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Strengthen Student Understanding with Feedback

Woman with headset talking to a student via their laptop

Updated article originally published April 17, 2018. Written feedback is a mainstay of educational practice, especially in liberal arts disciplines. Though popular, there is evidence that students can often misunderstand or misinterpret written feedback. Additionally, written feedback is commonly placed in the margins of a paper, which can lead to students focusing on the letter grade rather […]

Micro-assessments: In-person and Online

Person pointing at an assessment on a phone screen.

Updated article originally posted July 18, 2017 While classic assessments are an important part of higher education, their specific timing—typically at the middle and end of courses—may represent an oversight. The traditional timing of exams makes it difficult to judge learning at various junctures during the term; these junctures provide opportunities to assess and address students’ understandings of […]

Blended Learning: Lessons and Models

Empty Classroom

Blended learning is a simple concept: education based on a mix of in-person and online education, thus blending technology and classroom learning. The two are integrated components working together to cover different aspects of the learning process. Here lies the central benefit of blended learning, as the accessibility and flexibility of online learning exists harmoniously alongside the presence of […]

Exams: Creation through Grading with Crowdmark

Educator typing on a laptop

Updated article originally published March 11, 2021. Being an educator means spending a lot of time on administrative maintenance. These tasks included everything from setting up your classroom to grading papers and marking incorrect answers—sometimes by hand. Although our day-to-day habits and responsibilities have changed, the reality is that educational institutions still rely on tried-and-true testing methods […]

Perspectives on TA Management

Instructor making notes whilst talking to graders on a zoom call

The complexities of large university course management include TA management. There is an array of technical and organizational challenges, and there is a set of more holistic considerations around the role of the TA. In order to properly identify and rectify issues that arise, it is important to consider a range of perspectives from the […]

Inside the Outcomes: Data-driven Instruction

Paper with a graph showing a trend over time and a magnifying glass

Updated article originally published September 13, 2021. Evaluation of student learning has always been at the core of educational practice. As educators continue to re-evaluate why and how to assess students, there is a growing movement that is using hard data to drive assessment goals and student learning outcomes. But what is data-driven learning, really? […]

What Makes a Quality Assessment?

Student completing an assessment on a computer

Updated article originally posted Aug 9, 2016 In many ways, successful higher education hinges on assessment, whether it is assessment of overall student learning or of teaching effectiveness. Valuable assessment measures the comprehension of concepts and the development of skills, which depends, in part, on effective teaching. To properly evaluate teaching and learning, though, quality […]

Navigating Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

Instructor using a computer

Updated article originally published May 3, 2016. In university course management, the learning management system (LMS) or virtual learning environment (VLE) has become a centralized hub for all matters pertaining to the class, whether for in-person or remote learning. The syllabus, assessment instructions, submission portals, evaluations, grades, and course announcements all exist primarily on the LMS. […]

What Philosophy Tells us About Online Learning

Student sitting looking at an assessment on a laptop

Philosophy is often thought of as a purely abstract field, with distillations like “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” “I think, therefore I am,” or “liberty consists in doing what one desires” often dominating common perceptions. However, works from the philosophy of education have been gaining traction recently in application to […]

Virtual Reality in STEM Education

Student in a VR headset with a chalk board behind

At one point, virtual reality (VR) appeared to be the future of popular technology, offering a revolutionary new device and system that could be used in a variety of ways. This massive shift towards VR was seemingly never fully realized, and in 2022, VR is most visibly used in gaming. However, it is gaining a […]

Peer Communication in Online Learning

Instructor talking to fellow team members on zoom (on a computer screen)

While online learning has an assortment of pros and cons, one element of particular concern is the sense of community amongst students. Especially in higher education contexts, building relationships between students is an essential component not only of students’ learning but also of their social and professional lives. For these reasons, many instructors may become worried […]

How Remote Educators can Build Self-Care Habits

Student sitting in a computer chair stretching

Updated article originally published March 5, 2021. Remote education during COVID-19 has significantly impacted educators. Educators at all levels have had a heavy load to carry from an abrupt pivot in teaching methodologies to provide additional support for students who may be struggling academically, socially, and mentally. Many educators and teaching staff try to push […]

