Are Grades an Indicator of Success?

Are Grades an Indicator of Success?

Many students talk about “getting good grades” for their classes and this may become a source of anxiety because of the perceptions related to the outcome – especially if they do not earn an “A” and their overall grade-point average (GPA) is adversely affected. However, are grades an indicator of success for online students, and if so, how can you earn good grades? To answer these questions, let’s consider the following aspects of your grades.

1. You earn points, not grades.
Online instructors are required to evaluate your work and calculate a score, which means that they don’t review your assignments and then issue a letter grade. The grade you earn is completely within your control because a final course grade is an accumulation of the scores earned for all of your assignments. 

2. Grades represent your progress.
Grades are a reflection of the overall quality of your performance because your work product earns points and those points translate into a grade. To be successful, you need only to focus on making consistent progress throughout the class. For example, you can start out with a low grade and improve it over time through continued self-development and that will be reflected in your final course score.

3. Grades don’t reflect learning.
While grades do represent your progress, they don’t reflect learning. The process of learning involves reading, researching, writing papers, and posting responses within the discussion board. If you have earned better grades than another student, it does not necessarily mean you have learned more or acquired more knowledge. What this does indicate, however, is that you have developed a strong set of academic skills and have been able to understand and analyze the course concepts, which is necessary for performing well.

Overall, obtaining good grades indicates that you have successfully demonstrated strong performance, acquired necessary skills, and developed a mastery of the course materials. So how can you improve your grades? Here are some techniques you can use in your online class.

1. Be visibly involved in the class.
Your personal characteristics influence how you perform. One characteristic you can develop is a strong social presence, or a high level of participation in the discussion board. In a traditional classroom, your instructor can visibly assess your performance and see how committed you are by monitoring how often you ask questions, answer them, and contribute to class discussions. You can be visible in the online discussion board in much the same way through frequent postings, which demonstrates active engagement in the process of learning and leads to a higher participation score.

2. Manage your time wisely.
Another characteristic that determines how well you perform is your work habit, which includes the development of an effective time management plan. Students learn that the amount of time they allow to read, study, and complete their assignments has a direct effect on how well they perform.

3. Focus on you performance.
To be successful in your online classes, continually evaluate how you can improve your performance and be involved in the process of learning. If you are not earning all of the points possible for an assignment, consider what skills and knowledge are required to improve your performance.

4. Read your feedback.
When I provide feedback, it includes an explanation of the how points were earned and resources that will help students improve or continue to maintain their progress. However, some students continue to make the same mistakes and their performance does not improve because they don’t take time to review the feedback or utilize the recommended resources.

5. Work on your skill sets.
Through the development of strong skill sets – such as writing, critical thinking, and research skills – you are likely to find that your grades will reflect your hard work because these skills help you create high-quality discussion board postings and written assignments. 

All in all, it’s clear that grades are an accurate indicator of success as an online student because it is a representation of your performance and overall progress. To better succeed in your online class, you can improve your performance and get “good grades” through continued self-development.

By Dr. Bruce Johnson

Photo © Marnie Burkhart/Corbis 

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