23 November 2015

Marking the modern way

It's marking season. I just finished marking the field reports of the field trip in Laugharne. Soon the field reports based on the Ice and Oceans field trip will be coming in. I decided to see if I could do the marking in the digital way; I'm sure soon enough that will be the only way, and I'd better learn soon. So I headed for the assignment submission site.

The marking as it looks in hardcopy

Some of the aspects of this site are intuitive, and for those that aren't there are tutorials. But I still struggled a bit; you can make some marking schedule (called a rubric) in which you can click on the sub-mark you give to a specific aspect of the assignment. This assignment has aspects worth 10%, 15% and 20%, and they are all judged on different things as they are different. And I didn't manage to put that amount of detail in the rubric. No worries; I phoned the technology support people, and they were quite willing to pop by and show me. That was nice!

The ladies did show up, and showed me all kinds of aspects of the site. Very useful! And then we got to the rubric. And it turned out that what I wanted couldn't be done. The software doesn't support it! So I could only have a scale from 0 to 10 for each question; for the 20 point question you could therefore only give an even sub-grade. And all questions needed to have the same rubric, so for the 15 point question I could only award multiples of 1.5. A bit clunky! I hope an upgrade somewhere in time will sort that. But now at least I know. I think I may start making my rubric for the next batch of marking now.

So how did I get on with my first digital marking-and-feedback session? Well, not bad! The site can do all sorts of things. You can highlight text and add comments to the highlighting; add comments in general, you can mark the various parts of the work and the programme then tallies it all up and published the mark on the site. The comments you think you may need more than once you can save them and drag-and-drop them onto any of the assignments. And the disadvantage is you need to stare at a monitor all the time, while staring at paper is a lot more pleasurable, but otherwise it's great. The drag-and-drop comments are really handy, and it's nice that if you change your mind about grading of a question the mark gets updated automatically. And you can read your own scribbles back; if you get a question by a student about the feedback (not that I expect any) you can read back what it was again you wrote. If you scribble on hardcopies you can't! And I can imagine it may help for next year; if there's a record of the comments you made you may anticipate the things that initially triggered them, maybe avoiding them for next time.

An anonymized example; notice the drag-and-drop comments on the right, the "similarity score" (in this case fictional) of 11%, which means 11% of the text was spotted before by the plagiarism check of the programme (which is nothing to worry about; the programme for instance flags up if several students mention the same foraminifera species, but they're supposed to do that) and notice the (equally fictional) grade on the right. Notice I used one of the drag-and-drop comments; quite a lot of the plots submitted looked like this, and you might agree with me the use of labels is suboptimal.

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