E-marking show and tell: Experiences and evaluation

The recent “Show and Tell” session saw two presentations from academics with experiences of marking and providing feedback digitally on summative and formative work using very different workflows and toolsets.

Jane Lund, SPSW – Annotations on summative work in MS Word

E-Marking Jane Lund slides

Add comment feature in wordJane is learning and teaching manager on SPSW’s award winning distance learning Masters programmes. She has been annotating student work in MS word as a core component of feedback for 10 years and this approach is now being adopted by a growing number of academics with the recent uptake of the online anonymous assignment workflow for summative assessments. Jane provided us with some valuable insights into her processes that have been developed over many iterations, including how she provides feedback and the benefits of this approach. Jane was also particularly aware of the need to balance the benefits derived from producing high quality feedback with the potential increase in workload. As well as showing us the type of feedback she provides to students, she provided some practical feedback design guidelines for addressing this while ensuring that students receive targeted, clear and useful feedback.

Feedback provision Benefits Strategies
Word comments used to annotate scripts

Relevant criteria highlighted in matrix (attached by students as assignment coversheet)

Summary comments

Legible annotations

Meaningful annotations

Highlighting the matrix clarifies the mark

Simpler administration

Better quality feedback

Maximum number of comments

Don’t repeat the same comment throughout documents

Qualitative comments at the end of each section only

Alex Gillett, TYMS – online feedback on formative work through annotations, rubric and overview comments in VLE

Feedback through the VLE – Alex’s slides

Alex is module leader for a large 2nd year Management module where over 200 students work in groups to collaboratively develop business plans. A key milestone in this process is the production of a 10 page project proposal which is submitted as a group through the VLE. The 36 groups receive important formative feedback on this document about one week after submission allowing them to adjust their plans ahead of the subsequent summative submission. It is therefore important that the feedback they receive is not only useful but that the turn around time is as quick as possible.

While the University’s anonymous assignment workflow will support offline marking and feedback on submitted files, Alex was able to use a number of additional features offered by the VLE’s inbuilt assignment submission tool for formative submissions;

  • Use of “Smart Views” to allocate marking to different markers
  • Group submission option
  • Completely online marking and feedback options (no need to download / upload work)
  • Feedback provided through overview comments, inline annotations on a document and interactive rubrics
  • Immediate return of feedback to students through the VLE.
Feedback can be provided online through the VLE in a number of ways

Feedback can be provided online through the VLE in a number of ways

Three markers were able to access their marking on the VLE from remote locations and Alex commented that they all found the process straightforward. Markers could also benefit from being able to see each other’s feedback as it was created to help ensure consistency, though workload was once again an issue, particularly given the tight turnaround time. As feedback is provided through three different ways, Alex was particularly interested to understand where students saw particular value and whether the time take to provide this quality of feedback was worth the effort.

In a survey (n=42), students said they found it easy to receive feedback through the VLE and expressed a preference for this form of feedback return over paper (61% preferred VLE, 24% preferred paper), with many students highlighting ease of access by all group members as a positive aspect in open comments. Inline comments were highlighted as being the most useful form of feedback that they received (compared with overview comments and a rubric) and students reinforced this in open comments with calls for specific and detailed feedback. It should be noted that due to a set up error, students did not receive the specific feedback provided to them through the rubric tool until after this survey was conducted, perhaps explaining the lower levels of enthusiasm for this approach.

Survey responses to preferred method of feedback

Support for “e-marking”

The E-Learning Development Team are keen to work with individuals and departments to provide bespoke consultation and training to support all stages of online assessment submission workflows for formative and summative submissions. Resources and guides include:

Staff guide: Marking Word Documents and PDF files on screen

Staff guide: Non anonymous assignment submission and feedback

Admin guide: Anonymous assignment submission and feedback return (note: this guide primarily addresses the administration and management of anonymous assignments and so may not be suitable for markers)

BlackBoard guide: Assignments in the VLE

BB Grader app: Mark assignments on iPad, includes options for audio and video feedback

Student guide: Accessing feedback through the VLE

As the adoption of online submission increases, the E-Learning Development Team is working to understand more about the experiences of markers within this process and how they can best be supported. We are undertaking research into this area which will feed into the ongoing development of formative and summative assignment systems and may also inform central and departmental guidelines.

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