Marking student work eletronically, where is the product we want?

We have been using Turnitin for students to submit work since 2004. However, they still submit a paper copy and we still use a pen to mark it. Increasingly this is becoming frustrating futile. Students complain about the printing costs we’ve shifted to them, they have to find places to hand in work and get a receipt during office hours despite having handed in an electronic copy of their work at their convenience. Staff spend wasted hours providing useful feedback that we are never sure that students read (see the large piles of uncollected work we have sitting around). There must be a better way.

Given my long experience with Turnitin, I’ve dabbled in the previous version of Grademark which is the online marking system bundled with the plagiarism detection system. We dismissed it previously because it provided no bulk download facility for us to keep copies of marked work and the version that students could download offline was far inferior to the online version.

There have been lots of discussions floating around the university about electronic marking, so Jon Scott and I tried hard to think about using the system and spent an hour having a good play with it. Jon and I both mark electronically for the Open University as associate lecturers so we know the advantages and are happy to mark on-screen. However, after our playtime, we still have some major stumbling blocks to surmount with Grademark.

1. Lack of alignment of feedback and grades. One the benefits of grademark is that marks and feedback are released to students on a particular date, negating the need to return work manually to students. The major downside is that the grade is the first thing that they see, before they get to the feedback, if we use Grademark it will also push grades through the grade centre in Blackboard and students can see these in ‘my grades’. I know Alan Cann (@ajcann)agrees that this is misalignment of feedback and grade and is not helpful and does not encourage feedback to be read by the widest possible audience.

2. Difficulty in finding the feedback. If students access the feedback through their Turnitin Inbox in Blackboard, the route is even more tortuous. More clicks to get at your feedback than you can shake a stick at…(shown in video – no sound)

3. Integration with Dragon Dictate. Jon uses dragon dictate to insert coloured text into student essays when marking online. Pretty neat and it saves him time and RSI. We did manage to add text to one comment using dragon but then it failed after that. Not all staff will want to mark this way, but it would be nice if those that did could have the option.

4. Offline marking. I know that this is under development, but without it many staff will feel too tied to an online environment for widespread adoption.

I wondered if other users of grademark have already sorted these issues – please let me know if you have!

Other options for electronic marking:

As we use Blackboard (v 9.0) another option may be for us to use the Sheffield Hallam assignment handler [links to PDF]. This seems to offer what we want, and seems very similar in functionality to the Open University Assignment handling system. Staff can bulk download the submitted work from students, annotate an excel spreadsheet with feedback and grades and bulk return annotated files back to students. There is a very useful knowledge base on using the system available publicly. It looks like it has recently been updated too. This is a feature that is available via Blackboard if we want it, perhaps it would be worth investigating?

There seem to be lots of solutions out there for electronic marking but most seem to fall short of the relatively simple tools we need.


9 thoughts on “Marking student work eletronically, where is the product we want?”

  1. I’ve been thinking about electronic submission myself in the last few months. the snow at the end of last year really disrupted the physical submission of essays from our students, many of whom live a way away.

    One ‘win’ for me would be for the process to be more portable than the current massive pile of paper essays. How would any of the above solutions work with Kindle for example?

  2. I use the “assignment” tool in blackboard, linked to the grade centre. There is a similar issue, that when students select “my grades” they have to click on the grade itself before they can see the feedback document. It would be much better to have it at least on the same screen (without additional clicking).

    I also have a problem that instructors are not able to view Blackboard as if they are a student, so we often don’t know what the students see. This makes it difficult to answer student queries. One of my students simply couldn’t find the feedback file – so I ended up resorting to sending them an email with it attached.

    However, despite these issues, I much prefer electronic submission.

    1. Hi Lucy. You can add individual feedback that appears next to the grade – as you can see on the screenshot. Not much space there though 😦

  3. Need a win win situation! assignment handler I gather is not tied in with a plagirism checker? Suggestions to TT Grademark to be able to toggle grade views for students??

  4. Indeed! No plagiarism checker, yes, that’s another downside of not using grademark. There is a work around for turning off ‘marks’ vs ‘feedback’ apparently.

  5. I’m also in search of a good electronic submission system. I find not only that I’m spending eons marking papers my students can’t or don’t bother to read, but that I’m also spending eons shuffling and organizing papers or searching through email. I want to streamline.
    I’d like a tool that handles submission, marking, and returning papers with an easy bulk export feature (for backup and in case my access to the software is limited in the future, for example if I change universities or my university changes platforms) and clickable most-common comments. It’d be particularly useful if it did work on an e-reader.
    There’s hundreds of thousands of teachers out there–no, wait a sec, I just looked it up: there are around 59 million teachers out there (UNESCO, 1997); isn’t someone willing to invest in providing us with good tools?

  6. Maybe give Moodle a try? I’ve been using it’s submission and marking system for many years, and I am very pleased with the possibilities. They can submit one or more files, they can be made to write text online, or I can set up an offline grading item. I can do a quickgrade, that is, go down the lecture notes and just give a point to everyone who submits (oh, and I spot check to make sure they haven’t submitted a rhubarb recipe!).

    The new version lets me download a zip file with all the submissions for one exercise.

    Moodle is made by teachers for teachers, you can upload files for the students, chat with them, use a forum, give them quizzes – and if you have to use Turnitin, there is a turnitin module. I’m surpraised people pay so much money for Blackboard. Moodle is open source! (oh, and it speaks all sorts of languages). I’m very happy with it!

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