Case study - Building up an electronic collection of marked assignments


Building up an electronic collection of marked assignments


Bill Montague teaches IT courses to mostly second and third year students. His class sizes are usually around 50 students. The assignments for his courses can be either programming tasks or essays, in which students discuss conceptual or design issues. For a few years now Bill has used Blackboard’s assignment tool for submission.

Process for Submission and Marking

Bill’s students submit their assignments via Blackboard. Bill downloads the assignments to his network drive. He reads the essay assignments onscreen and executes the programming assignments. He fills out a feedback sheet for each assignment and emails these to the students. To keep track of the assignment marks he enters them into GradeBook, another tool provided by Blackboard. The students can access this tool to check their marks.

Focus on Supporting Student Learning

Bill puts lots of effort into providing feedback to each individual student and wants to ensure that students take note of his feedback. He offers his students the opportunity to write a response to the marking feedback, arguing their case and addressing key issues. The students can either send their comments or attach a new version of their assignment, as long as they clearly indicate how this new version improves on the first version (the onus is on the students to make a strong argument and highlight specific sections so it is easy for Bill to re-assess). In Bill’s experience only a few students take up this opportunity but for those students who do it makes a real difference.

Bill uses email to communicate with the students. Having this dialogue via email is not just more convenient from a time-and-place perspective, it also helps to strengthen the students’ argument. The students know that Bill is expecting well thought out points and a written form seems to help students to articulate their arguments. Because Bill uses electronic versions of assignments and marking feedback he always has access to copies, so these documents don’t have to be exchanged again. Bill had tried a similar scheme in the ‘paper’ days, but it always had been a bit tricky, as he had to trust the students not to have modified the original assignment.

Focus on Building up Learning Resources

At the end of each course Bill reviews the assignment tasks, the marking and the achievements across the class. He analyses how well the assignments have related to the learning objectives for the course and notes any changes he should make for the following year. He often uses assignment tasks from one year as tutorial tasks for future years. Looking through the marked assignment copies he identifies examples from key problem areas that he will discuss with his future students.

Focus on Training Markers

In one of Bill’s second year courses the student numbers have been climbing over the years to reach a level where Bill will need some marking assistance. Bill knows about the challenges of training markers. It is not just about getting the summative part right, but it is equally important to provide students with valuable feedback. Bill knows that his repository of marked assignments will come in handy in training his markers as he will have examples of marked work in the right subject context available. Furthermore, he can go back to the unmarked versions of the electronic assignments (removing the student identification details to preserve confidentiality) and have the new markers assess these for comparison.


In this scenario the lecturer has used the standard features of a learning management system for the submission of assignments, email for the return of marking sheets and communication with the students.

The lecturer has used these features to gain the following advantages:

  1. Efficiency gains in dealing with assignment submission and return of marking results;
  2. Automatically retaining copies of assignments and marking that can be used for formative work with current students, for training of future markers and for development of future teaching;
  3. Improved communication with students using email.

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