) 0% (0 points)
Student’s original post demonstrates substantial evidence of critical thinking about the topic through, for example, application or creativity. Student’s reply post(s) take the discussion in a new direction. Student’s original post demonstrates moderate evidence of critical thinking about the topic through, for example, application or creativity. Student’s reply post(s) take the discussion in a new direction. Student’s original post demonstrates little evidence of critical thinking about the topic through, for example, application or creativity. Student’s reply post(s) take the discussion in a new direction. Student’s original post demonstrates no evidence of critical thinking (for example, just stating opinion without justification). Student’s reply post(s) merely agree with the classmate or merely repeat what the classmate said.

Timeliness (25%):

100% (25 pts) 90% (22.5 pts) 75% (19 pts) 60% (15 pts) 50% (12.5 pts) 40% (10 pts)
Student has submitted one original post by Sunday and has submitted one response post by Monday. Student has submitted one original post by Sunday and has submitted one response post by Tuesday. Student has submitted one original post by Monday and has submitted one response post by Tuesday. Student has submitted one original post by Tuesday and has submitted one response post by Tuesday. Student submits an original post by Tuesday, but does not submit a response post. Student submits posts after the unit ends and within one week of the original unit’s closing date.

Communication Proficiency (25%):

100% (25 points) 90% (22.5 points) 50% (12.5 points) 0% (0 points)
Written posts : Student has submitted posts with no spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, citation, or other writing errors.Audio posts : Student has submitted posts with no grammar errors. The posts are enunciated professionally. Written posts : Student has submitted posts with one to five spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, citation, or other writing errors.Audio posts : student has submitted posts with one to five grammar or enunciation errors. Written posts : Student has submitted posts with six to nine spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, citation, or other writing errors.Audio posts : student has submitted posts with six to nine grammar or enunciation errors. Written posts : Student has submitted posts with 10 or more spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, citation, or other writing errors.Audio posts : student has submitted posts with 10 or more grammar or enunciation errors.

http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no4/linardopoulos_1211.htm

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4 thoughts on “A Grading Rubric for Online Discussions

  1. Greg,
    Thank you for sharing this rubric. As I was reading the first box I was thinking to myself – well what happens in they don’t post something “substantive”? Then I scrolled further and saw that there were multiple boxes included in this rubric and thought to myself, “wow! this is a LOT to look at for each and every posting.” As someone who does teach online already and whose discussion board postings make up a good chunk of the overall grade, I do see the need for and utilize a discussion board rubric (albeit the one provided by the University), but this one seems overly cumbersome.

    I agree with your points as well that grading for grammar and syntax and all of that on discussion boards is not really condusive to student learning or participation because they do feel less willing to participate. I do encourage them to use the spell checker, but do not mention it if they don’t. Although, many of their classmates will!

    And you’re right, there are several areas that are subjective, however, I suppose I like that. I think there needs to be a bit of wiggle room and subjectivity in any rubric for those cases that simply don’t fit any bill. Case in point, I recently had a student post something very offensive on the discussion board in my online course. Technically, he met all of the rubrics requirements for postings that week, but I took away points for the way in which he presented his opinions to the class. He agreed with me that he had been “over the top” but also asked for justification in my policy that allowed my to take the points away. He pointed to the rubric which, unfortunately, mentioned nothing about dealing with topics/classmates/conversations etc… sensitively. I told him that the rubric itself did not justify the point deduction, but my class policy for Netiquette did. We agreed that this was a fair point deduction. The rubric above awards points for “application or creativity” under “Quality” and that is certainly subjective, but I think that is also valid. How can we define creativity so that it becomes objective? Unless we take that part out, it must be subjective, and leaving it in leaves room for many different scenarios, positive and negative, that I would rather be able to grade than not.

    Thanks for getting me thinking so thoroughly about discussion board rubrics!!! 🙂
    -Erica

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  2. I have yet to find a better way of “grading” discussions. I find a typical discussion rubric (like the one you posted) is not fully aligned to what it needs to assess – “quality”, a subjective criteria. Rubrics try to dissect, define, and measure, what is “excellent” or “average”, etc., but I find it hard to do with something free and open like a discussion. Maybe it’s OK to create a rubric that is somewhat subjective because then it would align to the very nature of what discussions are. If we put all this specific criteria in, I feel it detracts from the discussion activity, and we end up controlling or directing the student too much. I think we should take out some of the objective criteria like word count and grammar/spelling, and focus on creating rubrics that align with and support the goal(s) of the discussion activity, and make sure we do our part as facilitators to help them achieve the goal(s) of the discussion activity. I’ll look around and see if I can find more insight into this issue…

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  3. I am scheduled to teach an online course next semester, and I am hoping to implement a discussion board within my course. Though, I find it hard to have part of the rubric for grading be on length. A student could write a great post, very thoughtful and interesting and be under 200 words. They would lose points. Yet another student could write a post that wasn’t very thought provoking, interesting and be 300 words and they’d get a better grade on “Quantity”. Do you take this into account as well? Having a word limit doesn’t seem effective to me, students who know how long to make a post will just keep writing until they reach that limit. I believe this will water down the overall effectiveness of the discussion board.

    As for spelling and grammar, I also agree you should not grade on it. But, it should be clearly state that they should not use “texting style of writing” when doing posts. Students should still be held accountable for trying to at least write in proper English. If students get in the habit of being able to abbreviate and not worry how they are sounding this will become habit. Do we wish for students to graduate from our colleges and have pour spelling and grammar skills? What would businesses and the general public think of us as educators? When I teach my ICS 100 classes about MS Word, I always tell them grammar and spelling count. We have the use of a spell checker and grammar checker, it should be used.

    I love technology, but I hate what it is doing to the English language.

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