Microsoft Excel: Reviewed by Kim Jablonski

Overview of Benefits: Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program that allows you to record data, manipulate data and display data using charts and graphs. In a teaching situation, it is a program that one could use to keep a basic gradebook as well as track and share student progress in the course or on specific assignments. The benefit to Excel is that it is easy to use once you have an understanding of the basic mathematical principles behind calculating formulas for a grade and formatting a worksheet. Once a spreadsheet is set up, you could reuse the template for multiple students or as a gradebook from term to term or for different course sections.

Weaknesses: One weakness of Excel is that it is an installed software program that could only be used on computers with that program. Another challenge is that it is also a self-built grading program, so instructors need to spend time to enter formulas to calculate average grades, weighted grades (if applicable) and any graphs or charts. If an instructor wants a point and click program with a bevy of reporting options easily available, this is not the tool. Other paid grading softwares like Teacherease or Micrograde would be able to more easily calculate grades straight from opening, but often don’t allow the flexibility to customize aspects or formatting. While Excel is the most popular spreadsheet program that is used, there are other spreadsheet options available that would work similarly well. Google Spreadsheets is extremely similar and is saved in the cloud, which would allow online instructors easier access to gradebooks from all locations and gives the option for easier sharing of information.
Application: This tool could without doubt be used by instructors in two ways. An instructor could use this tool to easily track overall grades for students. Excel could also be used to keep individual progress reports for students for portfolio work or discussion evaluations, where comments are essential to improvement. Each week, the instructor could then update the spreadsheet for a student and e-mail the spreadsheet or make it available some other way depending on whether or not a CMS is being used. In an ideal situation, if a school or university was using a Google platform (otherwise using an outside account would be a violation of FERPA), a spreadsheet could be shared with each student at the beginning of the term and then updated throughout with no need to send “x” number of e-mails each week.
Learning Objective: From a student perspective, having access to updated grade and progress information would be essential for improvement over the span of the course, a likely learning objective. Given feedback, all students will actively improve their performance on discussions or portfolio work throughout the course and achieve mastery of concepts by utilizing feedback at least once a week.