Finding Success with Online Grading and Teaching

Student talking to their teacher on a laptop

Updated article originally published November 18, 2020. Distance learning has been a common practice for years, but mandatory online education is entirely new. Students using distance learning in the past did so as a choice. Unfortunately, because of recent health concerns, many students do not have a choice, and online learning has become essential to […]

5 Strategies for Easy Online Assessment Grading

Clipboard and laptop showing grading and assessing activities

Updated article originally published January 25, 2021. Feelings of burnout, general apathy, or a lack of motivation by the thought of grading another stack of papers is a natural feeling. Nevertheless, there are ways to make it feel like less of an overwhelming burden. This post will examine some strategies that will help both new […]

Disengaged Students? Encourage Effective Reading

Stressed student holding a book over their head

Updated article originally published July 17, 2014. Completion of course readings is one of the basic building blocks for achieving student learning outcomes. Unfortunately, instructors often find that students have skimmed or skipped the texts rather than given them a comprehensive review. This behaviour results in a limited ability for students to engage in class […]

Having Productive Discussion in Online Learning

Woman looking at a computer screen - the computer screen is displaying people's faces

Updated article originally published November 13, 2018. Instructors and students build effective classrooms on a foundation of two-way communication. Teachers should work to facilitate an environment where students feel comfortable enough to freely discuss theories and concepts. This in turn will improve comprehension and retention morale. However, engaging students in the virtual classroom is not […]

Teaching Hybrid and Blended Models Flexibly

Women drawing on a whiteboard

Updated article originally published February 6, 2018. Routine and unexpected circumstances impact the ability of both students and instructors to attend scheduled on-campus classes. To provide everyone an equal opportunity to study in a class, several schools, including Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) and the University of St. Thomas have begun exploring blendflex (flexible blended) and hyflex […]

Feature: Sean Maw, University of Saskatchewan

Hands typing on laptop

This month we are honoured to feature Sean Maw, PhD, PEn. Sean is the Innovative Teaching chair, an associate professor in the School of Professional Development, and an engineering instructor at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). Additionally, Sean is a sports scientist and a Crowdmark enthusiast. Passionate about using engineering and science to improve winter sports, Sean is […]

How to Create Mobile-Friendly Online Instruction

Woman holding a phone

Recently, students have begun using mobile devices to complete online courses. In some cases, this trend has emerged as an alternate means of remote learning for students without internet. In other cases, though, students prefer using mobile devices, rather than laptops or desktop computers, for online learning. In fact, a 2019 study found that 56% of online […]

Change the Game: Innovative Teaching and Gaming


Innovation in 21st century education has seen huge advancements in recent years. Prior to 2020, only one-third of American college students had taken an online course, but the proportion of students with some online coursework experience has grown rapidly. With this shift, instructors have had an incredible opportunity to reflect on the meaning of enhancing learning […]

Remote Learning for Students without Internet

minimal workstation with keyboard

Our experiences with remote teaching and learning over the past year and a half have shown that not all students are on an even playing field when it comes to accessing technology. While online courses present a great opportunity for innovation in the classroom, this model has also proven to create a barrier for some […]

Emergency Remote Instruction: Adapting Education

frustrated man on a computer

As the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact the education system, teachers, parents and students feel like this school year has been longer than ever. As the 2020-2021 academic calendar comes to a close across many educational spaces, how are educators feeling about their experiences over the past year, and what are they planning for […]

The “distance” in learning: Are we seeing a rise in disengaged students?

Teacher talking on a computer screen

Many students struggle to remain engaged even when in the classroom. With the necessity of remote learning, there are even more disengaged students struggling to finish assignments and submit homework. Trying to get students engaged is difficult enough in person, and when it’s online, it can be highly frustrating. Thankfully, there are a lot of […]

Should first year university students defer school amid distance learning concerns?

