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Academic Support for Underserved Students

Student with tablet and headphones.

Non-traditional students who have family and work commitments often have sporadic schedules and take advantage of off-hours for study. Consequently, higher education continues to expand options for hybrid courses, blended classes, and flexible classroom models to increase accessibility for students of all backgrounds. Some enterprising institutions have even gone beyond updated course offerings to ensure that educational options […]

Tips for transitioning students back to classroom learning

Child with school bag and face mask on.

Many schools are starting to bring students back into classrooms after an extended period of remote education. For some parents, this is a victory, as distance learning with their children was frustrating for both parties. For others, this is a concern, as they worry about the dangers of COVID-19 and the transition’s difficulty. We’ll provide some quick […]

Standardized testing: What will it look like in the pandemic?

Lecture hall with empty seating.

In the US, it was recently announced that schools would soon be resuming standardized testing requirements after they had been paused for about a year. Holding standardized tests within the middle of a pandemic is not without controversy. It demonstrates the amount of trust being put into new remote teaching methods and remote education in […]

Students have 24/7 access to feedback with Crowdmark at the University of Auckland

Crowdmark has become widely used at the University of Auckland, albeit with a little “encouragement” from Andrew Eberhard, faculty member in the university’s Business School and Director of its Business Masters program. Key in this was getting academics at his institution to see just how “easy and great” it was to use. The university had digital […]

Georgia Tech uses Crowdmark for distance education exams

“It was all unicorns and rainbows”. That was the half-joking response of Dr. Greg Mayer, Academic Professional Associate in Georgia Tech’s School of Mathematics, when asked what his initial reactions were when first using Crowdmark. Dr. Mayer has a long history of innovative pedagogy, marked by his involvement in Georgia Tech’s Dual Enrollment high school math program. […]

New feature: Course roster and team management

Image of new feature showcasing a list of student names, emails, ID, section and action settings in Crowdmark.

This feature will allow instructors to set up their students and team for a course once, rather than for each assessment. Crowdmark will automatically handle students who have added or dropped the course each time you update the roster. When creating an assessment you will still have the flexibility to select which students, sections, and […]

Immersive technology in higher education

To what extent will augmented reality and 3D printing affect post-secondary teaching and learning? Over the past year, academic instructors and IT teams at Florida International University, Hamilton College, Syracuse University, and Yale University participated in a research project commissioned by Educause and Hewlett-Packard to explore the best practices for adopting and integrating immersive technology […]

Introducing the Crowdmark Portfolio for Students

On August 8, 2018 Crowdmark will release a major new feature for students—the Crowdmark Portfolio. This means students will be required to access all of their Crowdmark assessments in one place by signing in to our secure platform. What does this mean for instructors? After you distribute an assigned assessment or return a graded assessment […]

Statement of goals and choices

Let’s face it: many students go through the motions when completing an assignment. These final products are generally composed of a surface-level analysis of the prompt and a checklist of content meeting the minimum viable standards mentioned in the rubric. To encourage students to focus on the process—rather than the result—of assignments, a growing number […]

Bridging the math gap in biology

The ability to effectively use mathematical models in understanding and communicating the foundations of biology is a waning skill among of freshmen students in the United States (PCAST, 2012). Worrying that this “mathematics gap” may dissuade students from pursuing a degree in a STEM field, a consortium of educators at six liberal arts colleges and […]

Digital storytelling in STEM

Students in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney are using digital media platforms to enhance their comprehension of—and communication skills in—scientific foundations. A lecturer in the Faculty of Science, Jorge Reynas saw an opportunity to improve the way his students learn and retain information through Learner-Generated Digital Media assessments (LGDM). Starting […]

Interview with Robert Craigen, University of Manitoba

Photograph of Professor Robert Craigen in front of whiteboard.

Robert Craigen is one of many instructors across Canada using Crowdmark to provide his students with more formative feedback. Robert’s first experience with Crowdmark was during the 2012 Canadian Open Mathematics Competition (COMC). This was the beta test of Crowdmark’s grading platform, where Robert and 146 other graders across Canada used the platform to grade […]

Education through exploration

Ariel Anbar’s students learn science by exploring the unknown rather than mastering the facts. As the director of the Centre for Education Through Exploration (ETX Center) at Arizona State University, Anbar aims to disrupt the traditionally siloed and rote teaching approaches of STEM education by promoting the pedagogy of science exploration through engaging and adaptive […]

Automatic grading to improve scientific literacy

Educators at Wake Forest University are developing an automatic feedback platform to improve the scientific literacy and communication skills of STEM undergraduates. Strong communication skills are becoming a necessity for pursuing an academic or professional career in the STEM industry; however, a disproportionate number of students are entering the workforce with inadequate writing skills. Over […]

