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Electronic Marking

There is a meeting scheduled for the end of June between Management and UCU to discuss a policy for electronic marking. So that we are better able to represent your needs please let us know your feelings about electronic marking by leaving a comment against this article. Click on more to find out how to leave comments

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Steve

Branch Secretary

21 Comments

  1. cyril cofie says:

    after carefully reading the comments from people who have had experiences with e-marking 2 things run through.1 it could be useful and 2 .resources should adequately be available to ensure smooth usage.
    a new product always has its limitations. it must be fine tuned with time , research and feedback consideration. i am yet to see any institution using this e-assessment module in africa.

  2. Anna says:

    Cautiously in favour of e-marking because of the quality of feedback to students and the administrative ease.

    Major drawbacks include being tied to a screen; slow and cumbersome IT access; and the difficulty of reading essays on a screen where scrollling up and down is so slow. We need better (bigger) screens and more reliable (and faster) IT infrastructure.

    On balance, I am opposed to any extension of e-marking to new modules or new staff unless the IT problems are sorted out. The benefits to staff have been oversold and in practice it is slower than marking on paper.

  3. Don Filtzer says:

    I have read the comments with interest and was somewhat surprised to see so much support for electronic marking, since the small number of colleagues whom I’ve canvassed all hate it.

    My own position is very clear. I have been at UEL 22 years and take a lot of time marking students’ work. I type extremely fast, and so have always typed out detailed comments for my students — and students have reciprocated by singling this out for comment in their module questionnaires. So I am a big fan of giving students thorough feedback. Where I have a serious problem is reading essays on screen. I can read on screen only at a fraction of the speed that I can read something printed on paper. I also find it hard to concentrate on what I’m reading and to follow the thread of the argument and ideas. My ability to give students good feedback obviously depends on my ability to concentrate on what they are writing — which is no easy task, given the poor writing skills of many of our students. If I cannot concentrate fully on what is in front of me, I cannot give the depth of feedback that I have done in the past and which I believe students need and deserve.

    I therefore think that we should have a choice. Those staff who want to mark electronically should be free to do so. Those of us who do not like the system and are likely to find it a step backward even if all the IT problems are ironed out (which, trust me, they will not be any time soon) should have the option to choose paper submission. I think this is particularly important for those of us who teach narrative-based topics like history, literature, or politics, where students hand in long, discursive, research-based essays.

    Otherwise I know what will happen. If I have a module with 40 or 50 students on it, each handing in a 3,000-word essay, if I have to read them on screen I will have to skim them instead of reading them, and I will provide only perfunctory comments, instead of the supportive comments I have given up until now. That’s just a fact.

  4. Paul Penn says:

    There are three issues here, staring with the one that serves as a condition for my enthusiastic support for E-submission and Marking:

    1. UEL’s infrastructure needs an overhaul. Network speeds are inconsistent and sometimes wholly inadequate for E-marking. If we are to become more reliant of IT then the infrastructure to support it HAS to be in place. This means better network speeds AND BIGGER MONITORS!!! 15 inches is simply not enough to view a manuscript and the associated quick mark interface.

    2. Electronic submission of work. If the work can be submitted to Turnitin, it really must be for academic integrity purposes at least.

    – It empowers students and promotes sound practice in respect of AI
    – It empowers staff in making judgements about the originality of student submissions

    It’s not fool-proof by any means and needs to be accompanied by appropriate staff orientation/instruction, but it is a very powerful AI tool and If we, as an institution, are not utilising methods to ensure the academic integrity of submissions, then frankly we have no business awarding degrees. The bad old days of intuition and Google searching are simply no longer tenable.

    Whilst I would be sad to see E-submission trampling on innovative module assessment, I don’t think this has to be the case and in any battle between innovation and integrity, integrity has to win! If a module is devoid of any assessment components that are either assessed under exam conditions or amenable to Turnitin submission I would have significant reservations about the academic integrity of submissions.

