SmartSite's improved Gradebook enters pilot phase

SmartSite's improved Gradebook debuts as a pilot program this summer. This means two things:

  • Faculty will get a better software tool for grading--one that has equivalent functionality to the current Gradebook in the MyUCDavis course-management tools.
  • Faculty will have one academic year to migrate to SmartSite for their course instruction, because the MyUCDavis course management tools will be turned off for new courses starting in fall 2010. (Old course sites will remain available for viewing to faculty.)

The two events are linked. Installing an improved Gradebook--call it Gradebook 2--has been SmartSite's top priority since last year. But until the new Gradebook works at least as well as the version available in the MyUCDavis course tools, the campus won't begin the one-year countdown to retire the MyUCDavis tool.

In fact, SmartSite will replace all the MyUCDavis course tools, but Gradebook is the linchpin. So once Gradebook 2 is available to the entire campus starting this fall, the countdown to retire the entire set of MyUCDavis tools will begin. (The MyUCDavis Web portal will continue.)

"It now looks like [the retirement] will really happen, in fall 2010," said Kirk Alexander, SmartSite program manager. "MyUCDavis course tools won't be available" for new courses starting then, although MyUCDavis materials from previous quarters will remain accessible.

"We've been working hard on the quality of the project," said Sandra Stewart, SmartSite project manager. "The most important thing is for Gradebook to be accurate, as intuitive as possible, and to meet people's expectations."

SmartSite's quality assurance group continues to test Gradebook 2. It has also been tested at the Georgia Institute of Technology, "which gave us some really good feedback," Stewart said. Campus faculty focus groups tested Gradebook 2 on May 27 and June 3. Pilot users in summer sessions 1 and 2 will provide more commen ts. "That will give us all summer to work out any issues," Alexander said.

"Each time people give us feedback, we usually make changes," Stewart said. "That makes the software stronger for users downstream."

Alexander invites faculty interested in using Gradebook 2 to join the summer pilot. Contact him at, or send an email expressing interest to

SmartSite, which runs on Sakai open-source software, is the campus's preferred system for managing coursework or sharing projects online. Faculty, staff and students use SmartSite to teach, work, study, and do research. The system started as a pilot program in early 2006, and began general campus release in the fall of 2007.

Overall, more than 47,000 UC Davis students, staff and faculty have used SmartSite in some form in 2008-09, up 37 percent from the year before. As SmartSite grows, use of the MyUCDavis Gradebook tool by faculty has declined, from nearly 1,200 in winter quarter 2007 to 600 in winter 2009. Use of the SmartSite Gradebook has grown from negligible to nearly 400.

Gradebook 2 offers important improvements. It will let faculty assign different weights to different categories and items when deciding how they want to grade their students' work. Gradebook 2 also lets them apply extra credit. And the tool's "look and feel is much more modern," Stewart said, "a spreadsheet kind of look."

SmartSite was initially implemented on campus with a goal of replacing the more limited course tools available through MyUCDavis. Retiring the MyUCDavis tools will also save the campus maintenance costs.

Read more about SmartSite at