Online Marking: Friend or Foe? by Carolyn O'Connor @clyn40

Over the past few years I’ve marked work both online and by hand. This year it was decided that both the awarding bodies we use within our department (CACHE and BTEC) will have students submitting all their work online. Last year we trialled BTEC on our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – Moodle. There were some issues, the most troublesome was that you could not mark all the assignments before submitting them back to the student. This meant the students got their assignment back as soon as it was marked which impacted on the internal verification process. It also meant you had to mark all in one go in order that all students received assignments back all on the same day. In addition to this, annotating work was also a laborious process. You had to save the students assignment, annotate and then upload the annotated assignment along with typed overall feedback.

As any teacher knows marking is a mammoth task when you have several classes to teach on various subjects and at differing levels. No matter how well you try to plan assignment submission dates it is still never perfect. This particular online marking process was adding to the already heavy workload. So alternatives were considered. Which brings me to this year, everything is being submitted via an Eportfolio called Onefile.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not moaning about its concept at all, I am all for saving my back (and the planet) by not bringing mountains of paperwork home to mark. In addition to this students being able to submit work electronically fits in very well with FELTAG requirements. However one of the numerous things that concern me is the quality of feedback. I’m sceptical about it being as good as it was when we did it just paper based. Annotating work is still the same issue as we had with Moodle, although in Onefiles defence they have partly provided a solution. Students can type their work into an evidence box.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 13.34.22
Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 13.34.22

Which is good as I can annotate easily by highlighting and placing comments in. However I am beginning to find quite a few students are treating it like texting messaging. Paragraphs and sentence structure for example can be non-existent in some cases. There is also no marking requirement to downgrade if they do not do this. In addition to this not all students want to do it that way. Many prefer using Word or handwriting work to upload. Also assignments vary with methods of assessments such as posters, videos, presentations, displays to list but a few.

Students (and teachers) can see instantly how many assignment tasks they have via a task icon on their homepage.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 13.37.03
Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 13.37.03

This tends to send them into a panic, leading to them ploughing through the tasks and making many submission errors – the wrong document, failure to attach and sometimes plagiarise. Although it is helpful to see where you are time wise in submitting assignments and for teachers marking assignments. Assignment tasks are also colour coded, they stay highlighted in blue and turn red when you have missed deadlines. I’m not sure if I prefer a pile of papers to plough through or a never-ending task box!

I think what is required to make this particular type of online marking more effective is lessons at the start of the year. Help students understand the dos and dont’s of it. As for annotating the only solution I can think of at present is to check students work in class and annotate at the same time.

If anyone has had similar experiences or advice/ suggestions I would be very grateful to hear them. Thank you.