Case Study - Using the assignment tool of a learning management system

 

Using the assignment tool of a learning management system

Context

At my institution we use Moodle as our learning management system. Moodle is setup for each of our courses automatically and we are encouraged to use it. I teach a mixed internal and distance course in the social sciences, for which I use the Moodle assignment module.

Submission

Currently I’m still giving internal students the choice of submitting via Moodle or handing in a paper copy to the departmental office. The number of students handing in on paper has been getting smaller and smaller. The distance students have to submit via Moodle because we don’t want to have the delays from postal delivery. The students are used to Moodle anyway as we use it for providing course material and for discussions, so there isn’t any problem at all for the students in getting used to the technology. What the students really enjoy (besides being able to work right up to the deadline) is that Moodle gives them a confirmation of submission. There is no more worrying about a paper assignment slipping in the wrong pile and being lost, and then having to argue about whose fault it was. It is also better than using email, because with email you send something off but you never know if it really has arrived.

Admin Support

In my department we have quite strong admin support. One of our admin staff monitors Moodle for incoming assignments. She distributes assignments to the markers, using a distribution scheme I’ve setup beforehand, and sends an additional confirmation to the students. The students appreciate that because it tells them that the marking is about to start and that they can expect feedback soon. I know that for some other papers that have more complicated assignment formats, the administrator unzips the assignments and puts them on a shared drive so the markers don’t have to spend time on that. Another task our admin does is to make sure that all the marks are entered into Moodle and from there transferred to the other admin systems.

For my current paper this admin support is great. I have more than 200 students and our distance students especially, submit over a relatively long period of time. We try to give them feedback as soon as possible after they have submitted, because we know that that gives us a better chance helping them in their learning. Having someone watching over the process is great. I’ve taught on other courses with fewer students and stricter deadlines and found that I could manage very well by myself. Moodle does all the basic work for you – the assignments are all in one place, date and time stamped, just sitting there ready for marking.

Marking

For the marking I leave it up to my markers if they want to read the assignments on screen or prefer to have them printed on paper. I know that some people find it difficult to read longer documents on the computer – it has taking me a while to get used to it. While this means using up a bit of resources on our side I still prefer that students submit electronically. The advantages we get from that in the handling and having copies of all assignments in one place, even after we’ve returned the marking, are just too good. Even with printed assignments I still encourage my markers to type their comments. There are many benefits in that. Students like typed comments they can actually read, we can email these comments to the students and again we keep an electronic record (that can be really handy if a student comes back to you with questions).

I’ve tried various systems over the past two years, from, drawing numbers on the actual assignments and referring back to these in a summary sheet, scribbling on the paper assignments and then scanning the whole thing, to using something like track changes in Microsoft Word for writing comments. Many combinations are possible, it just depends on what feels right for the particular assignment and the markers.

Summary

In this scenario the lecturer has used the standard features of a learning management system for the submission of assignments.

The benefits enjoyed are:

  1. Assignments don’t get lost and are automatically time stamped;
  2. The students get an automatic submission confirmation;
  3. The are no postal delays;
  4. A range of options for marking is available, from printing and marking on paper to directly marking the electronic copies;
  5. One has a repository of all assignments.

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