Teacher working at a desk

Let’s face it. Grading isn’t easy, because it takes a long time to read and assess assignments, provide useful feedback to the students, and keep track of everyone’s progress. Can technology make grading easier? That notion many of us have of teachers carrying heavy bags stuffed with papers home to sit down with a cup of coffee and grade the students’ papers with a big red pen already seems quaint. Many teachers combine paper-based grading with an array of digital solutions, as digital grading is gaining ground.

Here’s how digital grading beats paper:

  1. Accuracy: Digital file exchange and management increases accuracy. No more looking for paper exams that seem to magically disappear - either students have submitted their paper, or they didn’t. Digital files just don’t get lost in the same way.
  2. Readability: Schools across Canada are phasing out cursive. More and more students submit their papers digitally, and expect to receive feedback the same way. Deciphering handwritten scribbles on the 1.5” margins of essays is fun! Said no one ever.
  3. Better-informed decision making: Easy electronic access to all the records, grades, and essays and test scores means deeper understanding of students’ progress.
  4. Information sharing: Technology makes it easier than ever to grade collaboratively, share assessments, rubrics, templates and distribute work load. And makes it easier to communicate with students and parents – often, they can look up their grades and teachers’ feedback ahead of time, which means the valuable class time isn’t lost to paper shuffle.
  5. Savings in grading time: Nostalgia and looking back to the olden days might be en vogue, but managing physical paper files storage, retrieval, searching for the right file or version of the document can be incredibly time consuming.

Crowdmark takes the challenge of grading better head on, because the future belongs to digital. The rise in adoption of digital grading tools like Crowdmark signal an important trend in education, in a sense that the approach to teaching and learning is not one-way anymore. It’s now a conversation.

How do you grade today?

We’ve asked five teachers how they grade today and here’s what they said:

Dvora Geller, Math Instructional Specialist at New Visions for Public Schools:

“When I taught in a private bilingual school in Mexico City, I did nothing on paper. I would receive work and give feedback digitally. I now teach in New York City and state-mandated exams are still all on paper and are graded that way. We have hundreds of schools and exams are sent to central locations and get graded by the army of teachers. I’ve done a lot of grading over my 12 years, and, looking at the progress of grading, I’d say it comes down to the school’s grading philosophy. Some of the methods, like standard-based grading, tend to also be the most time consuming. In classrooms, schools, and universities around the world there will be a serious debate about how to grade, and I hope technology makes grading easier.”

Deborah Pollack, Writing Instructor at Quinnipiac University:

“I choose to have materials submitted online and share my feedback digitally. I find that when everything is in one place, there are no misunderstandings. Either the exam is there or not, because files just don’t get lost. I don’t worry about my writing being illegible. My students prefer to do everything online, they hardly even care for hard copies of handouts. Given the economic constraints on academia, class sizes will grow and teachers will have to grade more than ever before. Anything that cuts down on grading time is beneficial.”

Doron Ben-Atar, Professor of History at Fordham University:

“I teach history, and so I mostly grade essays. It’s all about interpretation, and it’s a lot of reading. I receive essays increasingly by email, and send my feedback digitally. There are many tools out there, but security is very important and must be ensured. Overall, the right solution helps standardize the structure of the course, organize work and calculate grades. Now, if only something could be done about the challenge of just reading so many student papers of the same uneven quality!”

Sandra Chow, Teacher (Elementary) at Toronto District School Board:

“When I finish with grading, I find that hard work very valuable. Grading informs my teaching - I just wish it didn’t take so long! We’ve been migrating to digital and using various tools to grade smarter and faster. I find Crowdmark useful for written assignments where I collaborate with others. When I have Internet access, it’s quick and easy to give feedback to students. Going digital is helpful, I just wish the cost of Internet decreased so we can truly be online anytime, anywhere. So much better to just carry one device as opposed to a bunch of papers. I still grade on paper, but as there’s more advancement in technology, it obviously allows for better grading on different platforms.”

Joseph Romano, ICT Lead Teacher and Digital Lead Learner Mentor at the Toronto District School Board:

“Today’s students and parents more readily reach out to teachers, ask for feedback on specific marks, and have a discussion about the results. This greater sense of engagement requires flexible and functional tools. As more teachers bring mobile devices to work and students have a better access to technology, the walls of the school open up - students don’t necessarily need to be in the same space with the teacher to receive feedback anymore.

Teachers that define a clear success criteria and learning goals realize that it makes sense to have a smart assessment system to complement that. Crowdmark allows for an easy integration with the systems people are already using, and enables teachers to collaborate and share the assessment with the students digitally. It creates a shared, accessible and central place for content and feedback.”

Crowdmark thinks the future of education is about dialogue.

About the Author: Elena Yunusov is a digital communications consultant and entrepreneur.