When education moved online, so did assignments and grading. For many teachers and tutors, this has been unfamiliar ground as they find themselves moving away from written and spoken feedback, and into the world of digital assignments. For students, getting regular feedback and marks is a good indication of where they are with their knowledge and where they need to improve, and with a shift to purely online education, there is an increase in the amount of this being done online which actually helps meet student needs in a simple, convenient, and time-efficient way.
There are a number of practical ways the learning platform can help with this. They include:
- Automated prompts – students can be kept on-track through automatic reminders of assignment deadlines
- Instructions and signposting – consistent access to instructions, marking criteria, and supporting documents ensure students have all the information they need for their assignments in one place.
- Timesaving marking – marking on paper is a time-consuming exercise and one that can be streamlined online. Quizzes can be automatically marked, freeing up staff time from manually checking answers which they can instead spend on addressing the results of the assignment in focused teaching sessions.
- Digital submissions – it’s possible for paper-based assignments to be lost and, should that happen, it’s hard to recreate them. Submitting assignments digitally means that files can be located and re-shared, as well as making sure that important feedback on that work isn’t lost along with the submission itself.
- A range of assignment types – not all learning is assessed through written submissions. Some skills, such as those in the sciences, arts and languages are shown through performance, delivering a presentation, or demonstration. Innovative assignment types where students submit videos of a musical performance or a demonstration of coding, bring activities traditionally done in-person into the learning environment.
- A view of progress – students have simple access to historical grades and feedback all in one place in the learning platform. This means they can check back on something at a later date without having to search through papers, can clearly see their progress, and are able to reflect back on feedback time and again.
Online assignments and digital submissions are convenient, clear, and flexible, all of which help the assessment process run smoothly, however, another advantage to online assessment is the impact of digital feedback options which can help optimize feedback quality.
Annotations allow precise feedback for specific parts of an assignment so students can easily see where a feedback comment relates to, and can be done on text-based assignments, or time-stamped to video submissions. What’s more, topics covered elsewhere in the course can be tagged in the feedback, allowing students to make clear connections between topics and think more laterally about the subject.
Video and voice recorded feedback provide a time-saving benefit, but also contribute to the provision of high-quality feedback. It is possible to provide richer, more detailed feedback than may be possible through written responses which help with students’ overall understanding. Visual or audio feedback also provides a more personal way of giving feedback, especially online, but more importantly, help convey the tone of the marker which is important to help keep students motivated and engaged.
Assessment and feedback are an important part of the learning experience, and both students and teaching staff need a convenient, efficient way of achieving this interaction so the feedback can be used to improve performance. Moving assessments online provides a wealth of benefits like convenience and quality, whilst a range of assessment types cater for different teaching styles, and so online assessment should always be an integral part of any organization’s strategy when they seek to improve student learning and progression.