    Electronic submission also takes out a lot of the administration of module management: No more chasing up “lost” essays, student disputes about whether work was handed in on time etc…

    Electronic marking of work. This is (with the proviso that the infrastructure is addressed) a massive pedagogical step forward for this institution and one we should have taken years ago. Just some of the reasons why it’s a big deal that people should be excited about:

    – Students can read feedback – illegible handwritten comments a big concern previously
    – Students can access feedback when and where they want and have a digital copy of it
    – We know if students have looked at their feedback and when
    – We can see where a cohort is having problems by looking at comment summaries and adapt teaching provisions to suit
    – Quick marks (if well designed) mean that staff can easily and with little effort give students consistent, criteria focused responses and negates the fatigue effect where tutors give really helpful and extensive feedback for the first 10 essays and then resorting to terse feedback for the remainder of their allocation
    – You can dictate feedback using voice recognition.
    – Links to on-line learning resources can be incorporated into feedback
    – Staff can mark where-ever they want. If a staff member is taken sick their allocation exists on line, not next to their sick bed.
    – Moderation can be done remotely – people don’t have to be in the same place at the same time
    – Marks can be exported into a spreadsheet at the touch of a button rather than manually entered
    – We have a permanent record of the student’s work and the associated comments, which can be easily backed up on staff PCs
    – Negates the need for all the pointless paperwork shuffling that occurs when external examiners visit. Everything can be done electronically.

    Their are some minor user interface irritants with Grade mark, but in terms of the ratio of pros to cons, it’s a no-brainer!

    As I said at the outset though, it all rests on the infrastructure. It doesn’t matter how good the software is, if the hardware and network just frustrates attempts to use it, people are going to grumble and understandably so.

  5. Laura says:

    Personally, I find online marking easier, quicker and more effective. A major advantage I think is that it is far, far easier to allocate, monitor and moderate scripts across multiple markers, without having to deal with piles of physical scripts. Students also seem to be far more likely to access their feedback online rather than in person, as well, which is nice after spending all that time producing it. The only real issue I have is that it is necessary to have an internet connection when marking, and it would be better if Turnitin worked properly on a tablet. It would also be good to have some more flexibility in the number and type of files able to be uploaded to Turnitin.

  6. Sharon says:

    I am happy to do electronic marking as long as the the IT infrastructure is in place to facilitate this. There is no point electronically marking and then having to copy it to disseminate / send results to examiners / students or collate data.
    Our screens are too small though and there is the potential for eye strain and back ache but if the IT was in place (as it is in other Universities) then I can’t see a reason not to …. but it is a big BUT.

  7. Jane Stokes says:

    Electronic marking is very efficient in some regards but it should not be a substitute for designing effective and diverse forms of assessment/submission. The danger is that if all work is submitted and marked this way it will exclude other forms of assessment than written assessment. There are problems uploading files such as images/videos for example. With written work I have noticed that students are less and less inclined to print their work and read and revise it. The move to electronic submission/marking has meant that some students submit more substandard work in terms of presentation etc.

    Personally I find it a great strain on my eyes to read from a screen for so long and I think there are serious health and safety issues. I realize that you can print work off and then add comments later and I think that is what I will do in future — this may then push the burden of printing back onto us and away from the student. Is that a good idea? I don’t know.

  8. Karen Atkinson says:

    I have been doing electronic marking on a number of modules for 2 years now. I don’t think we have any choice and it will, I expect, continue to be brought in wholesale whatever the comments. I don’t particularly like it but it does have advantages many of which have been noted above. I have 2 key issues: 1. Staff marking on modules that I lead or mark on do not use the attributes of Grademark properly e.g. highlighting of text with comments, using the space for text comments, building up statement banks etc. If everyone used the system properly that would help enormously. 2. The whole system is incredibly cumbersome and slow. It is difficult to navigate around documents quickly and to move effectively from one student submission to the next. The browser used dictates how well it works and Explorer is useless – you have to use Mozilla or Chrome but the UEL system does not support this well enough. Generally the whole UEL IT infrastructure is pretty behind the times – if it is insisted that we use a system then it should be fit for purpose – I don’t believe that this is. Our external examiners found it incredibly difficult to use remotely and were frustrated by the whole process. Comments on it will be seen in their reports – hope UEL takes note!