Student with a laptop sitting outside the philosophy building

In a recent survey, the University of Toronto recorded 539 deferrals in 2020, up from 314 in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic is, unsurprisingly, making deferrals an appealing choice for many students who may feel fear, anxiety and uncertainty starting college or university in such an unfamiliar environment. There is evidence which speaks to the variety […]

No thesis? No problem. How to provide better, formative feedback on essays

Someone typing on a laptop

Providing formative feedback for students often begins with an evaluation of their thesis. If there isn’t one there, or if it’s weak and lacks structure, educators must provide helpful guidance to help students get back on track. Providing formative, digestible guidance when grading papers is one of the most critical skills an educator can learn. […]

New types of presentations to explore with digital grading software

instructo sitting on a couch with their laptop reviewing a presentation

Presentations don’t have to be a thing of the past. Even with teachers and students working and learning remotely, there are many ways to keep presentations viable for assignment submission. With so many educators suffering from Zoom fatigue and struggling to keep their energy levels up when faced with muted empty screens, it’s hard to imagine that […]

Text response and pedagogy: How to make Crowdmark’s newest feature work for you

Screenshot of a text response on Crowdmark

Crowdmark’s new Text Response question type has opened the door for a wide range of responses that were previously limited to PDF uploads. The ability to type text formatted with Markdown and LaTeX directly into the Crowdmark interface is an incredible time saver for students. It also allows instructors to grade directly in the text as you […]

The remote education lessons we learned from 2020

student wearing headphones and completing an assessment on a laptop

In 2020, we all watched with trepidation as, one by one, school districts across the world sent their students home and began to transition to distance learning. Some schools have risen well to this challenge, while others, hampered by outdated ideas and even more obsolete technology, struggled to deliver the remote education that their students deserve. […]

How Crowdmark helps parents engage with distance learning

Close up of a student handwriting and answer on a piece of paper

When so many of our classrooms went remote in early 2020, it was difficult to see the bright side during a time of such intense worry and stress. In the United States alone, 93% of households with school-aged children reported that they were engaged in some form of remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 80% of […]

How to strengthen the teacher–student relationship in remote education

Teacher talking to a student at the whiteboard

When students are doing distance learning, it can seem like their only contact with their teacher is through a tiny box on their computer screen. Although distance learning is in many cases safer than in-person instruction, there’s a lot that’s missing from this relationship. Students and instructors alike suffer from missing connections and pandemic-induced stress. When […]

What will distance learning look like in 2021?

Empty classroom

Teachers, students, and parents faced an uphill battle in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced most schools to transition to distance learning. Since many jurisdictions and school boards handled the transition differently, we saw various approaches, some of which worked better than others. More than 188 countries closed their schools, with more than 90% of that number […]

How to Improve Your Digital Grading

Grading on a phone

Educators who have never used electronic grading software often find the leap from pen and paper to digital grading intimidating. If you’ve never done it before, it can be a challenge to jump into this new skill without support. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your skills in this area, and there’s never been a […]

Focusing on Giving Online Students Feedback

The first 7 letters of the alphabet

Understanding what students are trying to say, even when it’s unclear or poorly written, is an ongoing challenge for instructors at any level. On the flip side, students often get frustrated when a teacher gives them a grade or criticism clear to the teacher, but not to the students themselves. Providing feedback is a balancing […]

COVID anxiety? You’re not alone. How students are coping with pandemic fatigue

Woman with hand on her head looking down at a laptop

Stress and anxiety can be dangerous in mental health conditions. If you feel like you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, you are not alone. This article contains strategies that may be useful, as well as links to mental health resources. Please do not hesitate to seek help! We are all in this together. The pandemic […]

How to design multiple choice questions: Is there a right and a wrong way?

Student reading a text book

The multiple choice question is a tried and trusted method used for generations of standardized and long format tests. In modern assessment, the multiple choice format can pose challenges, leading to poorly-assessed learning, high incidences of academic integrity violations, and students who are not understanding the material. Multiple-choice question types have not significantly evolved since […]

How to prevent achievement gaps if you’re teaching online

Student completing work on a laptop

For many years now, we’ve heard the term “achievement gap” mentioned in various news reports, political campaigns, and other media formats. The “achievement gap” is a challenge because, in one classroom, you will likely have students with varying levels of ability, meaning some are ahead of or behind the curve. To close the achievement gap […]

Does online learning make the group assignment unfair?