Approaching student evaluations

Student evaluations stir up a lot of emotions within faculty, administrators, and students. No one argues with the concept of student evaluations being necessary measures of teaching competency and student learning, but their effectiveness and reliability in doing so is contentious. Part of this is due to nearly every institution administering the evaluations with their […]

Assessment is an arc, not episodic

Twenty-five years ago, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) published the “Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning”, a framework which continues to shape and influence pedagogy in academic environments across the world. The framework posits that instructors and administrators must embrace assessment as an arc, rather than an episode, aligning them with […]

The benefits of failure

Young distressed woman with forehead on table, surrounded by crumpled up papers.

You’re sitting in class eagerly anticipating the return of your latest exam. The professor approaches your desk, hands back your booklet and your heart sinks as you gaze upon the scarlet letter in the top-right-hand corner. Sound familiar? It’s a feeling most of us have experienced and can still vividly recall. It may also be […]

Is grade inflation an assessment issue?

Grade inflation is a result—rather than the cause—of poor assessment practices in higher education. In a recent study from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College suggests that some instructors who believe they are using “badly designed or poorly executed assessments” are more likely to engage—either consciously or subconsciously—in lenient grading as a corrective measure. To […]

Digital learning technology’s increasing role in the classroom

Over 80% of college students report that technology is improving their grades and study habits. In August 2016 McGraw-Hill and Hanover Research surveyed 3,311 students at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate level to assess their digital study habits and the role technology has in their education. The findings demonstrate that mobile and digital learning technology […]

Improving feedback from high stakes testing

High stakes testing is a ubiquitous aspect of American education. At the macro-level their results have significant influence on education policy and funding, and at the micro-level they shape a student’s academic future. Unfortunately, while the assessments provide meaningful insights to administrators they fail to provide the same formative feedback to the students and instructors […]

New SAT is high stakes for students, college board

Student reading a book at a desk in a library.

The new version of the SAT was administered for the first time on Saturday March 5, 2016 to over 450,000 students. The stakes are high for students hoping to be accepted to their preferred colleges, but arguably even higher for the College Board, the SAT’s developer. The College Board made significant revisions to the SAT […]

Female students evaluated on attractiveness in higher education

A 2015 study has found the physical attractiveness of female students to be a statistically significant implicit factor in grade results. For male students there is no significant relationship between attractiveness and grades, and the results were consistent regardless of faculty members’ gender. The study was conducted at Metropolitan State University using data from 5,394 […]

Holistic evaluations through contract grading

In order to emphasize the learning process over grades, a number of post-secondary instructors are foregoing traditional grading rubrics in favour of contract grading. Students are still evaluated based upon the demonstration of their knowledge and skills but instead of basing the evaluation on a single essay or test, contract grading takes a more holistic […]

Common Core’s unfulfilled goal

Children sitting in front of computers doing classwork.

The Common Core Standards were introduced in 2010 in an effort to ensure K-12 students across each of the 50 states are being taught and evaluated using a common standard. Preliminary results from the first administrations of Common Core-aligned testing are showing that overall student scores have improved. Unfortunately, due to a number of states […]

Applied evaluation in New York

High schools in New York State are providing their students with opportunities to earn their diplomas through research projects and oral evaluations as an alternative to standardized tests. Research has shown that these evaluation methods administered under the New York Performance Standards Consortium yield higher graduation and college-enrollment rates. The consortium evaluations are designed to […]

Over 1,000,000 pages evaluated on Crowdmark

Image comparing the height of 1,000,000 pages to the Statue of Liberty, Colosseum, Tower of Pisa and Big Ben.

When we started Crowdmark in 2012, I never imagined that we would be building a solution to change the dialogue between students and educators. We were simply building a platform to ease the pain of grading thousands of pages of handwritten student work for a math competition. Fortunately our solution resonated with educators and our […]

Competency-based education 2.0

The University of Texas offers a unique approach to the model of online competency-based education in order to position it as a legitimate form of education. As it stands, the structure of competency-based education is widely regarded – and implemented – as being completely online, self-directed, and self-paced. As a result of this, competency-based education […]

No more hunt and peck

Fingers typing on keyboard.

Santa Clarita Valley students will be trading in their pencils for keyboards on their standardized tests this year. One of the key reasons for this transition is to help students become more familiar using QWERTY-standard keyboards. While most students are digital natives with access to computer technology since early childhood, their reliance on texting through […]

Finnish schools: Great education policy? Or great economic policy?

