Profile 1: Working towards Efficiency Improvements, ‘Getting there faster’
Are you frustrated with the amount of time you spend on mundane administrative tasks around assignment management and marking? What about using e-learning tools to lighten this load, so you can focus your energies on assisting student learning? This profile focuses on easy to follow steps towards efficiency improvements. It only refers to general purpose software and the standard features of common learning management systems and shows how to use these tools to speed up the processes around dealing with assignments. Working in a tertiary institution you should have access to all the tools mentioned and a support structure of e-learning advisors, should you require some assistance.
Supporting students with assignments
The lecturer needs to inform students about the assignment details. These need to contain the assignment specifications and instructions on how and when to submit the assignment. Additional information, like a marking rubric or criteria, helps to clarify the lecturer’s expectations. Making these documents available via the LMS used for the course has the advantage of providing a single access point. This removes the need to deal with students who have lost assignment instructions. Assignment documents can be made available as part of the general content modules or via the assignment tools. Using the assignment modules has the benefit of preparing the LMS for student submission of assignments.
Submission of assignments
Traditionally, paper copies of assignments are posted or hand-delivered to admin staff or dropped into departmental assignment boxes. Someone,
either admin staff or the lecturers themselves, needs to record submission time and safe keep the assignment
papers until marking. Common problems are delays in postal delivery, lost assignments and the time spent
on administration. Moving to electronic submission of assignments, especially via the assignment tool of an LMS, automates many of these tasks. Assignments are date and time stamped at submission. You can choose various settings, regulating options of late submission and cut-off dates. If setup accordingly, students can re-submit work, allowing them to fine-tune their work right to the submission deadline without having the fear of missing this deadline, due to last minute technical problems,
for example. LMS are setup on an institutional basis. This means that a central IT section guarantees service, data security and safety. The welcome effect for you as
a lecturer is that issues like assignment backup are taken care off.
Preparation of marking
A detailed marking rubric or scheme will guide your marking and will make it easier for the students to understand your evaluation of their work. If you develop this document electronically it can be used as a template
from which to copy and paste, reducing the amount of typing for each assignment. You can
also prepare a separate document with frequently used feedback
comments for reuse through copy and pasting. This allows you to give substantial feedback on common problem areas while still being able to individualise these comments.
Lecturers use various ways of providing comments ranging from inserting comments directly into the student work
and summary comments at the end of assignments to separate feedback sheets. With a bit of planning all
of these methods can be used on electronic documents. The advantages of
providing feedback in electronic form are faster document exchange,
automatic retention of copies of the feedback comments and the
increased legibility of typed comments.
Marking done in electronic form, either directly in the assignments or on separate sheets, means that the lecturer automatically retains a copy, after returning the marking to the students. Having this copy is very helpful in case students ask for clarification on any aspect of the marking. Additionally, having copies of all marked assignments makes analysis on a class level much easier.
Releasing results and providing feedback
Releasing marks and feedback electronically means that all students have access to them instantly. This avoids problems with postal delays and the issues of confidentiality when handing assignments back in class without checking the identity of each student. If you return the results via the assignment tool of the LMS you have the additional advantage of one access point for all students, avoiding problems with incorrect email addresses and full mail boxes.
Using assignment experience for future teaching
To review overall class performance you might want to calculate some simple statistics like average marks. If you have used the assignment tools of your LMS this happens automatically, without any extra work for you. If you have stored the marks in another electronic format you should be able to import these marks into a spreadsheet program.