Women sitting at a desk reading with her hands pressed against her temples

Whether it’s the library, the lab, or a local coffee shop, meeting with classmates to finish a project has never been easy. Now, with social distancing restrictions requiring us to stay apart, group projects seem almost impossible. Coordinating and communicating with classmates to complete a fully realized project in its analysis and output is difficult without […]

5 stats that will change your mind about online learning

Student handwriting an exam

As classrooms worldwide transition to remote learning, many instructors, parents, and students are concerned about distance education’s efficacy. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning is quickly becoming the “new normal” and is likely here to stay. Fortunately, there’s plenty of research to prove that online teaching methods are quite useful and often more successful […]

Timely, rich, and consistent assessment feedback at McGill with Crowdmark

Student writing a pen and paper response to a test viewed on a laptop

Timely. Rich. Consistent. These were words that came to mind for Dr. Laura Pavelka, Faculty Lecturer at McGill’s Department of Chemistry, when asked about the impact that Crowdmark had on the feedback her students were receiving. Dr. Pavelka first started using Crowdmark in 2015 to help manage her large, administratively unwieldy chemistry classes. Having taught to […]

Ensuring continuity of education with remote grading workflows

students in a classroom learning cooperatively

At Crowdmark, we’re concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting our community of students and educators. We recognize the immense costs that school closures – even when temporary – carry for communities, ranging from interrupted learning to social isolation. In order to support our community of educators as well as those institutions that are not currently […]

In Memoriam

Carsten Kenneth Nielsen26 September 1984 — 31 May 2019 Carsten Nielsen was a beloved member of the Crowdmark team from 2015 through 2019. In his role as a software developer his passion, talent and enthusiasm for our mission had a big and lasting impact on our team and our company. Everyone on the team loved […]

Ontario university lowers value of SETs

Students have hands raised in class

Student evaluations of teaching (SETs) may no longer serve as measures of teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure at Ontario’s Ryerson University. SETs may continue their use in the context or advancement decisions; however, they are no longer an acceptable quantitative metric in the decision-making process. The finding concludes the most effective way to evaluate […]

Aligning goals at the start of the semester

Student writing down their goals on a notepad

Value, expectancies, and environment. These are the three most important factors influencing student motivation according to the 2010 book, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Preparing his course syllabi, readings, and assignments for the upcoming semester with these three factors in mind, University of Iowa instructor David Gooblar asks a single question to […]

Engagement strategies for the new semester

Teacher writing on a whiteboard

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned instructor, the dawn of a new semester is often one of the most overwhelming times of the year. There are syllabi to write, lectures to prepare and/or update, assessments to develop, and teaching assistants to train. Unfortunately, all this preparation may be a sunk cost once you enter the […]

Text to pixels

pixel image of a game

Students at the University of Hull are immersing themselves in video games to gain a deeper understanding of the theory posited by their course literature. To bolster students’ understanding of core concepts and theories, learning technologist Joel Mills collaborated with Hull instructors in chemistry, history, archaeology, and business by building virtual course environments for their […]

New feature: The grading grid is back

teacher at chalkboard writing

You asked. We listened. The infamous grading grid that provides our graders with an overview of the grading progress has made its triumphant return to Crowdmark. Now accessible from both the Dashboard and the Grading interface, the Overview grid will be displayed as a modal window that overlays the working screen. Rows of the grid […]

Re: Freedom of choice for 400 students

kids working on a tablet

In the April issue of the Journal of Assessment and Analytics there was an article that very positively presented an approach to grading that a professor at Tulane University was using to give her students “more control over their own learning.” Her grading plan included seven items each with a four-percentage point range within which students could choose the […]

A case for band scores

Image of educators collaborating over group work.

Using percentiles is a ubiquitous method of evaluating and communicating students’ academic performance throughout their primary, secondary, and tertiary education. However, despite their prevalence, many scholars and educators such as Thomas Guskey eschew the utility and accuracy of assigning student performance to a 100-point scale, instead calling for a return to the arguably more informative […]

Freedom of choice for 400 students

Image of educators collaborating over group work.

