Grading Assignments within Blackboard – In-Line Grading

In my opinion, the best new feature of the Blackboard upgrade is the new In-Line Grading tool for Assignments. For instructors who frequently have students submit papers and know the pain of downloading, opening, commenting, grading, closing, uploading commented papers and submitting grades to Blackboard, I am happy to report that the workflow is greatly improved!

For anyone who has hesitated to have students upload their papers to Blackboard, I really encourage you to give it a try! It’s easier to keep track of than email, and Blackboard keeps the papers and comments in the system for later reference if needed (for example, in the event of a grade challenge).

When students submit documents in .doc/.docx (Word), .pdf (Adobe Acrobat), .ppt/.pptx (PowerPoint), and .xls/.xlsx (Excel) formats, the system will automatically convert the file to be viewable from right within Blackboard. You can then use the tools to comment, markup and otherwise grade the paper just as you might in Microsoft Word using the Track Changes features. SafeAssign, comments and grading are all included on the same screen, making the process of grading a student straightforward.

Let’s take a look at the major features, shall we?



The new page for grading assignments. Key features are highlighted with the arrows.


To get to the new In-Line Grading screen, you can click on any student’s assignment on the Needs Grading page under Grade Center. (If you don’t have any student work submitted yet for this semester, you can take a look at an older semester- they will have converted too!)

As you can see above, there are suddenly a lot of options on the page!  The five key areas are highlighted with the red arrows. I’ll go into each arrow in greater detail below. In short, the right panel handles all the grading options, and the left side is the actual text of the paper with options for comments and editing.



The options for comments and annotation are available in a toolbar just above the text of the paper.


To add comments and annotations  to the students paper, click on the options in the toolbar above the text.

The Comment tool allows you to select different kind of comments that indicate whether the comment is for a phrase, a section or for the text itself. These comments look very similar to comments in Word documents that are made with the Track Changes tool.

The Draw tool allows you to draw, using your mouse, directly on the paper– very handy for indicating when a piece of text should be moved to a different place (by drawing arrows) or any of the other drawing and marking up we do on papers by hand.

Highlight allows for different color highlighting of text within the document. In conjunction with other tools this can be very valuable.

The Text tool allows you to add text without using a comment– for example, if you’ve used Strikeout for an item, you can make suggestions on what should be in place of the strikeout text.

Strikeout allows you to highlight a word or portion of text and draw a line through it to cross it out.

When you grade a student’s paper using these tools, the student can see them and can download a PDF version of their paper, complete with comments, for their reference and record.



The Basic grading screen does not give all the options immediately. Click SafeAssign and the arrow below to fully expand the pane.

The grading panel on the right side is where the grade will be entered, as well as any generalized feedback. This is also where SafeAssign information can be located.

When you first open an assignment, the grading information is collapsed. To view SafeAssign information, including the report, click on the link that says SafeAssign.  To view more information about grading, including a location for comments, click on the arrow below the grade box. This will expand the panel fully.



The fully expanded grade panel includes several options compiled in a single screen that used to be accessed in a variety of places.

The expanded grading panel shows all the needed tools for effective grading in Blackboard. At the top, the black Grade box shows the final grade the student has received on the assignment.  The blue box below that is the grade for this Attempt. When you go to enter a grade, you’ll enter it into the Attempt box.

Why two boxes? Because sometimes assignments will have multiple attempts, such as a draft and a final version, and the Grade box will show the attempt used in the grade calculations for the course, while Attempt  shows the individual attempt grade, which may vary.

Below the grade, you’ll see the SafeAssign options. Next to the link, the SafeAssign score is listed for easy reference. When you expand the section, you can view the Originality Report. This will open in a new window for you to view.

Feedback to Learner is a place to enter general comments to the student about the attempt. This will appear in their My Grades section along with their grade for the work.  The Add Notes link will provide a text box for private notes about the grade that are only visible to the instructor.

Finally, at the very bottom of this box you can download the original file for the assignment. Sometimes a corrupt file or a file of an unsupported type won’t render properly in the page. You can still download the file if necessary by clicking on it there.

When you’ve done all your entry, you can click Submit. This will save the grade and all the comments.


As you can see, the workflow of grading has become much smoother. If you’ve never had students submit via Blackboard, give it a try! You might find it easier than you think.

Blackboard’s overview of the tool we’ve discussed can be found here. There’s a quick video and a little more info on how the In-Line Grading tool works. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to give Tom and Lily a call.