When I was 17 years old, I ‘studied’ abroad (it was only for the summer) in Finland. This is an experience that my mother has never let me forget, mainly because I found Finland to be such a wretched place that I came home a month early. It’s always a surprise to me, then, when […]

Why the turnaround on the Common Core?

Bubble sheet with pencil filling in answers.

Although the standardized tests are months away, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians are already mired in debate over the Common Core Standards (CCS). Websites are popping up to help teachers find and adjust to new lesson plans, new standards, and new materials. While some teachers favor the new standards, others increasingly oppose them, as do education luminaries like Diane Ravitch. But regardless of your stance on their efficacy, […]

Where are the humanities going, where have they been?

The debate over the place of the humanities in the modern curriculum continues without any sign of resolution. We’ve seen lamentations for the death of the humanities a call for the elimination of popular programs (like business schools) to save the humanities; a rebuttal that the humanities are alive and well😉 and that uncertain savior, the hybrid discipline of Digital Humanities. And this is only a small selection of available topics. And yet there’s more […]

Tried and true? The new face of assessment

US educators increasingly recognize that students have differing needs and goals for education. The most controversial may be compentency-based learning, which offers instruction and credits based on skill, rather than on time spent in the classroom. Several companies are capitalizing on this idea to offer new means of assessment. Among the most popular is the portfolio assessment, which allows […]

Career education starting earlier

A major reference point for many educational writers is the 1950s. In the US, this was an era when you didn’t need any education after high-school: with strong unions and the post-wat manufacturing boom, many men went to work in trades, while women either stayed home or worked in nursing, schools, or offices (think Mad […]

Foreign students are a cash cow for universities — and a threat to some

Canadian flag with graduation cap.

Two stories about foreign students made the Canadian headlines this week. This is unusual, both because most of the time Canadian news outlets pay little attention to who is actually attending their universities, and also because I think most Canadians consider themselves open to immigrants (unlike, say, their southern neighbors). But this seems to be about to change as more […]

Rag in A major

Photograph of graduates seated at a convocation ceremony.

Controversial columnist Jeff Selingo made his own headline this week by suggesting that colleges eliminate majors. Why? Well, they’re so last century. Since I suspect that I may know more about curricula than Selingo (I have certainly been teaching longer), I’ll be honest: I think that this is not a particularly helpful idea, and since he doesn’t […]

Assessment + Personalized Instruction = Learning

Students sitting together and smiling.

It’s a truism that there are few aspects of education that everyone can agree on. It seems likely, however, that most people would agree that the prospect of better outcomes without additional expenditure is a pretty good bargain. This is where differentiated instruction comes in. Differentiation is not a new idea. It’s been around since […]

Promises and pitfalls of predictive analytics

Predictive analytics has long been seen as the next big thing in education. Several different learning-management systems have the option of analyzing student progress included in them; there are also standalone systems (see “read more” for some of these options). The allure of being able to pinpoint which students need further assistance is obvious, although […]

Assessment without exams

Flag on White House with Maker Faire logo (a convention for DIY enthusiasts).

No one likes testing. Students don’t: some get too nervous, others don’t like to study. And their teachers and professors don’t: good exam questions are hard to come up with, hard to recycle (thanks to online exam repositories), and a huge pain to grade. Unfortunately, students are also learners, and they need to be assessed […]

Lovers, dreamers, students

Students huddling over a name card, each student has a different label: procrastinator, reluctant borrower, dreamer and determined.

Students are often divided up for statistical purposes. When they apply to school, they may be asked to select a race/ethnicity. They will be asked for their geographic location and parental income. While they are at school, various offices will be categorize them by gender, roommate preferences, degree progress, and major. Sallie-Mae, a large American […]

Minerva vs. mentor

Minerva logo.

It’s not news that the university (as an institution) is in trouble. This headline has been making the rounds for years, as prices creep up, student employment drops down, and well-publicized scandals (bankruptcy; child abuse; mistreatment of athletes) seem to be on the rise. Most attention has been focused on a few discrete issues, such as student debt and adjunct faculty. But one entrepreneur […]

Collaboration vs. Solitude in Teaching

Image of educators collaborating over group work.

When you imagine a classroom, you probably think of a single instructor with many students. Sometimes there are separate TAs, but they rarely teach the full class; instead, the classroom has a single leader. This solitary teacher is at least partially a myth, as faculty do meet to discuss classroom challenges. And a number of […]

College tests announce major changes

In a turn of events that perhaps isn’t surprising, the ACT announced in June that it would revamp its tests. This move follows the ACT’s assessment rival, the SAT, who announced a facelift for the test in fall 2013. The SAT had previous announced changes in the types of reading and vocabulary that students would […]

Can personality characteristics be assessed?

Students lined up outside classroom in hallway.