Toni Weiss, economics professor at Tulane University, was presented with the following challenge: provide the 400 students in her introductory course more control over their own learning. This is a daunting task for a single professor teaching a class of 20 students; it can be paralyzing for a class 20x that size where the path […]

Active learning in the classroom

kids working on a tablet

Active learning is disrupting the traditional format of transmission-based lectures, cultivating transactional and transformational classroom environments in which students share responsibility for their own learning alongside their peers and instructors. While there are a range of activities which fall under the auspices of active learning, the pedagogical style is commonly defined as activities that students […]

Embracing an improvisational mindset in engineering

teacher at chalkboard writing

Just say yes, start anywhere, and embrace your mistakes. These are not only the foundations of theatre improvisation, but also the key principles of problem solving and innovation in engineering. For nearly 25 years, Joseph Holtgrieve has been supporting Northwestern University engineering students develop foundational knowledge for practice in addition to critical skills such as […]

New feature: Flexible grading

educator assessing an assessment online

Fasten your seat belts Crowdmarkers, we have a big product announcement! In January 2018 we will be launching our new Flexible grading feature. This has been in the works for quite some time based on numerous requests from our community of educators. Flexible grading will enable your team to grade multiple questions on a single […]

New feature: Points on comments

teacher at chalkboard writing

Earlier this year we introduced a library feature to keep your collection of comments organized. This allowed Facilitators to edit comments in bulk and create comments for team use. In this release we have added points to comments. This not only improves grader consistency but also saves time entering and adding up scores. Comments can […]

New feature: Multiple choice

Have you wanted to use Crowdmark for some assessments but you’ve been held back because of multiple choice exams? This is no longer an issue. Educators can now include multiple choice/bubble sheets in exams. This means you can have long answer, short answer and multiple choice in any of your exams and grade them on […]

Interview with Fiona Dunbar, University of Waterloo

student being graded in an online course

Panicked eyes and pale expressions. This is the response Fiona Dunbar gets from her colleagues when she jokingly raises the notion of returning to traditional grading. The lecturer at the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing was an early adopter of Crowdmark, and now uses it as often as she can to enrich […]

Interview with Sara Lapan, University of California, Riverside

teacher at chalkboard writing

Developing, coordinating, and teaching university math courses is a daunting experience, but one Sara Lapan handles with aplomb with her passion for education and a little help from Crowdmark. This Assistant Professor of teaching at the University of California, Riverside, is responsible for introducing Precalculus to around 300 students per term. Sara was introduced to […]

Augmenting reality in medical education

woman at computer with lightbulb

Holographic patients are bringing a new dimension of teaching and learning to the nursing curriculum at the University of Canberra. The Australian university is introducing HoloLens, a mixed augmented reality platform by Microsoft, to gauge its potential in teaching, assessing, and potentially changing nursing education. Traditionally, patient assessment is taught using mannequins or actors. However, […]

The digital shift in higher education

Instructor teaching a class on students

Photo courtesy of Roanoke College Digital technologies are transforming higher education for the better. While the core principles of higher education remain consistent throughout the centuries, the technological advances achieved in the past 30 years have made academia more accessible, equitable, and—certainly in terms of research and grading—productive. Students beginning—or returning—to their campus this September have […]

Productivity, flexibility and insight from Crowdmark

image of student looking in the distance

Welcome back! The Crowdmark team is excited to collaborate with educators to help students learn. This post provides an update on where Crowdmark is now and where the platform is headed over the upcoming academic year. Crowdmark started as a productivity tool for paper-based exams and has since grown into a universal assessment platform. Crowdmark […]


Instructor giving feedback to a student

This article was updated on March 15, 2021. Screencasts are an innovative grading tool for instructors to provide personalized feedback for students in online courses, especially for students who require academic accommodation. As an alternative—or addition—to traditional handwritten feedback, instructors may send short videos addressing specific sections of students’ assignments while orally discussing areas of […]

New feature: Automated matching through artificial intelligence

teacher at chalkboard writing

The Crowdmark team is very excited to announce the launch of a Beta version of our Automated Matching feature. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Crowdmark is now able to automatically match exams to student identity. This new feature will eliminate manual matching and save you hours per administered assessment. OCR uses artificial intelligence to read […]

Comprehensive calculus preparedness

Students sitting together and smiling.

