After a semester with Infinite Campus, the grade portal that replaced Illuminate Education, teachers and students alike are finally adjusting to the change. While Infinite Campus is a viable platform, the change has required teachers to climb a steep learning curve in an already difficult year.
Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) transition to Infinite Campus was not by choice. Illuminate Education discontinued its Illuminate Student Information (ISI) product at the end of the 2020-21 school year and now focuses on their Data and Assessment product (DnA). BUSD still uses Illuminate for some assessments and data storage.
After Illuminate announced in 2019 that it would discontinue ISI, BUSD reviewed three other student information systems: Synergy, Aeries, and Infinite Campus. A group of more than 60 BUSD staff recommended the purchase of Infinite Campus after hearing presentations on each system. Infinite Campus cost BUSD $101,154 for the 2021-22 school year.
Teachers attended an all-staff meeting before the start of school to learn the basics of the system. BHS also offered an optional, more in-depth training.
“[We were taught] the basics of how to set up attendance, and how to record [grades], just so we could survive the first week,” said Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) English teacher Diane Kung. “I had to figure out the gradebook more or less on my own [and] with other colleagues, partly because I was doing standards-based grading and there was no explicit training on standards-based grading.”
Adapting to Infinite Campus proved difficult for teachers at the beginning of the school year. Kung said that there were some complaints from teachers, especially because they were in the middle of a major transition from virtual learning to in-person learning.
“I think it created so much more stress on teachers,” said Kung. “It was just really inconvenient.”
A major issue, according to Advanced Placement (AP) Biology teacher Glenn Wolkenfeld, was that until the end of November, Infinite Campus did not show percentage grades. This was not a problem with Infinite Campus, but with how BUSD configured the gradebook.
“I thought that was a major equity issue,” said Wolkenfeld. “How would you know if you’re getting a high C or a low C, or whether moving up one entire letter grade, which is all that matters in the BHS system, [is] within reach?”
According to various teachers, several other design features made Infinite Campus hard to learn and use. These included not automatically saving changes, not transferring scores from tests scanned on Illuminate, and not importing grade spreadsheet files. Kung said Infinite Campus has too many icons, buttons, and windows, which makes navigating the website difficult.
Overall, Infinite Campus could be improved by “a more intuitive user interface,” according to Matt Albinson, a Berkeley International High School (BIHS) computer science teacher.
However, there are some aspects of Infinite Campus that teachers found to be an improvement from Illuminate.
Ashley Daly, a Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) math teacher, said that she appreciates the option of setting up a standards-based gradebook on Infinite Campus.
“Infinite Campus does seem to make standards-based grading a little easier, which is something I am trying this year along with several other teachers across communities in an effort to make our grading practices more equitable,” Daly wrote in an email to the Jacket.
Wolkenfeld said that while adapting to changes in technology can be difficult, it is a necessary part of teaching in a technology-dominated educational system.
“When you have to make a switch … it always takes up a bit of time and there’s always a learning curve,” Wolkenfeld said. He continued, “When teachers are involved in things like that, that’s time they can’t devote to their students or to designing lessons. But technological change is now part of the educational landscape.”