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What students have to say about “pandemic” grading & how you can help them

Professors, faculty members, and parents unanimously agree—COVID-19 has made assignments and workloads challenging.

But what about the students? It’s easy to overlook the immense challenges they face as they must now study through remote-based learning, even if they are part of a tech-savvy generation.

The pandemic forces students from around the world into virtual classrooms. These students are now voicing their opinions, thoughts, concerns about the virtual classroom experience.

This post will look at various student’s feedback and experiences and provide insight into how teachers can understand their students and provide support.

Students voice their opinions on grading

Before getting into the logistics and methodologies that can help ailing students, it’s vital to hear what they have to say. You’ll likely notice a few patterns and familiar themes.

More importantly, these patterns are challenges that your students can probably identify with and need your attention as an instructor.

For example, take this quote from a student in a recent New York Times article:

I did not realize that I took my routine and school day for granted until now.

Something I find really special about my high school is that we are really focused on student-centered learning. We use a Harkness-style teaching method where all the students and the teacher sit at a round table together and instead of learning through lecturing, we learn from each other. Peer-to-peer interaction is a really pivotal part of education at my school, and it feels like it falls so short in our distance learning. We use Zoom and can see one another and our teacher, but everyone is always muted so as not to interfere with background noise. Our classes have been cut down by ten minutes and instead of having six classes a day, we only have three or four classes synchronously. I feel like my education is not being fulfilled. I have a significant lack of motivation and I miss the thought-provoking discussions I used to have with my classmates during physical school. I am really anxious to get back to school and really foster my love of learning through my peers.

Emily Barkley, Lawrenceville, NJ

The workload has been overwhelming.

“Oh my goodness … Why there is so much homework?” This was my first reaction to online study as I looked at the homework checklist. Due to the outbreak, most activities, including daily clubs, are canceled at present, thus we do not have much to do at home. At least teachers believe so; therefore, tons of homework overwhelms us everyday. However, we actually get much to do everyday besides homework: standardized tests, such as TOEFL, SAT, AP, etc., needed to be prepared; activities that could be done indoor had to be completed … Homework is the straw which breaks the camel’s back. How I hope that assignment could be a little less and more time could be controllable by ourselves! I am now in China. Online study has already taken place for 2 months so far. Sometimes I really wish to go back to school having lessons face to face with teachers and classmates. School is not only a place for study, but a place to prepare us for future life when we embark upon complicated society and interpersonal relationship. Online education cannot replace school system thoroughly in this aspect. I really miss normal school days. Is the day of returning far?

Sophie Dai, WLSA Shanghai Academy

I find it impossible to actually learn anything new through the distance learning.

From what I have been through for the past two weeks is that online schooling is really a double edge knife. For example, it’s quite nice working at your own pace so you’re able to be less stressed with deadlines. But at the same time because of that, I have had a great deal of trouble keeping up with all of the work that my teachers have been putting onto me. That’s mostly because my pace is slower than most of my other classmates because my dyslexia and ADHD make it a lot harder to keep things on track because of how free things are. My teachers have been very understanding about it but there is only some much that they can do and I’m honestly quite scared for my end of the year grades. I have done fine this year grade-wise A’s and B’s but since this started they have been going down a bit and I’m not sure what to do because I’m doing what I can but it’s not doing anything to help my grades go up. So I’m just praying for the best at this point.

Stephan T, Easton CT

I’ve noticed that staying on task gets harder as the week goes on.

A school day for me is very different than what I’m used to. I now wake up an hour after I would normally be getting to school, so that’s three hours of extra sleep. I think because of this, my sleep schedule is messed up and I don’t have the structure we used to all get. I’ve noticed that staying on task gets harder as the week goes on. We’re obviously not at school working with our classmates and teachers, so it is hard for me to focus … There’s no structure, which is making it hard to get up and be productive. Overall, online school makes time management extremely difficult and I feel like I’m not even learning in some of my classes.

Riley S, Brooklyn, NY

I am actually quite fond of it.

Since I can plan out my day myself, I feel it suits me better than what school puts students through, though it is challenging to learn new topics of some subjects without direct explanation from a teacher.

Alicja Paruch, NY

As you can see, there is a wide range of opinions and concerns. For some students, the issue is a matter of keeping up with their workload, while for others, the problem is comprehension in the absence of a physical teacher.

Of course, some students don’t find distance education a problem at all.

Helping students overcome challenges

Regardless of perspectives right now, there is a fundamental truth to all of this. The fact is grading students during the pandemic means working with a different set of rules and approaches. With that said, we have some pointers to help you instruct and grade your students accordingly.

Adopt a more flexible grading criteria

Teachers and schools figured out ways to overcome the challenges of students going completely remote with classes. For example, some schools have adopted pass/fail options. If this is already an option at your institution, incorporate it into your grading structure.

Beyond the grading, other options to ease students’ transition means adjusting the frequency at which you grade—or adjusting the weighting of graded assignments to be more even across all assessments during the semester or school year.

Other examples include grading them for criteria tailored to an online environment, including weekly gradings (rather than daily grading) and grading for engagement instead of traditional standards, such as attendance.

Enforce deadlines but allow students to personalize their workload

Deadlines shouldn’t go out the window, but you should give students a degree of flexibility so they can manage their workload.

For example, some assignments can be submitted in stages, meaning multiple deadlines or checkpoints, giving students a chance to acclimate to the “new normal.”

It becomes more challenging to maintain these deadlines and checkpoints when there is a physical distance between students and teachers. It also becomes more difficult to sustain traditional classroom workflows when an internet connection and a computer are the only means of communication and collaboration between students and teachers.

Therefore, consider loosening up preliminary deadlines to give students more breathing room without compromising your end deadlines.

Streamline your grading and assessment workflow

As students adjust to how their education has changed, instructors and schools may wish to consider whether traditional grading or the overall grading process needs another look, too.

Crowdmark offers remote exam and homework workflows that save instructors time while allowing them to provide richer, more formative feedback to students. Crowdmark replaces traditional assessment workflows by enabling students to upload hand-written answers directly to the web browser for grading online.

Flexible exam options allow instructors to accommodate students who need extra help during this unprecedented time. Crowdmark is an online grading system that has been an invaluable resource to instructors and students during this global pandemic.

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