Following the successful piloting of an enhanced workflow for the submission and marking of assignments over the summer term (2013-14) which was based on the integrated use of SITS eVision and the Yorkshare virtual learning environment, the workflow will now be made available to a wider set of departments. The E-Learning Development Team welcomes expressions of interest from any department wishing to make use of the workflow for the management of assignments over the next academic year. Expressions of interest should be directed to the ELDT, by completing the online expressions of interest form.
How does the anonymous file submission and marking workflow work?
The workflow draws on data integration between SITS eVision and the VLE’s anonymous file submission functionality to facilitate the management of online file submission and marking processes.
An assessment coordinator can create an anonymous file submission activity within the VLE, drawing on assessment data hosted in SITS eVision. The functionality enables an assessment activity to be set up in the VLE, with a customisable feedback template (in MS Word docx file format) created for that assessment. A feedback document based on this template will then be automatically generated for each individual student who is registered in SITS as taking the assessment. Key information can be automatically inserted into each feedback sheet, such as exam number, module descriptor and disability sticker.
Once students have submitted their assignments using the VLE’s anonymous file submission tool (NB file sizes are currently capped at 30 Mb per submission), their work and the feedback sheets with Exam ID identifier are associated and then handed off to markers.
Marks and grades are then recorded on a marker’s spreadsheet, and both the marks spreadsheet and feedback documents can then be batch uploaded by a departmental assessment coordinator into SITS, with the uploaded marks and feedback sheets then automatically associated against a student’s record. Once the departmental coordinator is ready to release the marks and feedback, they can be made available for students to view. Students will simply log into E:Vision to access their results and feedback.
Outcomes from the summer term (2013-14) pilots of the workflow
The workflow was successfully piloted by the Schools of Law and Management and by the Departments of History and Politics over the summer term (academic year 2013-14). The Politics pilot ran across a dozen modules and feedback sheets were also created for other assessments including dissertations, totalling up to 1600 records across the summer term. The other pilot departments applied the workflow to specific modules within a study programme.
There were a number of benefits to assignment management activities that departments identified in their feedback at the end of the pilot phase. The Management School noted that the batch upload facility enabled far swifter mark entry to SITS. For large cohorts (e.g. involving three hundred students) the workflow creates time savings which in turn have the potential to speed up the return of marks to students. Time savings were also reported by the Politics Department. Previously the administrative team took around two minutes to manually upload one student record to SITS eVision. One hundred feedback sheets would take about three hours to process through a manual upload procedure. It now takes a couple of minutes to complete this job through the automated upload. Similarly marks can be uploaded to eVision for the whole cohort in ten minutes. Politics has estimated a time saving of one week’s administrative effort (assuming one person doing everything) for 1600 assignments for the upload of marks and feedback to SITS. The time saving is indeed greater when taking into account the additional cross-checking for accuracy which the administrative team needed to do for all manual actions in the past. Now they are just responding to error reports.
For the Law School’s administrative team, the key time saving was in not having to stuff envelopes with feedback slips and hand them over at reception to students. The Law School’s First Year student representative has strongly endorsed this new approach –i.e. receiving feedback electronically and not having to come on campus to pick up feedback slips.
Lessons learned and enhancement requests
The pilots also highlighted areas for improvement in workflow management. One example related to data management. Some of the pilot departments spotted slight glitches in the integrity of the SITS data they were using – specifically relating to students who had withdrawn or transferred from the modules which were being assessed. The integrity of the data needs checking beforehand, before setting up the assessment and drawing down feedback sheets for individual students. This housekeeping is necessary to ensure that withdrawn students do not appear in the SITS record.
Another issue related to the precise timing of submissions to the VLE, with staff reporting a time delay between submission of a file to the VLE and the processing time before it is received and logged by the system. In response to this issue a database timestamp will be added to the receipt that a student automatically receives upon submitting their assignment, showing when the submission has actually been registered within the VLE. Students will be able to see the exact time the assignment was received and departmental assessment administrators will save time having to look up assignments and checking when they were received.
The University’s E-Assignment Steering Group, which has guided this workflow development, will be considering further requirements for online assignment provision and will be reporting back to University Teaching Committee on the progress made so far. It is anticipated that further enhancements to the workflow will be introduced over the next academic year (2014-15). If you have any comments or queries about the workflow, please do get in touch with a member of the E-Learning Development Team by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to discuss how your department could make use of the workflow over the next academic year, please complete the online expressions of interest form.
Dr Richard Walker
E-Learning Development Team Manager
12 August 2014