Grading of Discussions


So, how exactly do you grade online discussions?

This will depend on how much discussion is part of your class and how often you intend to use the discussion tool. Your grading philosophy can range from very simple (10 points/term given for participating in the online discussions at least 5 times) to complex (1 point given for participating, 2 points given for a particularly insightful response, 3 points given for an enlightening new discussion). This decision will add to your workload.

One of the most important concepts faculty and students discover is that assignments (whether in an online or traditional course) must be significant, must count, and missing them must have consequences. It is not uncommon for students and instructors to get frustrated when online assignments are used in a way that makes them seem peripheral and inconsequential. This is especially true online.

You should provide a model of a high quality completed assignment so your students will know what to strive for. Models posted on the class website can serve as ongoing references for your students.

Here are some guidelines and possible criteria to consider when deciding how to value student contributions and assign points.

Quality of contribution

For example, points will be given when:

  • The source of the idea is clearly stated.
  • The comment clearly and succinctly communicates the topic or issue.
  • “I agree” and “I see it the same way” or “I disagree” is not enough.
Level of participation

For example:

  • Participation is a requirement (Will one posting a week be sufficient?)
  • Posts will be counted and points will be awarded for them.
  • Points will be given to the person who starts another relevant thread (topic of conversation)
  • Points will be awarded to the first person to contribute to each topic.
  • Students who contribute relevant links will receive points.

At the onset of the course, announce the value of participation. Tell students clearly what percentage of their grade will be based on participation. Never change the criteria half-way. 

Add an assignment in the Assignments tool called “Participation.” Use it to post points for participation on a regular basis, so that students know how their contributions are being evaluated. Keep adding (or deducting) points to the box as students make valuable contributions to discussions.

Remember: Give yourself permission to make subjective decisions as to whether an entry is worthy of credit to avoid mindless “posting for points.” A contribution is more than “I agree;” it’s “I agree with Catherine because …”

Great Grading Ideas

Let the student decide.
Instead of worrying about grading posts as they come in, allow the students to decide what their best posting were and submit them for grade. They can choose a few of their best postings from the term and you can grade the quality of those.


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