  9. In Graphics/Illustration many of the staff have been using our own electronic system of marking and giving feedback for many years. It is discreet, targeted and efficient offering the opportunity to send the feedback directly to the students in a very timely fashion. This year we were able to project the feedback assessment and mark onto a screen for the External Examiner to see alongside the portfolio of work on the table in front of her. Increasingly as our student’s practice moves into more on-line outcomes this will only help the evaluation and assessment process. My reservations are that a one-size-fits all system will be imposed which, like all university-wide systems seems to favour the default essay submission, rather than the more varied exhibition, performance, portfolio outcomes that are pertinent to art, design and media. Anything that deviates from the institutional norm generally creates a huge unrecognized workload.

  10. Debbie says:

    I’ve been typing my feedback for years so don’t miss carting loads of scripts around, separating the cover sheet from the essay, loading it into the printer etc. etc. This means that, for me, electronic marking is slightly less time consuming. I also agree with previous comments that students are more likely to read online feedback and my students loved the fact that they had until midnight to submit essays.

    On the other hand, there were several problems:
    a) staring at a screen for hours on end makes my eyes sore. Agree with previous comment that app needs to be made available for tablets urgently. Then I have the option to switch from desktop screen to tablet and move to different locations to avoid backache.

    b) Making work available to external examiner without printing it out was difficult.

    c) I am currently concerned that four of my students appear to have attempted to submit electronically and failed. I am going to investigate but TurnItin has marked ‘late’ against their names. This may not be the case because one had the foresight to also submit hard copy and this was in time. This may be a failing with the system and so I would agree that we need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place before relying on online marking.

  11. Marianne says:

    Obviously there’s a range of opinion here — there are some subjects for which electronic marking is entirely appropriate, and staff are willing to mark in this way. For others, it’s more problematic. I would like to see a more flexible system than the one size fits all imposition of electronic marking irrespective of the range of subjects (and opinions!) to which it’s applied. The one size fits all system rarely works, and its economies of scale are often false.

    Students want and expect to be able to submit and get their marks electronically; to me this isn’t unreasonable. But electronic submission is not the same thing as electronic marking. The health and safety issues for staff, coupled with lack of a suitable IT infrastructure, make this a student experience nightmare — something UEL can ill afford, given our current position in the league tables.

  12. helen mitchell says:

    Our studnets definitely prefer electronic submission and marking as they are all workboased and it is difficult for them to come here to hand in or collect scripts – this will also be a relevant point to any othe r employer led, workbased or externally located provision. Marking electronically is fine in terms of being able to annotate the text and it is very useful being able to build bankls of statements for common comments and to share these across modules – this practice has significantly reduced marking time for tutors and has significantly mproved our ability to give very specific technical language feedback tnat supports grammar, spelling and so on. The downside is tha it is very irritaing having the annoated comments llisted at the end of the text when you print it out, rather than on the text where they apply, and large comments on the text can obscure other text around it. These are technical issues that could hopefully be addressed. The other technical issue is that when we have the same submission dates across he university oit slows he process down and access is noit always smooth for markers, partuiclalry when they are off site. This does need to be addressed. External examiners all prefer electronic marking and it is used everywhere that I externally examine – possibly due to the nature of ur programmes. It is certainly cheaper and saves valuable resources (ie trees) which I personally think, in terms of our responsibiloity to the next generation, should be a priority consideration.

  13. anonymous says:

    Electronic marking is wonderful …. providing that you are not the person doing it !

  14. j.lewars@uel.ac.uk says:

    Though online marking is a good idea in terms of “saving the trees”, cheaper for students in terms of not paying for printing and of course saving the university money, giving typed feedback to students, it has its draw backs.

