Here we tell you what the grading programs are and how to find them.
What's a grading program?
If you're not using the DCS grading programs, here's a brief discussion about why you might consider them.
You're a course instructor. (If you're a TA, take a look at A fast introduction for TAs.) A grading program should help you carry out marking-related activities: recording, calculating, publicizing (to the students), and reporting (to some university authority) the marks earned by the students. A secondary goal is to provide a tool to help teaching assistants, who mostly need to record marks but often have very little time to figure out the tool.
You could use a spreadsheet, probably Excel, to perform all these tasks. In fact, Excel has decades of careful development behind it, and presents a sophisticated user interface and all kinds of built-in features that no back-garden tool like our grading programs can offer.
We do, however, provide some features that can be helpful:
- A file format that can be read and edited with any text editor (vi, emacs, Notepad, TextEdit, TextMate, ...).
- "Mark definitions" (for the entire class) kept separately from "mark values" (for each student). This makes it easier to keep your calculations clearly in line with the grading scheme you announced to your class.
- Per-student adjustable calculations for special cases such as illness.
- Display formats (as text files) that deans, office staff and students can all read.
- Built-in functions for formulas that make it difficult to break the rules about allowable calculations. You can still misbehave, but you get the idea you shouldn't.
It's not too hard to switch from Excel to the grading programs if you like. And it's not too hard to switch back to Excel if you decide to. Consult Working with Excel for advice on making those conversions.
A quick start
As you can see, you need to learn about:
- the file format
- the programs that help you work with the files
This web site has a page about the file format, and two more for the two kinds of programs available: the programs that work from the command line, and one GUI-based program that should help with entering marks.
The file format is described at some length, but the basics are simple and you should start with that. Similarly, there are a whole lot of command-line programs, but if you read about gpr and gen you'll be well on your way.
The rules we must follow
The University of Toronto has a Grading Practices Policy that sets rules about how we must grade students. These rules are standard for the whole university, but each faculty (such as the Faculty of Arts and Science, or the University of Toronto at Scarborough) may add its own specifics.
The Grading Practices Policy is here:
In addition, each faculty discusses its own approach in its calendar or web site.
The essential idea is that course must have a "marking scheme" that specifies which marks a student will receive and what weight each mark has in the overall grading scheme of the course. In line with this requirement, the grading programs work everywhere with the idea of a maximum mark for a piece of work and — not the same! — the weight of the piece of work in a student's overall grade for the course.
Be warned, however: the grading programs do their best to make it easy for you to remember and obey the Grading Practices Policy, but there isn't a guarantee that all marking schemes accepted by the grading programs are allowed by the Grading Practices Policy. You do need to pay attention, and the Undergraduate Office (or equivalent on your campus) will surely be glad to help.
The DCS grading programs are available on the CS Lab "apps" machines in the directory
and on CDF in the directory
You will probably want to add the appropriate directory to your search path, so as to avoid tedious typing.
You can also install the programs on your own machine. For instructions, see the section "Installing the programs".