Marking/Grading with Tablets

At City University London I have been investigating the most effective ways academic staff can mark student scripts using tablet computers.  With the introduction of three week turnaround on student papers, alongside the introduction of 100% electronic submission of assignments in the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, academic staff have been seeking out ways in which they can mark student papers without having to compromise the ability to do this anywhere at any time.  Being in Central London a popular choice is usually on the train, the tube, or the sofa in front of the television on Sunday evening.

The VLE at City is Moodle 1.9, and for marking student papers electronically we use both bulk download and bulk upload in order to import and export student papers from the gradebook in Moodle, and return the graded papers to the students.  While the suggestions below are described in conjunction with Bulk Upload, they are just as relevant for  uploading individual feedback to the gradebook, and I have tested all of the software mentioned below with individual upload of feedback to ensure this works.

To use Bulk Download and Upload you simply click on the assignment you wish to mark in the gradebook, select your group of students, and click bulk download, this downloads all the assignments into a folder on your device.  When you have marked the papers you simply click bulk upload and attach the same folder, this adds all the marked scripts back into moodle as feedback files for the students.  By sorting students into groups you can also use bulk upload and download on the same assignment with multiple markers, enabling them to only download the papers of the students they are marking.

Motorola Xoom + Samsung Galaxy

I found that Bulk Download and Upload worked well with Android tabletcomputers such as the Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tablet that had the free file directory AndroZip installed.  AndroZip allows the bulk download of the zip file onto the tablet.  Allows the academic to open the files and save back changes to that zip folder, and then easily allows for bulk upload of the folder back into Moodle.  The advantage of working in this way is that you are essentially marking offline; you only need internet access during the initial download and the final upload.

In order to mark the papers I found two pieces of software that fit with our current academic practice.  The first for marking .Doc or .Docx files is “Documents to Go”.  This office suite cost £9.99, and has a very easy to use comment and track changes function, so that you can easily go through a student paper and leave comments and corrections, as well as filing in a cover sheet if necessary.  The great thing about this office suite is that it is designed to make commenting and tracking changes easy on a tablet, yet when the student opens the assignment in Microsoft Word this transforms perfectly into comments in Word.

For marking PDF files I found Repligo Reader (£3.99) to be the easiest software to use.  You can easily add comments throughout the script using the tablet.  When the student opens the PDF using acrobat reader, it allows them to hover over the comment icons and the comments appear in full.

To mark the assignments using the software just scroll to the folder with the assignments in and open them in “Documents to Go” or “Repligo Reader” when you click save, it automatically saves the marked file back into the zip folder ready for bulk upload into moodle.

HTC Flyer

The HTC Flyer uses a different version of Android to the Zoom and Galaxy, this means that the behaviour of some of the software is slightly different, including that of Androzip.  The main difference with the HTC Flyer is the pen.  This will prove popular with those who prefer to write on scripts with a red pen, rather than type in comments.  You can still use all the software mentioned above on the HTC flyer, but unfortunately they do not interact with the Pen.  At present this only really works well with PDF documents.  The pre-installed foxit PDF Viewer allows you to draw comments with a “red pen”, then save them back to the zip download folder.  According to HTC the next OS upgrade will allow the pen to work with all apps, which hopefully will allow for a blend of Pen and comments.

iPad2

While most people are immediately drawn to the shiny iPad produced by Apple, the lack of a visible file directory and the way documents import in and out of pages, I found the iPad extremely bad at integrating with our VLE Moodle 1.9.  There was no way of enabling bulk upload and download, and although you could individually open a student’s assignment from Moodle, there was no way of uploading the marked assignment back into the gradebook.  Hopefully the app currently under development for Moodle 2.x will resolve some of these issues.

A Case Study: Online Marking in Moodle

James Anslow is a lecturer in the Department of Journalism at City University London. He was formerly Chief Production Editor at The Sun and The News of the World and runs the blog eJournalism UK.

He runs the undergraduate module on Editorial Production which introduces students to sub-editing, layout for print and web, script writing, copy writing and programme making. In this case study, he talks about his use of Moodle to mark scripts and design files online. James uses Moodle and the Turnitin plugin to mark hundreds of pieces of work a term.