Digital Rubrics

One of the most widely used assessment tools used by teachers today is the rubric. For my non-education followers a rubric is a way of assessing student work.  It is laid out in a grid format.  One axis has assessment criteria. The other axis has measurements of performance.  The theory behind the rubric is that students have the rubric ahead of time so they can strive for the highest level of proficiency for each criterion.

In our recent upgrade to Version 9 of D2L (Desire2Learn (our Learning Management System)) the Rubric application was reworked and became easier to use.  In a previous blog entry I mentioned that I had never had such high student achievement and that it was due to some different assessment methods.  Digital Rubrics were one of these tools.

Using the application was a 3-step process.

1)   Rubric Creation – I needed to ‘invent a wheel’.  In my Information Processing class we were working in Stick Pivot (animation software). I had given the assignment the year before, but my assessment was more of a checklist and not a rubric. Not only did I need to create the rubric; I needed to create it digitally in D2L using the application.

Below is a partial screen shot of the rubric that I created. Click on the image for a larger view.

2)   Rubric Dissemination – Once the rubric was created it was created I posted it in two areas of D2L:  ‘Rubrics’, and ‘Course Content’ (for a printer friendly version). I used course time to go through the rubric along side exemplars of student work.

3)   Assessment-Feedback-Reassessment.

  1. Assessment – The digital rubric allowed me to assign different point values within the rubric (not every criteria were weighted with the same point value).  For example, in the rubric above Story Line and Flow are assigned higher point values than Creativity.  To give the students a summative assessment on their project, all I had to do was click on the appropriate box in the rubric and D2L did the calculations.
  2. Feedback – The rubric was attached to the dropbox where the students uploaded their assignment.  An icon indicating feedback displayed when the student went back into the class.  They saw a rubric highlighted at the levels they achieved.  There is also a comment box where I gave students additional feedback.
  3. Reassessment – Students had the opportunity to go back and redo the assignment, improving upon any criteria where they may have been deficient from the maximum.   Steps 2 and 3 were cyclic until the student was satisfied with their grade.

So why bother with the extra time in creating a digital rubric rather than using traditional hard copies?

I)              Digital rubrics are ever-present. They are only just a few clicks away. A student can have the rubric in an open window while working on the assignment.  They cannot lose the rubric.  The 21st century learner lends himself or herself to the digital environment, therefore a digital rubric will be more appealing to most.  Digital Rubrics are accessible by parents and let them play a more active role in their child’s learning.

II)            Digital rubrics are living documents. The very nature of digital media is fluidity and adaptability.  Digital rubrics make it easier for teachers to make changes and allow the rubric to evolve.

III)          Digital rubrics save time at the back-end.  A digital rubric will take longer to generate than a traditional print rubric. However, once it is made, the rubric can be copied and pushed down into other courses and shared amongst teachers.  Future editing of the rubric is simple. Since digital rubrics are often created and tied to a LMS grading becomes ‘click and calculate’ friendly. Time can be redistributed back to students.

Dr. Celina Byers from Bloomberg University of Pennsylvania says this about web-based rubrics.

“The objective is to provide not just a grade but authentic evaluation, which means delivering feedback that students can and will utilize to improve their performance. Using a Web-based rubric application is making that objective more attainable…….This movement from paper to digital rubric building and rubric use is proving to be a time-saver for me and, more importantly, a clearer and more useful method for the students to use evaluation feedback to improve their performance.”


Byers, C. (2008, November). Using Digital Rubrics to Enhance Practical Learning. Retrieved July 18, 2011 from


4 thoughts on “Digital Rubrics

  1. Nice to see how you’ve applied the D2L rubric tool! I’m a fan of using rubrics too, and I can see the advantages of using the online versions here. Is the D2L version of rubrics available for export, so you can share them with people who aren’t D2L users and even yourself for contexts that don’t use the LMS? It’s a gripe I have with BlackBoard, and I wonder if it is a problem with other LMS too?

    I was also wondering how you finesse the numbering system–something I’ve struggle with in rubrics I’ve used. I try to define tight assessment cells, but somehow I always struggle with the projects that seem to fall in-between two criteria. I guess that’s where the comments section comes in.

  2. I have not used the rubric tool yet, but plan on it. Will it be possible to use the Jr. High Work Habits Rubric in D2L effectively so that there are no surprises on the report card? In this rubric, numeric scores are not attached to it, and I don’t want to use it as a mark in the gradebook, I just want to use it more for a communication tool to the students and parents.

  3. Today I wrote a blog on grades and assessment. i added your blog as a link to mine. I hope you don’t mind.

    Awesome stuff! I liked Richard’s comments about adding a link so I could be able to access and use this. If you read my blog, you will see our new reporting system has a built in gradebook and I am not sure if this technology will be available on it. 😦

    It seems our school division spends so much time testing products that buy the time it gets to the end user, it is outdated. Think Jim Balsillie versus Apple.

    I am interested what you think about my blog posts relating to teacher created rubrics versus government mandated ones. (if there ever comes a day on that) And I’m not saying that is necessarily a good thing.

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