%-based vs 0-based Grading

Delphinium supports two major approaches to course grading:

You are probably more familiar with %-based grading because it is frequently used in traditional course designs. If you are not as familiar with 0-based grading it is OK. On this page we will introduce the concepts of 0-based grading and compare them with %-based grading. We will also describe the pros and cons of each and when you might choose one over the other.

Note: It is important to recognize that both grading styles will result in the EXACT same final grade. They only differ in how they keep score during the semester. This point is illustrated in the table to the left.

%-based Grading

This chart of sample %-based grading progress displays the same data as the 0-based chart below. Notice the negative trend of the line? Earlier assignments have huge impacts on the grade while later assignments often have little impact. It is difficult to make a direct connection between assignment scores and the final grade.

Courses that use %-based grading start every student at 100% (e.g., an “A”). Each time a student submits an assignment, their % score is adjusted. Their current grade is calculated as a weighted average of all of the assignments they have submitted divided by the points possible for those assignments. For example, if a student started with 100%, then earned 50 points on a 100 point assignment, their new grade would be 50%. If they then earned 100 points on the next 100 point assignment, their new grade would be 75%. This is how most courses calculate the current grade.

The biggest pro for %-based grading is that it is familiar to students and teachers. The biggest con for %-based grading is that it obfuscates how a student's work on the most recent assignment impacts the final grade. More pros and cons are described below.

The Pros of %-based Grading Include:

The Cons of %-based Grading Include:

0-based grading

This chart of sample 0-based grading progress displays the same data as the %-based chart above. Notice the positive trend of the line? Students can clearly see how their work impacts their grade.

Courses that use 0-based grading start every student with 0 points. Each time a student earns points, their point balance increases. Their current grade is calculated on a scale from 0 to max points, with grade levels assigned to various point levels. For example, in a class with max points of 1000, a D- might be 600 points, and an A might be 940 points. As students earn points, they keep a running total, starting with 0, and they progress upwards through the grade levels.

Note: Delphinium provides a default 0-based grading scale, or, if you prefer, Delphinium will use the grading scheme you configure in Canvas and the "Total Points" value  from Delphinium's course settings to generate a custom grading scale for your class. 0-based grading scales are displayed as tool tips to teachers and students in the Delphinium gradebook and on some components like Current Grade. See Related Links below for details.

The biggest pro for 0-based grading is its clarity at communicating progress and the current status in the course, the biggest con is the discomfort students may feel starting the class with a failing grade. More pros and cons are described below.

The Pros of 0-based Grading Include:

The Cons of 0-based Grading Include:

When You Might Prefer 0-based Grading

In general, 0-based grading, though new to many teachers and students, is preferable to %-based grading in many courses. The main advantage of 0-based grading is to make class progress transparent. This will help to engage and motivate students to perform better in the class. 0-based grading works well for the following:

Combine the Stats Component with 0-based Grading

When you use 0-based grading in a course, you can overcome many of the cons by also using the "Stats" component in your course. The "Stats" component displays the "% of points earned out of points possible attempted". This value is computed similarly to how a grade is computed in %-based grading courses. Including the "Stats" component answers the question "How would I be doing if this were a traditionally graded course?"

Related Links