Author: Andy Wakefield
School/ Centre: School of Biological Sciences
Provision of timely, detailed feedback is important for student learning (1), yet can be challenging to achieve in practice. Technology may hold the solution, say Dr Andy Wakefield.
The tech bit
Implementation of electronic management of assessment (EMA), has enormous potential for transforming teaching and learning (2,3). One widely used online tool is Turnitin, equipped with an originality-checker but also an e-marking function called GradeMark. This allows markers to annotate and grade student work digitally without the need to download or print work; no more stacks of paperwork on your desk and fewer trees being felled.
Here I summarize my findings from a GradeMark trial within the School of Biological Sciences (SoBS), in which I asked:
- Does using GradeMark allow for more efficient use of staff time?
- How does using GradeMark support student learning?
I conducted the trial on a third-year unit which consisted of four modules, each assessed via a 500-word report. I provided students with instructions for the e-submission process and teachers with guidance on how to access reports and use key tools within GradeMark. Student (n=19) and staff (n=3) opinions were gathered via end-of-unit feedback questionnaires.
In general, both students and academics had positive views of GradeMark. Students:
- found the digital workflow easy to use;
- appreciated how easy it was to obtain/access their feedback;
- liked the specific nature of their feedback;
- liked the breakdown of marks offered by the rubric system;
- liked the improved clarity of digital feedback.
Staff found GradeMark easy to use and believed that they provided the same amount of feedback for students in the same (n=1) or less (n=2) time, relative to marking paper-scripts. When asked about future use, all three agreed they would “definitely like to continue to use online marking”.
From my study I found that e-marking can allow for more efficient use of staff time. It can also support student learning by allowing easy access to clear, timely, individualised, assessment feedback. These findings echo those published in the literature (4,5). One of the strengths of GradeMark is the QuickMark comment function, which allows for saved comments to be quickly reused. This function doesn’t currently exist within the Blackboard e-marking toolkit, which is the standard for EMA at UOB.
Other benefits to e-marking include: increased privacy of marks and feedback; and a greater likelihood that students will revisit feedback due to ease of access (3). However, focusing all our attention on the quality and quantity of our written comments may not fully address current student dissatisfaction with feedback. Large cohorts limit time available for student-teacher communication that was once integral to the feedback process (6). But don’t worry, technology provides us with multiple ways to switch from monologue back to dialogue. Why not try mediating discussion boards and blogs within Blackboard, or investigate adaptive release functionality to prevent release of student marks until they have reflected on their feedback? Engagement with EMA offers professional development benefits to staff and is claimed to be “essential for reasons of both pedagogy and efficiency” (2).
- Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which Assessment supports Student Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-31
- Ambler, T., Breyer, Y., & Young, S. (2014) Piloting online submission and online assessment with Grademark. In S. Kennedy-Clark, K. Everett & P. Wheeler (Eds.), Cases on the assessment of scenario and game-based virtual worlds in higher education (pp. 125-151). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
- Ferrel, G. & Gray, L. (2016) Electronic management of assessment. Using technology to support the assessment life cycle, from the electronic submission of assignments to marking and feedback. Jisc guide. Available at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/electronic-assessment-management [Accessed 16/05/2017].
- Chew, E. & Price, T. (2010) Online originality checking and online assessment – an extension of academics or disruption for academics. In S. L. Wong, S.C. Kong & F.-Y. Yun (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computers in Education (pp. 683-687). Putrajaya, Malaysia: Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education.
- Buckley, E. & Cowap, L. (2013) An evaluation of the use of Turnitin for electronic submission and marking and as a formative feedback tool from an educator’s perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44 (4), 562-579.
- Nicol, D. (2010) From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (5), 501-517.
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