• Background/History

    Background

    Qualifications and courses that are made up of units, outcomes and criteria and those qualifications that have coursework vs those that just have exams inevitably require some method of tracking. This could be tracking of student work, tracking of students marks, students comments or students progression vs what they are likely to achieve.

    Historically many institutions have seen their lecturers take the mantle of tracking upon themselves. This, most often, has been a spreadsheet stored on either a shared network drive or their personal computer/email. A solution of this kind has the disadvantages of: screenshot

    The Spreadsheet Solution

    • Easily changeable with no auditable trail.
    • Inconsistent within departments and across the whole institution.
    • Not accessible to the students, management and in many cases other interested parties.
    • Easily lost when files are deleted.
    • Students cannot see their progress or ascertain their progression.
    • Reporting cannot be done.

    Our Main Aims

    In 2011 Bedford College set out to change the way student’s grades and qualifications were tracked in order to provide a better solution. Our main aims were:
    • Achieve a standard approach across the entire organisation
    • Provide a solution that could be seen by students.
    • Provide a solution that could easily be seen by any member of staff in any department, manager or teacher.
    • Provide a solution that could provide college reporting facilities.
    moodle logo

    Our solution is the Grade Tracker, a plugin (called bcgt) for the Moodle VLE.


    Origins of the JISC GradeTracker Project

    The JISC GradeTracker project aimed to take the on-line grade and assessment tracking system that had been developed within Bedford College as a Moodle plug-in and re-engineer it so that it could potentially be used by any other college. The system was fully integrated with Moodle to provide a single port call for all learner activity associated with assessment management. 

    Effective tracking of BTEC and similar qualifications based on units and criteria poses a problem for most UK colleges. Common approaches include the use of tracking spreadsheets held in shared drives – which limits the ability to establish cross-college standards and to share progress information with students; and the use of dedicated third-party systems which entail additional costs and mean that teachers and students have to use at least two systems to support the delivery and management of teaching and learning.

    The majority of UK colleges now use Moodle as their virtual learning environment. Moodle provides good tools for the management of on-line assessment submission; however, the Grade Book functionality is limited and provides poor support for BTEC style qualifications.

    Bedford College had addressed this issue by developing a sophisticated Moodle extension to track students’ progress against criteria and units for BTEC qualifications. The system supported all levels of a range of qualifications including Diplomas, Extended Diplomas, FDs, HNCs and HNDs. Bedford College was also working towards extending the system he system to accommodate other families of qualifications including C&G and VRQs.

    In addition to providing teachers and students with a graphical overview of progress in completing qualifications, the system provided predicted grades based on prior qualifications and on current progress in meeting criteria. Teachers were provided with tools to enable them to update progress, add comments at criteria level, customise qualifications and units, specify individualised programmes for students and view reports by class list, unit or student

    The system attracted substantial interest at both regional and national levels and a number of colleges approached Bedford College to explore the possibility of having the system tailored for use within their own institutions. This interest combined with a willingness to share the resource with the wider sector formed the basis of the project proposal that was successfully submitted to JISC.

    With support from JISC, Bedford College set out to work with a group of partner colleges to:

    • Develop a modular plug-in version of the system for 2.x that could be adopted with minimum configuration by other colleges with suitable in-house expertise
    • Extend the feature set and reporting capabilities of the system to meet the agreed requirements of participating colleges and ensure that a comprehensive range of the qualifications delivered across the sector was supported by the system;
    • Define a format so that qualifications and units transcribed for use in the system by any individual college could be exported for use by any other colleges using the system;
    • Establish a support service to provide a helpdesk service to colleges on the troubleshooting of any technical issues, deployment and use of the system (particularly for the benefit of colleges that do not have strong in-house Moodle support skills); ensure that there was a programme of on-going development for the system so that it continued to evolve to reflect the sector’s changing needs and provide an on-line presence to support the sharing of transcribed qualifications, gather development requests and publish software updates.