Angela Duckworth has been getting a lot of press lately. The researcher, who is best known for her pioneering work on ‘grit’, is at the center of a new controversy on whether it is appropriate to evaluate students on non-academic qualities. This is surprising for two reasons: first, because Duckworth’s work is not new (her […]

The promises of adaptive learning

Adaptive learning is polymorphous. Some of it is familiar to all of us from school, even from a pre-digital age. For example, I remember the glorious two weeks of third grade when a substitute let me learn fractions from a book with a classmate named Ryan while the rest of my class moped through their […]

State achievement tests incite controversy in Texas

The Texas state achievement tests have been given annually for the past three years. Although schools were expected to post improvements in results, so far lower-income districts have fallen further behind upper-income districts. Suggested reasons for this discrepancy vary: the education commissioner claims that instructional content has not increased in difficulty to match test content, […]

How useful are PISA scores? It depends what you’re measuring

Instructor standing in front of a projector, pointing at a graph.

Declining PISA scores across Canada should be a concern to everyone, not just educators, says a new report from think tank The C. D. Howe Institute. The study found that Canadian students’ average score has been steadily slipping, but its author draws particular attention to the downward trend in math and science. Quebec was the […]

Retired MIT writing professor questions value of SAT-Writing test

Students and instructor standing in study space.

Les Perelman has written a program that can mimic a perfect-scoring SAT essay. Unfortunately, it’s gibberish. His software, appropriately called “Babel” after the famous biblical tower, can generate an SAT-length essay in under a second. It uses a combination of length and “SAT words” to receive high marks from automated essay-grading software. Content is not […]

PISA tests: Equal assessment or creative block?

Students hands being raised in classroom.

It’s the middle of 2014, and that means that educators’ eyes are turning to the big hurdle of the next academic year: the newest round of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) testing. This test, which is administered by the OECD, takes place every three years with a rotating group of topics. Students in countries […]

Better testing with Crowdmark: Using open-ended questions in large courses

Alfonso Gracia-Saz, an instructor who teaches a 1,000 student calculus course at the University of Toronto, explains how Crowdmark allows for testing of higher level learning. “When doing a mega course like this one and designing the tests, there’s always the concern of ‘Am I going to be able to grade this question?’ and ‘How […]

University students share thoughts on digital grading

Student sitting with laptop.

Have you noticed how even as more students show up with a laptop in hand, some of them still use a notepad and a pen? They just can’t seem to choose. That’s exactly what’s happening with grading. Yet regardless of the format of assignments, test results and types of questionnaires, certain common themes emerge when […]

New features: Freeform scores, text annotations, upload status list, and extra exams

Freeform scores You can now enter any number as a score (including fractional points as decimals). With the new keypad, type or tap any number and hit Enter (or OK on the keypad) to submit. Text annotations Provide contextual, formative feedback anywhere on the page. Double-click or double-tap to create a comment. Comments can easily […]

Opinion: The New School: Separate, unequal — and unashamed?

Empty classroom with chairs and desks.

You don’t become a pundit because of non-controversial ideas. In his interview with The Atlantic, University of Tennessee Professor of Law and Instapundit blogger Glenn Harlan Reynolds offers his opinions on the American educational landscape from kindergarten through university. Yes, this is an interview, not an article — yet he still provides no support for his ideas, […]

Crowdmark hires Lyssa Neel as Chief Operating Officer

Headshot of Lyssa Neel.

Crowdmark hires Lyssa Neel as Chief Operating Officer Dr. Lyssa Neel, formerly with MaRS Innovation, has been recruited to join the Crowdmark team as Chief Operating Officer. Since the launch of Crowdmark through the University of Toronto Early Stage Technology (UTEST) incubator, Dr. Neel has been the key business advisor to founders Dr. James Colliander […]

Crowdmark presents at LAUNCH

Crowdmark was demonstrated at the LAUNCH Education & Kids 2013 event in Mountain View, California. We thank Jason Calacanis and the Launch team for the opportunity. Here’s a video of the Crowdmark presentation:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9XM4fyY3z4

Independent schools and K-12

I was an independent school teacher. In my career, I’ve taught grades 7-12, English, Economics, Political Science, American Studies, and more. I was a house director, supervising up to 80 boys in the residence, coaching a sport every term, doing campus supervisory duty, even selling hot dogs every weekend with the boys to raise money […]

Idea to prototype

Inspiration The inspiration for Crowdmark was the logistical nightmare of grading the 2011 Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge (COMC). Imagine banker boxes and banker boxes, each containing FedEx envelopes containing tens of exams, with each exam containing 14 pages of hand-written answers to mathematics contest problems. We used skilled human volunteers to assess 70,000 pages of […]