In 2013 the University of Portland developed an innovative assessment program to improve the retention rates and academic success of at-risk engineering students. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the seven-element program provides freshmen and sophomores with academic, social, and professional support while providing faculty with regular qualitative and quantitative insights into their progress. […]

Comprehension through ConcepTests

teacher at chalkboard writing

Students may nod along during lecture, but is the information really getting through? The next time you’re unsure, considering using a ConceptTest, a quick and efficient strategy to gauge and address student comprehension mid-lecture. Developed by Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur, ConcepTests allow instructors to nimbly and proactively address gaps in student comprehension without engaging […]

Accountable group work

Students working on an assessment in the library

Photo courtesy of University of Wolverhampton For most of my academic career I loathed group work. I often found myself doing the majority of the work and receiving the same grade as my teammates who contributed nothing. There was little individual accountability during and after assignments, and the process became frustrating. It wasn’t until my third […]

Challenging misconceptions of assessments

There are a number of misconceptions regarding the role of assessment in contemporary education. Unfortunately while these beliefs may shape opinions outside of education, they also have the potential to influence the attitudes and behaviours of current instructors and students. Following are three prominent misconceptions towards assessments and ways to address them in the classroom: […]

Why don’t students collect grades?

Stack of paper exams

Students and instructors are using the Crowdmark platform to improve their learning and grading in all kinds of interesting ways. Many students are eschewing paper, instead using Crowdmark to create digital portfolios of their work. Why waste paper writing up an assignment when you can work out your solutions on a whiteboard, take a photo […]

Re-adjusting flipped learning

Students working on an assessment in the library

A growing number of post-secondary classrooms are adopting the “flipped” learning model. This pedagogical style reverses the traditional model of lecture followed by assessment, by having students learn the fundamentals on their own time—through pre-recorded lectures or readings—and dedicating class time to applied exercises and discussions. Proponents of the model say it improves comprehension and […]

Dealing with grade challenges

Pile of paper assessments ready for grading

Photo courtesy of Tom Henderson They typically begin trickling in 15 minutes after grades are shared with students.. You watch helplessly as your unread messages steadily grow along with your feelings of anxiety and annoyance. There is no escaping grade challenges, regardless of whether you’re a tenured professor or a teaching assistant. You can, however, take […]

Crowdmark team highlights Jamie Gilgen

Jamie riding a bike

Jamie racing in Belgium. Photo by Benjie Fabella. Jamie Gilgen is known to many as an engineer, world-class athlete, and entrepreneur. However, at Crowdmark we also know her as a mentor and teammate whose insatiable curiosity and contagious commitment to lifelong learning pushes us to reach our full potential. Growing up in London Ontario, Jamie […]

New term, new technology

Teachers assessing new technology in a meeting

Photo courtesy of Knight Foundation For many educators the first day of the January term is a harbinger of exciting opportunities for teaching, research, and—to potentially less fanfare—learning how to use a new LMS or classroom technology. Technology is now ubiquitous in higher education, and that is a good thing. Predictive analytics are assisting institutions in […]

Education trends to expect in 2017

glasses sitting on a book

The future of education technology is bright, with higher education institutions and faculty increasingly recognizing it as a boon rather than a burden. 2016 saw more classrooms embrace learning technologies to engage and educate their students while an increasing number of departments have helped more students stay enrolled by acting on predictive analytics. All signs […]

Being scientific about administrative research

Student writing a pen and paper response to a test viewed on a laptop

For a sector drowning in data, higher education does not seem to use it as much as it should. When it comes to persuading administrators on decisions relating to strategy and policy, narrative and instinct seem to carry more weight than research-based evidence. With so many board administrative studies being requested for the sake of […]

Curbing the curve

Upside down rollercoaster

Photo courtesy of DebMomOf3 Over 40% of all grades awarded in 2012 across 200 colleges and universities were in the A-range. In 1988 and 1960, A-level evaluations accounted for only 21% and 15% of all grades respectively. This is longitudinal evidence of grade inflation, a controversial topic which threatens the reputation of all American institutes of […]

Measuring institutional achievement in Canada

Instructors in a workroom

Photo courtesy of University of the Fraser Valley This September over two million Canadian students are heading back to college and university to earn an education. There will be lots of learning, late-night study sessions, and assessments taking place at campuses to ensure students are graduating with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in […]

