Along with colleagues from about 30 different UK universities I attended the Remaking Marking: Electronic Management of Assessment conference held on 4 September 2018 at the University of Reading. I came back feeling confident that, here at Portsmouth, we are developing the electronic management of assessment (EMA) in a reasonable way. Our use of Moodle gives us an element of flexibility that some institutions, using other VLEs, are lacking. Furthermore, the drivers for implementing EMA and people’s hopes for this approach appear to be the same here as everywhere else in the sector. On the other hand, academics have some legitimate concerns – DSE worries; offline marking; having to scroll through documents; the functionality and usability of marking tools; the need to take account of disciplinary differences – and these are shared across the sector, Portsmouth included.

One worrying aspect of the conference was the number of institutions that had tried to implement a marks integration project – and failed. It seems strange that data held in one electronic system (the VLE) cannot readily be transferred to another electronic system (the Student Record System (SRS)), but this seems to be the case. It is particularly strange given that the data we want to transfer – student marks – is so important; surely we shouldn’t have to rely on an intermediate stage in which humans can introduce error? We thought we’d cracked the problem here, several years ago, but the proposed solution was not guaranteed to be sustainable at the SRS end. Perhaps the new SRS will open up new possibilities for us.

Some interesting discussions centred around:

  • the use of rubrics, and whether (and how) they should be used more widely;
  • the use of shared QuickMarks – should a central department or section provide a library of generic QuickMarks, containing links to high-quality support resources, for use across a faculty or institution?
  • the increased use of audio feedback – research suggests that students appreciate audio feedback, but only in certain cases.

One suggestion I found particularly interesting came from Dr Rachel Maxwell, University of Northampton. They thought it important to manage student expectations regarding EMA. In particular, they found that students didn’t have a clear idea of what the assessment process entails at university level. 

A student-generated illustration of the assessment process in place at the University of Northampton. (Credit: Katie May Parsons, all rights reserved)  

Header image taken from the Remaking Marking: Electronic Management of Assessment Conference (2018). Birds Migrating in Formation 
(Assessed: 12th November 2018).  Thank you to The University of Reading for letting us use their poster.