    It should not be used for module assessments that contain multiple parts and where each part is linked – hard on the index fingers after a while – dragging the cursor up and down or holding the mouse button down constantly – trying to locate the page(s) that contained the previous relevant information or the last information in order to check and re-check the coursework – this is time consuming! Online marking is a tremendous strain on the eyes. The teaching team stated that it took four times longer to mark the assignments because of online marking. Also, because of IT system failures – as a precaution – assignments had to be download!!!

    Online marking should not be made compulsory and should be based on how the learning outcomes will be assessed and should be included in the work allocation table. Also, the IT infrastructure has to be put in place for efficiency and health reasons.

  15. Abiola Ogunsola says:

    Electronic marking is definitely laborious but I find I can give better and more detailed feedback to students using all three components of Gradebook i.e. My own Quick Marks; General Comments and the Rubric. I also like the fact that I can easily check to see if students have reviewed the feedback. I have found that students do make use of the feedback that I give electronically.

    As feedback is a key site of learning for students, I think marking needs to be taken more seriously by our institution, made as accessible as possible to students and adequate time provided to lecturers to enable us to give good quality thoughtful feedback.

    I have found that students are often unable to read hand written feedback (even when I have written very carefully to ensure clarity – which also takes time) and this undermines their ability to learn from the feedback.

    I am for online marking as long as it is not see as a cheap option, is not compulsory and is sufficiently resourced. A variety of teaching methods and learning experiences are seen as beneficial to students so the same should apply to feedback. A key outcome of a university education should be the ability to learn … to become an autodidact and I am convinced that varieties of teaching and learning experiences contribute to this.

    For over a year, Turnitin have been promising to bring out an App so that feedback can be done on tablets. I think it is disgraceful that they have not done so. They have tweeted that it will be available in August … I will believe it when I see it.

  16. Jill says:

    I did electronic marking last semester and find it laborious and user unfriendly when trying to make specific comments and it took me far longer than paper. Typed overall feedback is better for the student on the other hand so an electronic cover sheet only would be good. For group practice work that is DVDs, online marking is problematic unless UEL provide a means of students putting all their work online, which is a good idea but unlikely for UEL to either do, or do properly. So my vote is against overall!

  17. Abiola says:

    I don’t have a problem with online marking because, for me, it is more convenient. However, the quantity, of online marking has to be reasonable. Online submission must not be seen by people who have never marked online themselves, as a means to increase workloads. To be expected to mark 250 scripts online over 3 weeks is unreasonable.

  18. D(oes it make you)il? says:

    It’s more likely students will check their marks and check for feedback electronically than request to see the printed, submitted copy

  19. Johnnes says:

    There are two sides to e-marking; on the one hand, it is convenient for anywhere access and marking, less bulky in load transport terms, less messy and instant feedback also accessible by students anywhere and anyhow. However, on the other side of things, it is very tiring and damaging to the eyes, difficult to give feedback on specific areas of the work, or make small corrections, except overall at the end; stressful and bad for repeative stress disorders and resaerch has it that it distorts the sleep biologicall patterns in people if a PDA/laptop screen is the last thing looked at before going to bed.

  20. Steve says:

    Assessment methods need to be appropriate to the learning outcomes that are being assessed. In some cases, electronic marking can be helpful, but it should not be a mandatory requirement.

    Where electronic marking is used, then the technical infrastructure needs to be in place to enable electronic marking to take place in an effective way.

    Often at Uel the electronic marking process is cumbersome and takes three times as long as for the equivalent non-electronic marking method. For electronic marking, the IT infrastructure needs to be in place for both on campus and off campus marking of work, download speeds need to be high, and you need at least two large monitors. To minimise time spent needlessly searching for information, the student work to be assessed needs to be held in an information structure that does not force the marker to spend time looking for parts of the work to be assessed. The information structure also needs to make it easy to go from assessing one students work to the next students work.

  21. naveed says:

    i am very happy not to do electronic marking thank you

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