Introducing variable length assignments

Student studying with a notebook and laptop

The new student submission page We are very excited to announce that Crowdmark will soon allow for variable length answers for assigned assessments. This means that students’ answers to questions can be longer than one page. Our new workflow opens up opportunities for long answer and essay questions. These new changes will take effect on […]

Investing in technology and training

teacher at chalkboard writing

A recent study by KPMG finds only 41% of colleges use data for predictive analytics. Colleges are purchasing education technology but not allocating the necessary financial and human resources to properly use them. Historically, the college classroom was an inaccessible black box. Insights into student behaviour came from surface level observations of variables including attendance, […]

Balancing Technology and Tradition in the Classroom

Teacher standing in front of a chalk board balancing books

Digital technology is becoming a ubiquitous part of the classroom. From kindergarten to university, teachers have access to myriad devices, applications, and learning management systems designed to enrich their students’ learning. However, it is important to recognize that educational technology is not a cure-all, but rather one of many pedagogical tools teachers use to support […]

How teachers are using data

lots of spots

Photo courtesy of dirkcuys Data from educational technology is shaping the future of classroom instruction. As part of the Teachers Know Best initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surveyed over 4,600 K-12 teachers across America to understand how teachers use data and how technology can better meet their needs. The study finds all teachers rely on data […]

Technology should help educators work more effectively, not more

Close up of hands typing on a keyboard

Photo courtesy of Sebastien Wiertz Educators and administrators in K-12 and post-secondary education have access to an ocean of data which can assist in providing personalized instruction and identify areas where students are struggling. Unfortunately, without proper training and support teachers often find themselves drowning in the very data designed to support their classes. The Bill […]

Growth of digital technology in school boards

kids working on a tablet

Photo courtesy of Brad Flickinger An unprecedented number of public school districts in America are adopting digital technology. As of April 2016, 62% of districts have established digital content and curriculum strategies for their classrooms—up from 49% in 2015—and 33% of districts without are in the midst of developing digital programs. With the incoming funding provided […]

Introducing Courses

Person on laptop holding bright lightbulb

The new My Courses page We’re excited to announce that we have some changes coming to your My Assessments page in Crowdmark. In a couple of weeks you will be able to organize your assessments into courses. This will help to better organize your assessments and group them together in a way that makes sense for you. […]

A horizontal shift in education technology

students writing an exam

Education technology is providing post-secondary institutions with more intuitive ways to capture and use data to support students. Traditionally, most post-secondary institutions subscribe to a number of products for data collection and scheduling; however, many of these programs are not compatible with each other so the data are often inaccessible to academic advisors. Fortunately, in […]

Teaching can be taught

Woman leading small lecture

Teaching is a skill that never plateaus; it requires diligent training and exercise to stay effective. While it seems intuitive that instructors who regularly participate in professional development will become more effective educators, this is not always the case. While there has been a paucity of research on the measurable outcomes of professional development, a […]

John King’s challenges in preserving the Common Core

Students have hands raised in class

Dr. John King became the United States’ acting Secretary of Education on January 1, 2016. During his one-year tenure, King is expected to face a number of challenges including overseeing the peer review of state assessment systems now that the Common Core standards are no longer mandatory. Dr. King’s appointment has generated some controversy due […]

New features: Tag and filter evaluations

Student and instructor reviewing educational materials

Out with flags, in with tags Flags were used to bookmark and share pages of student work with your team, but they were limited to a single red icon. This left many to wonder, “Why was this page flagged?” We’re happy to announce that we’ve replaced the flag feature with a more meaningful, flexible way […]

New features: Reusable comments, assessment locking, and more

woman at computer with lightbulb

New feature highlights Our team has been working hard over the past 4 months to bring new features to Crowdmark to improve your experience. The ideas for these new features came directly from you, our community of graders and instructors. Here is a recap of the new features with links to more information. Crowdmark looks […]

Moving ahead with competency

Students sitting together and smiling.

