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Power Platform Tips & Tricks | Standardizing University Grading Practices

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

The Microsoft Power Platform and its complex business applications (Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents) are used to tackle everyday challenges for a variety of organizations. Universities are no exception as they depend on business intelligence and automation to keep their operations streamlined. Power Platform can improve numerous processes, and that includes transforming and adding accountability to the university grading process. A University recently reached out to us looking for a solution to streamline and standardize their grading process. They experienced challenges in tracking how long their many instructors/graders spent grading in Canvas by Instructure. First, they tried connecting a Google Doc Spreadsheet to Canvas via API to pull in grading data. This provided a temporary solution but it was not scalable. Today we will walk through how we helped this University create a scalable grading solution that utilizes:

  • Microsoft Power Platform

  • Power Automate

  • Power Apps – Both Model-Driven and Canvas Apps

  • Power BI

  • Dataverse

  • GraphQL

Step 1: Pull in data from Canvas using Power Automate

First, we used a custom-built connector that utilized GraphQL in Power Automate to pull in data from Canvas. This Flow runs every five minutes to check for new submissions. If new submissions exist, then it pulls that data into the Dataverse.

Step 2: Create Model-Driven and Canvas Power Apps

Once the data was in the Dataverse we created two tools – one for admins, and one for graders:

1. For admins, we created a Model-Driven app that allows them to view all the submissions along with the associated courses, sections, and graders. When admins use this app they can clean up any bad data, edit courses and graders. We also embedded a Power BI report within the Model Driven app that shows all the analytic data related to grading (i.e., average duration, average score, and count of submissions) in the various grading stages.

2. For graders, we created a Canvas App that shows the grader all the submissions for the sections for which they’re assigned. The grader just needs to move down the list of submissions and click the Grade button.

Pressing the Grade button launches the submission in Canvas where it can be graded. Once graded, we have a Flow that checks for updated submissions. If there are updates, Flow pulls the relevant data into Dataverse and updates the correct records. We can then calculate how long it takes a grader to grade a submission.

The Canvas App also has an embedded Power BI tile that gives the grader up-to-date information on assignments that are ungraded, in progress or completed.

Things to Consider…

Canvas Apps provide a personalized user experience while surfacing only the data that’s needed. However, processing large amounts of data and calculations can bog down the system leading to performance issues. To keep your Canvas Apps at top performance, we advise moving as much processing off to other sources as possible. For this, we recommend Power BI to calculate the totals by grading status. You can also use Views created in the Dataverse to filter our data to the correct list, then surface those views in the Canvas App.

Licensing costs are another consideration. For the solution we described today, each app user needed, at a minimum, a Per-App License at $10 per month, and a Power BI Pro License for an additional $10 per month. Fortunately, most universities are entitled to special licensing rates. This University was able to get licenses for a significantly lower price. However, be aware that licensing costs can easily add up.

The Power Platform presents great potential as a robust and scalable solution for any company and organization. If you need further guidance in finding a solution for all your complex business intelligence and automation needs, JourneyTEAM can help you on the road to perfecting your process.

For questions regarding the Power Platform, contact a JourneyTEAM specialist today.

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