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.