Rubrics to Create Valuable Learning Experiences

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FIU Online’s monthly Insider Instructor Webinar series explores relevant instructional strategies and effective ways to use technology in an online classroom. One of the latest webinars in the series,“Rubrics that Rock”, provides faculty with the resources to develop impactful rubrics. Overall, the best rubrics are objective, transparent, and equally serve everyone in the online classroom.

Instant Replay: Rubrics that Rock 

Dr. Amber Webber, an FIU Online Instructional Design Manager, presented invaluable content on how to create and apply rubrics to equalize and expedite the grading process. So, if you missed this webinar, you can view the recording or read some of the key takeaways below.

How Rubrics & Rock Music are Related

In their 1982 tour, the rock band Van Halen demonstrated the importance of clarity to achieve quality in performance preparation. So, the request for “No Brown M&M’s” in their list of backstage munchies for arena performances proved shocking. However, rumors of pickiness and spoiled rock stars grew but the reasoning behind the request was more valid than it first appeared.

In addition, large arena shows were not commonplace at this time in rock and roll history, and as frontrunners, Van Halen was often in predicaments that led to dangerous situations. Consequently, power surges, inadequate door sizes, and badly built stages collapsing were just a few of the problems resulting from promoters’ inattention to detail.

Quote from Flower Darby about Rubrics: "Rubrics are complex assignment tools: used appropriately, they can save you a significant amount of grading time while still providing rich, robust feedback to your students. Invest the time to research and design your rubrics - you'll be able to use them for several semesters to come."
Quote from Flower Darby about Rubrics: “Rubrics are complex assignment tools: used appropriately, they can save you a significant amount of grading time while still providing rich, robust feedback to your students. Invest the time to research and design your rubrics – you’ll be able to use them for several semesters to come.”

Essentially, the M&Ms requirement was used as an easy way for the band to see if venues paid attention to the band’s fine details. Subsequently, if brown M&Ms were excluded, then stage managers certainly made sure that important technical details were in place. Overall, the strategy was a truly signature music performance “rubric.”

Getting Down to the Purpose of Rubrics

Much like the “No Brown M&M’s” request, a rubric is a scoring tool that creates a shared understanding of quality and expectation. Rubrics are powerful value indicators that serve as a contract and include all the details that a learner should demonstrate in their performances. Rubrics apply to any level of learning. Consequently, while lower-level rubrics may be more definitive with particular evaluation criteria, higher-level assessment rubrics can be less concrete and more open-ended to serve the needs of the learner.

Moreover, rubrics allow the instructor to not only teach effectively online but efficiently grade by setting and defining criteria that are fair and clear. Above all, quality Rubrics help both instructor and student share a unified and transparent understanding of evaluation processes. 

To illustrate, the rubric helps the instructor to:

  • Communicate expectations of learner performance.
  • Create an equal evaluation process.
  • Connect learning objectives to outcomes.
  • Expedite grading time and ease feedback.
  • Develop different rubrics for various performance levels and varying subject matter.
  • Exemplify objectivity within assessments.
  • Express freedom to use rubrics in combination with grading. 

To illustrate, the rubric helps the learner to:

  • Understand the expectations of their performance.
  • Accept responsibility for their work.
  • Organize goals and priorities for each learning assessment.
  • Limit their uncertainty and uneasiness with grades.
  • Develop confidence in the feedback process.
  • Experience equality, fairness, and objective evaluations.
  • Explore the paths toward improvement.

Subsequently, defining the importance and value of rubrics to the learning and assessment processes, Dr. Webber presented “How To” on rubrics in Canvas courses. The unique development of rubrics is to the advantage of both the instructor and student to engage in an objective, coherent, and consistent evaluation process. Remember, there is no one way to develop the details of a rubric.

How To Develop Rubrics

First, go into the Canvas Course and create the rubrics from the Rubric navigation, specific assignment, or discussion.

A screenshot of the Canvas course room showing where to access course rubrics. Rubrics can be accessed several ways including the left side navigation panel, an assignment rubric button, and/or add a rubric from the vertical ellipsis in a discussion.

Second, create a rubric by typing a title (to stay organized), inputting the criteria of the assessment (to establish specific categories of evaluation), correlating the points and priorities through ratings (to provide value to the criteria being assessed), and finally writing the performance descriptions (to give context and depth to the specific criteria).

A screenshot of a Canvas sample rubric with an example of the criteria, points and priorities, as well as the performance descriptions.

Examples of Rubric Components

Criteria: Introduction
Rating: Excellent
Points & Priorities: 10-8 points out of 10 points total for the Introduction Criteria. These points are prioritized in this way because they are not as much of a priority as the Evaluation of the Course Sources.
Performance Description: Provides a clear and compelling introduction to the paper, effectively setting the tone for the work.

Lastly, apply the rubrics to the assessments and evaluate the learners via the “Speedgrader” or “View Rubric” in each assessment. Evaluate the learners and save.

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Future Faculty Webinars

Keep a lookout for FIU Online’s future webinars on instructional strategies and effective ways to use technology in your online classroom. If you have any ideas for future webinar topics, we’d love to hear them. Contact Christina Schettini ( to share your ideas for future webinar topics.

If you enjoyed reading this explore our most recent Insider articles.

Kristen Andersen, Ed. D is a 17-year contributor to higher education in teaching, administration, and instructional design; she was an Instructional Design Consultant with FIU during 2020-2021. Dr. Andersen is a skilled educator and instructional designer dedicated to sharing and developing an integrative, experiential, 21st-century curriculum. She understands that being an effective educator requires the ability to help students connect knowledge to their lives through self-reflection and positive communication. Dr. Andersen writes and edits research articles, designs higher education curriculum and coursework, creates instructional resources, and gives talks and presentations about a variety of educational and creative topics.

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