This is Part 14 in my continuing saga of my current iteration of a gamified course.
A key aspect of my gamified course design is that there be fast turn-around of assessment. It is not uncommon in more traditional courses for instructors to take one to two weeks to return assignments that have been submitted, sometimes even longer. This just doesn’t work in a gamified design. A typical university course is just 13-16 weeks long. Fast turn-around of marking is crucial for facilitating student choice. When students get assessments back fast:
- They get the feedback they need to know what they should be focusing on in the course (while there’s still time to do something about it).
- They have opportunities to fix what they did (and learn from their mistakes) and re-submit their work.
- When they see their score increasing, even by small amounts, it encourages them to complete and submit more work.
- Being able to see their score increasing steadily provides tangible evidence of their progress and underscores the idea that their progress through the course is under their control.
How fast is fast turn-around? Students should not have to wait more than 3 or 4 days to get their assignments marked.
How do we make that work (without having to spend ridiculous amounts of time marking)?
- Anytime Anywhere Access
- A Single Space for all Student Assets
- A Consistent Submission Mechanism for all Work
- A Straight-forward and Consistent Marking Scheme for all Submissions
- A Single Click, At-A-Glance View of What Needs Marking
You might not think about this but having to click through 4 or more webpages in order to get at the item you want to mark creates considerable overhead and can more than double the amount of time it takes to mark something. The longer it takes to mark something, the less likely it is that it will be marked fast. Add to that the need to open multiple applications in order to mark a single item and we quickly realize that we are actually spending the majority of our “marking” time simply trying to get AT the thing we want to mark. Here are some ways to deal with this.
- Anytime Anywhere Access: First, we need a mechanism that allows both the instructors and the students to access their marks any time they want. These days that means access via a web browser. Now, course management systems already have grading applications, but they are all designed along traditional assessment lines. The next post in this series will go into more detail about this. I’ve already posted an explanation of the spreadsheets I am using currently. As a reminder – there are two spreadsheets that get created and shared between me and the student: the quest log where the students log all of their submissions, and the scorecard which is where the detailed breakdown of their assessments – including comments – is stored. The students only have read access to the scorecard, but have write access to the quest log.
- A Single Space for all Student Assets: Most CMS connect the files that students submit as part of their assignments to the assignment that is being submitted. This means that if I want to mark several different assignments for a single student, I have to open several different web pages and possibly several different applications. Again, this can add considerable overhead to my marking time. I provide my students with a folder (shared with just the one student and me) where they can copy any files that are associated with their quests. All they need to do is get the URL of the file (or folder if the quest includes more than one file) and paste it into their quest log. Because this is a Google drive, I can easily look at previews of anything they put in their folder. Often, that is all I need.
- A Consistent Submission Mechanism for all Work: This approach allows for a wide variety of items that can be submitted without having to treat each one differently. Almost everything they submit can be accessed by following a URL on the web. My course has students submitting work in a lot of different ways, such as:
- Discussions (and responses)
and more. Here’s another place where Google shines. Using Google docs for as much as possible makes things more efficient because the various applications are so well integrated it is possible to set up submissions so that everything my students submit has a URL that can be copied into their quest logs. Each post on google groups has a URL so they can submit those in the same way.
- A Straight-forward and Consistent Marking Scheme for all Submissions: this helps both us and the students. While I really like the idea of using rubrics, most instructors actually get them wrong most of the time. It turns out that many students don’t like rubrics either. Rubrics can stifle creativity by standardizing the responses too much. I have tried to address that by instead creating a variation that lists a number of criteria I think are important and then associating a Likert-style scale with each line item rather than trying to describe what exemplary, average, etc. looks like. Every single line item in every single quest assessment is worth either 5 or 10 points. I’ll get into more detail on this in my next post.
- A Single Click, At-A-Glance View of What Needs Marking: In my gamified design students can be submitting a variety of different quests (assignments) all at the same time. In any given marking session, I could be marking a dozen or more different quests.
In Blackboard, for example, these are the steps I need to go through to do a round of marking:
- Log into Blackboard
- Find the class I need to mark and open it.
- Click on Grade Center
- Click on Needs Grading – this provides me with a list of all of the items that need grading. There is no easy mechanism for re-assessment of things already submitted.
- If my class is large then the list may span several pages so there will be extra clicking and loading here.
- Click on the item that needs grading.
- If there are any files associated with this item then I need to:
- Download the file to my computer (this involves several steps – and clicks).
- Open the file – which will likely involve launching a different application.
- Grade the item & record the grade
- Find my way back to the list of things that need grading (could be several clicks).
- Repeat steps 5 thru 12 for every item to be marked.
Contrast this with what I do using Google:
- Open the folder that contains all of my student quest logs. I have a bookmark for it so can access it directly. Since I use Chrome as my browser, and I log into that browser (so that I have my own customized set of plugin’s and bookmarks), I will almost certainly have already logged in. Since each quest log is a separate file the folder listing shows me which files have been modified by students since my last round of marking. Those are the ones I need to mark.
- Open the Quest Log of a student who has edited it since the last marking round.
- Check to see if a new item has been submitted (or resubmitted). If so, open the student’s Score Card (there’s a link right in their quest log).
- Click on the first item to be marked. If the student submitted it correctly, the item to be marked will open in a new tab.
NOTE: I now have all three things open in different tabs. Switching between them takes very little time because they are all loaded in the browser. Blackboard makes this very difficult.
- Grade the item, record the comments & grade in the Score Card, record the total score and date in the Quest Log
- Repeat Steps 4 & 5 for each item the student has submitted.
- Repeat steps 2 thru 6 for each student.
There is rarely any downloading, and almost everything I do can be done in the browser – meaning I never have to worry about which computer I’m on. I can even do this from most mobile devices. Because it is so easy I can get a few students’ submissions marked even if all I have is 5 or 10 minutes.
I have also set up a “master” grade book that automatically collects the scores of all my students so I can see how the whole class is doing any time I want.
At least as easy-peasy as marking dozens of items from dozens of students can get.
If you are interested in following my course journal, watch for the “Gamification 101” heading.
Also, for more information on gamification, check out my website here.