Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Providing Assessment and Overall Unit Grades through Moodle

As we all know, it is important to get assessment grades inserted into QLS as soon as possible, however many people are interested in getting these grades (and sometimes feedback) returned to students through Moodle as well.

Before we go on, it is important to remember that grades will soon be dynamically pulled out of QLS and available for students to see in the right hand block. However using the Gradebook in addition to this, can often be more useful, especially if you want to give feedback and/or format the gradebook to accurately collate individual assessments to provide a (provisional) unit total. This post attempts to show you how this can be done!

Moodle Assessments

If you have used any of the Moodle Assessment tools (quizzes, assignment uploads), a column will be automatically inserted into the Gradebook. Of course, quizzes are typically marked automatically and will populate the gradebook immediately. You can also quickly leave grades and/or feedback for other types of assignments. The short screencast (in the next section) demonstrates how you can quickly leave grades/feedback to students (ff to 1:13).

What about assessments that were not conducted in Moodle?

Many units have assessments that cannot, for one reason or another, be conducted in Moodle. For example, a unit I have been teaching this year had continuous assessment activities related to lab work. The marks for each continuous assessment were collated as a small percentage of the overall mark for the unit. This could equally relate to work submitted through Coursework Receipting or even observation based work, and you might want to provide feedback and grades online.

There are a number of options available to get these marks/feedback into Moodle and visible to students.
  1. Create an offline activity [for grades and basic feedback]
  2. Create an 'advanced uploading of files' [for grades and a return-file upload]
The following short video runs through creating these two options. A third option does exist, whereby an extra gradebook column can be added from Grades > Full View (from drop down) > Add Grade Item.

Can I provide feedback to groups?

Yes! Although the default tools discussed above do not currently support group feedback, the most effective method is to ensure the students are in Groups (this blog post discusses groups & groupings). You can then create a Forum set to Separate Groups, and provide feedback for each group (and even facilitate discussion around grades/feedback). The beauty here is that essentially, a 'separate' forum is created for each group, and only those students in the group can see/participate in that forum.

Can I upload grades to the Gradebook?

Yes! It is possible to upload a csv file to insert grades/feedback in bulk. This involves exporting the gradebook to get some of the default fields (user ID, etc), and then importing the csv to insert the values. The two links provided go through these step-by-step.

How do I prevent the gradebook combining formative and summative grades?

...easier than you think actually! From within Grades > Full view, you can quickly change the weightings of different assessments to either exclude some (formative) and collate others. This short video demonstrates how you can do this.

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Efficiencies in Assessments through Technology

Over the past year at MMU, I have promoted various technologies and tools to help encourage staff to get more involved with eLearning. I'm now working on a couple of posts to provide short (ish) Case Studies to exemplify real word activities and what might be achieved with technological implementations.

This first case study is about a project I led in a previous role, and have supported (to some extent) here at MMU, related to redesigning everyday business processes to manage the assessment life cycle more efficiently.

What was the Problem?

For quite some time, students have been making their views known about the efficiency (or lack thereof) of the assessment -- feedback cycle; in short, students want feedback quicker, and in a form that they can understand (opposed to unreadable hand-written feedback).

Licensed under CC-NC-ND from Flickr User UBC Library
Secondly, the economic and environmental impact, and the costs associated to printing hundreds and thousands of essays were (and are) significant. Removing this can only be seen as positive!


Well, a strategic decision was made by the Dean (of a Faculty in a previous role elsewhere) and other senior colleagues. The decision was that all assessments (that were suitable - mainly essays) should be managed through TurnItIn, including the submission, marking and feedback processes.
(I think if the truth be told, this strategic decision hadn't considered what would be required to actually get this working, but that's where I came in).

What did we do?

It was essential that a working group was formed to scope out and oversee the project - this multi-professional group involved academic staff, learning technology experts/managers, senior administrative staff, and academic managers (including Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning).

After initial discussions amongst the group, I worked with the Programme Team Leader and senior academic colleagues to scope out and timeline existing processes, including hand-in dates, how submissions were handled and recorded, passed to markers, moderators, etc. From this we could then identify where technology and new processes were required.

So what were the new processes?

  • All students were informed of the new processes at the beginning of the semester
  • Students were encouraged to submit a draft (but preferably a formative) piece of work to TurnItIn at least two weeks before the coursework due date. This was largely to overcome any technical barriers that inevitably occur when students submit 5 minutes before the deadline.
  • Programme team would monitor submissions within the VLE before, at, and after the deadline, and inform markers of papers to mark (this often included a number of academic staff to split large groups of students - 200+).
  • Markers would view papers in TurnItIn and use Grademark facilities to leave in-text and general comments on papers, as well as a grade.
  • Programme team would download the Gradebook and inform second markers/moderators to log in and mark/moderate.
  • Programme team could mass download papers for archiving, as well as download marks into Excel to be reformatted and uploaded to the student record system.
  • Students could retrieve marks and electronic feedback from within TurnItIn

What were the benefits of the new processes?

  • Students were no longer required to travel to campus from across the country to submit coursework
  • Easier/Quicker for staff to leave common comments on student work through developing a QuickMark set, which could be drag & dropped onto student work
  • Electronic feedback and grades much easier to understand
  • Manual handling times reduced due to electronic procedures
  • Staff didn't need to carry a small suitcase to take scripts home with them - it's all in the cloud!
  • Printing completely removed - massive economic and environmental benefits - a sample of 6 first-year units saved over 7500 sheets of paper, or 15 reams of paper!

What support was provided?

  • Specific training sessions for academic and administrative staff, including guides and screencasts
  • Guides and Screencasts for students 
  • Faculty guidelines for the use of Turnitin and Grademark
  • Assignment template for students, including front cover and pre-formatted pages

What challenges did we face?

  • A major challenge was training all Faculty staff in the workings of TurnItIn and Grademark, and informing them of the new policies. 
  • Technically, we only came across one problem - we found that at various times, Grademark facilities became really slow - so much so that it seriously hindered the ability to mark and leave feedback. Using Firefox seemed to help this a great deal though.

Where next?

Turnitin & Grademark have an interesting feature called Rubrics, which could further enhance online marking. Furthermore, the developments in relation to tablet computing could lead to some interesting pilot projects - word has it TurnItIn will be releasing a dedicated iPad app next year!

Have you used any of these tools in your teaching/learning?

Are you using technology effectively in your teaching and want to feature on a case study here?

This case study has used the JISC Case Study template as a basis.

Please use the comments section to get involved in discussion. 

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License, however image work might contain alternative licenses.