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University Students Share Thoughts on Digital Grading

Student using 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 students talk about what they would want grading to look like.

Students want feedback they can understand

Many professors still want a paper copy, even if assignments get submitted digitally, because they like to read long essays on paper. That often means they use paper versions to scribble feedback on as they read. That feedback is great to have. Except when the students can’t read it.

“Handwritten feedback is sometimes just hard to read, and there are maybe words I can’t understand. And it might be hard to get in touch with the professor to ask for clarification,” said Marie-Agnes Pilon, Master’s student of English with focus on Rhetoric and Communications at University of Waterloo. “But it’s certainly better than no feedback at all. One of my teachers had us submit papers electronically and typed the feedback into the word document, using the comments feature. That was great and very easy to read.”

Digital tools like Crowdmark help standardize grading process

Students don’t always know how exactly grades get determined. The standards various professors use to grade work can vary dramatically from one teacher to another, and from one class to the next. It can be hard to challenge unjust grades. And, unfortunately it’s still quite common to get an assignment back with a grade and no justification or explanation for it, save for a few scribbles at the top of the paper, if that.

The system isn’t transparent enough, students say, and building digital into the core of grading process would certainly help students feel a bit more in control of their progress and school experience.

“Because of the shift in technology, some professors are having a hard time, and so they’re more inclined to stick to the old ways. Those more comfortable with technology will try new software. So there’s still a lot of variation,” said Pilon. “It really depends on a class and teacher.”

Transparency means progress

Crowdmark can take at least some of the hassle out of grading, and encourages collaboration and transparency. They help standardize grading, and that often removes barriers between standards, grades, feedback and students’ understanding.

Transparency means progress. And more often than not, progress means digital and education must learn to live happily ever after.

Photo courtesy of John Loo.

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

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