In Washington State, there are over one million people who have earned some college credits but not a degree. Online competency-based programs are being developed to close this gap. The flexible online platform of competency-based education allows any person to earn their degree regardless of their age, employment, and familial commitments. Courses are offered on […]

Long papers, short lines, tough decisions

Stack of paper exams

Photo courtesy of Nic McPhee It’s hard to believe, but as October starts I’m staring down the deadline of my first writing assignment. And I don’t mean anything that I have to turn in, but rather a ream of papers that I have to give back. Students often don’t realize that what seems like a painful task to […]

New standardized tests will change this year’s instruction

students writing an exam

It’s the start of a new school year, and that means that everyone — from students to parents to teachers to administrators — is worried about standardized testing. For some, it may mean jobs or admission. Whatever the source of anxiety is, one thing seems certain: test scores in the US are probably going to go down. This year marks the rollout of the Common-Core aligned […]

Sinking, swimming, treading water

teacher at chalkboard writing

One of the more controversial books on higher ed released in the 21st century was Arum and Roksa’s Academically Adrift. The researchers studied a cohort of students at 24 different schools in the US in a variety of ways: through questionnaires, standardized testing, and transcripts. The results were, to put it bluntly, depressing: as far as the […]

PISA scores and “tiger mothers”

Student completing work on a laptop

We’ve received comments from readers before about the PISA: how it isn’t an accurate test for judging differences between populations, how it’s a surprisingly good test for measuring change (or lack thereof) over time, how it shouldn’t be used to support cases for academic reform or teaching efficacy. Others have pointed out that low PISA scores don’t […]

What is the goal of assessment?

students in a classroom learning cooperatively

A recent column in The Atlantic takes up the issue of grade inflation yet again. As recently leaked data from the University of Virginia law school shows, student grades on average have been going up over the past decades — in other words, grade inflation is no longer anecdotal, but proved. But the author Oliver Lee Bateman, […]

How do you solve a problem like a rubric?

Teachers standing at a white board

Photo courtesy of Laurie Sullivan There often seems to be a great divide between the humanities instructor at the post-secondary level and the K-12 teaching staff. This divide is called the rubric. Based on what I’ve learned in my own education classes and from mini-courses at various Centers for Teaching and Learning, the grading rubric is a […]

How to make grades work in a flipped classroom

Students at table discussing exam

One of the most enjoyable series of blog posts this year on the Chronicle of Higher Education has been Robert Talbert’s Casting Out Nines. The columns address experiences he’s had and issues he’s faced in implementing a flipped math classroom. One of the more recent columns approaches the issue of grading and how to better ensure […]

Why should we care about aliteracy?

Stack of books for reading

Image courtesy of Reading Rainbow A big news story this week was the campaign to fund a free version of LeVar Burton’s popular public television show (now an app), Reading Rainbow. Burton’s goal is to deliver the program as a multiplatform app to underserved public schools throughout the US (see LeVar Burton On Reading Rainbow’s Kickstarter And The Love Of […]

Predictive Analytics Hold Great Promise for Improving Student Performance

Instructor looking at graphs on a laptop

Software analytics can identify struggling students and get them help faster, proponents claim. The increase in digital data is spurring the trend, as well as “consistent marking systems” across different classrooms. The amount and type of data institutions gather about their students is quickly proliferating. In the past, this data may have been limited to […]

Are you Suffering from Grading Nostalgia?

Feather pen and book placed on a table

Many professors still prefer the red pen and paper approach to grading, because it seems like a simple, proven and effective way to grade. That perception may still be true for those professors whose class sizes are small, and in particular if they aren’t required to work as part of a grading team. As class […]

Seven grading strategies to improve your students’ writing skills

Open book with a pen

There is no magic EdTech wand you can wave to make your students become better writers. The way to become a better writer is by writing. In my last post, I calculated that the amount of time required to grade a class-full of essays was overwhelming for most instructors, and noted that this could result […]

Opinion: The ugly truth behind faculty workload and student outcomes

Lecture hall with students

Photo courtesy of velkr0. In this post, I want to focus on the time commitment required to grade student writing. I think it’s worth doing this for two reasons: first, as a counter to the “teachers are lazy” canard, and second, as a reminder of how decisions about teaching loads affects the learning outcomes of students. […]