How I mark (not with a pen)

I’m deep in marking so I thought it might be worthwhile covering how I try and trade off getting the best marking experience against time spent. 

I never accept paper submissions under any circumstances nor do I accept them via email or any other means except for our VLE (which is blackboard). This is for a number of reasons:

1) I mark once there and this also informs the student of grade and comments plus it populates the spreadsheet of marks and informs the students of their progress without emails from me. For example if a student is undertaking three assessments, they will know after the first assessment how much of the module they have already passed. This saves hours if it is a big module (100+). Especially at the end of the module where I simply download the mark spreadsheet for entry on our system. 

2) I can mark on the go if needed via the turnitin ipad app (you can sync assessments to it). The iPad app is also the quickest way to check what needs marking and if I am working with colleagues I can see where they are upto and also quickly second mark as and when needed. It also means if a student wants to talk to me about their assessment, I can bring it up on my ipad in seconds.

3) It creates an audit trail – all of the data about when submitted etc is collected in one place. More importantly if there is a problem later where work is lost etc, it’s an institutional problem not mine. 

4) I can make use of rubrics to provide a lot of very quick feedback besides my bespoke comments – this is important because although (paradoxically) I provide a lot of feedback I actually think it’s a waste of time because it occurs at the wrong time (I was an assessment post-doc and all the literature I read said the same thing).

5) Over time I’ve built an extensive collection of ‘quick-marks’ – customise comments that I can drag and drop over an assessment. 

Now when I’m at my desk, the quickest way I find to do it is… Dual-monitor – now a dual-monitor is useful for lots of things but I find it’s a massive time-saver for marking. 

Assessment  on the left, rubric on the right.
Assessment  on the left, rubric on the right.

All taken together I find that this cuts many many hours from the marking process, I couldn’t see any circumstance under which I’d return to paper.  

Some HE 2020 guesses

I’m not going to call these predictions but rather guesses because that is what they are:

  • Merger of some research councils – at least at the back office level
  • Attempts by RCs to manage the duel problem of falling success rate/higher applications/less money by general raising of lower limits for bids to decrease bid rates
  • System leads to further clustering of research cash around small number of Universities
  • System leads to further clustering of research cash based on “do you wear a white coat?”
  • Quite a few universities cut out entirely simply because as the bid limits raise they don’t have the expertise, infrastructure to bid and get hit with penalties for ‘poor’ bids
  • Shifting balance of power in some Universities between researchers and teachers as Universities realise that no matter how many interesting sociology papers Sarah turns out there is no cash at the other end
  • Increased pressure on ECRs because there is now less cash and it becomes increasingly unclear why and how churning out lots of papers in their own time will lead to a FTE post
  • TEF = Panic, REF = Metrics and Panic and many staff realising that they shaped their career around the wrong measures, more panic 
  • End of collective bargaining – performance related pay
  • A University falls?
  • Lots of McDonald Universities emerge?