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First of all: Happy Fall Semester 2018 from Sarah and Will! Now that you’re a couple of weeks in, you might feel some grading fatigue setting in. As such, this is a good time to switch all of your skill-building assessments to auto-graded multiple choice quizzes in iCollege. Not only will this lower your grading load, but we all know that your students will find success in life through achievement on a series of multiple choice tests. These are just facts, people. Plus, it’s best to do this without alerting your students. They love changes to the syllabus.

We’re kidding of course, but grading overload is a serious quality of life issue for both faculty and students. Grading takes time away from research, and without feedback on their assignments students will get little of the growth that comes along with practice. So, what can you do now and in the future to reduce grading overload?

Methodological Fixes

Many times, professors we talk to jump to technological solutions before thinking about massaging their course designs. However, we always recommend considering teaching and learning fixes before considering technology. Here are some of our favorites specifically related to grading.  

Group Projects The simplest way to lower your grading load is to lower the number of projects that you have to grade. Although some professors worry about freeriders, these sorts of behaviors can be greatly reduced by designing projects with accountability and care in mind.    

Create Holistic Feedback Templates This is Sarah! For some reason, I’m going to talk in first person singular for this one section and then Will and I will switch to second person again. Don’t Panic! When I began teaching more writing-intensive courses, I felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of feedback that I needed to provide. How does one give targeted, personalized feedback without working 20-hour days? One way that I reduced this load was through holistic feedback templates. These are rather short, personal statements written to each student about their work in total. Although each student’s writing seemed entirely unique at first, I began noticing themes. From these I was able to create 5 or so general messages to students for each writing assignment. I would then personalize these as needed for each student. In this way, I reached a happy medium between automaticity and manual drudgery without sacrificing the unique relationship with each student.  

Renegotiate your Teaching Assistant’s Responsibilities If you have a T.A., consider renegotiating your grading relationship. Many T.A.s are looking for additional responsibility and help in developing their skills. If you provide a simple training guide on your own grading, you can utilize their help to get you through the grading aspect of your course, while also helping shape the teaching skills of your T.A.

Create Non-Graded Assessments Not all student experiences need to be graded to be transformative. Look for places in your course where you could insert quick knowledge or skills checks. More metacognitive or reflective pauses are also incredibly helpful in encouraging  students slow down and take ownership of their own learning.

Flip Your Class With a flipped class methodology, students interact with content outside of class and then the class time is used for a more lab-like experience with one-on-one interaction. Since students are working during class, you’ll be able to observe their processes and their products as you walk around. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for grading in class, for providing significant, just-in-time in-person feedback, and for rethinking your approach to grading in general.     

Student-led Scholarship Where this may not lower your grading load, having your students develop shared scholarly resources can be a great way to lower your content creation load and focus your class-time on practice within your course without making you go crazy. Often developed in the structure of a website or wiki, student-led content creation projects can continue to develop across semesters to keep content fresh and ensure that students get the content they need to understand your subject-matter.

Create A Drafting System Consider creating a drafting system that incorporates feedback at each iteration, but only one grade. In this way students are allowed to practice and perfect their work if needed, and also makes it easier to prevent cheating, by making sure that there is growth in each stage of the process. Start with an brainstorm in groups, then individual content outlines review by the same groups, followed by draft projects and final items. You can even offer the option of the draft stage being the final submission to lower the number of times you see a product.

Get Your Students Involved: Along those same lines, peer review during the drafting process is a fantastic way to reduce the time you spend providing feedback during the semester and increases your students’ ownership over the course and improves their relationships with each other. Meta analyses of peer-review demonstrates that appropriately-scaffolded students can provide valuable feedback equivalent to that of the instructor.

Technology Fixes

Are you using iCollege for your assessments and grading? If not, this system can significantly reduce the time it takes to grade by tying into your gradebook and so much more. If you don’t know much about iCollege, check out this CETL-developed course to start your journey.

Below, we’ve pulled out some of the most helpful labor-saving features that you can use in your courses.

TurnItIn: Plagiarism Detection, GradeMark and PeerMark The first thing to know about grading a paper is if it’s stolen, right? So, TurnItIn helps there. The Plagiarism Detection tool isn’t perfect, but it can let you know if the paper shows up somewhere else on the web. By automatically identifying grammar, style, and spelling errors, TurnItIn also allows you to cut down on your grading time through its GradeMark functions. Lastly, as mentioned above, PeerMark allows you to assign out your feedback work to other students, creating grading opportunities with randomized graders, simplified rubrics and multiple graders to increase reliability.

Interactive Videos through Playposit Alright, alright, we know that technically this is increasing your grading load in some ways, but at the same time, interactive video simplifies the connection of content to discussion by streamlining your workload and encouraging student learning. In addition, Playposit gives you a ton of data about student interaction patterns that can help you streamline your content and assessments to target particular areas of need.

StudyMate It’s questionable if the terms that we ask students to learn will be remembered past the semester break, but the process of studying them could mean that they use the terms correctly in their assignments and we all know it slows down our grading efforts when we feel the rush of frustration wash over us from someone misusing a key term in our course. StudyMate can help by being an integrated flashcard app in iCollege. Add your terms, provide your definitions, and now your student can spend time thinking about your course when they otherwise could not. Sure, it’s ungraded, but it’s also an opportunity to practice.

Automatic Grade Release iCollege has all sorts of helpful settings for releasing grades to students. You can explore these at both the assessment and the gradebook level. The options for auto-release of quiz results are especially robust, including helpful features related to feedback and much more.

Create Rubrics Where many assignments have ineffable qualities that don’t fit a rubric, many of the ways a student can achieve a goal are deliberately aligned with the goals of the course. If your rubric reflects the course goals and competencies, you will reinforce your content at the same time that you make your grading load more streamlined. Reminding your students that you are grading towards the course goals then serves two purposes for you.

Use Conditional Releases: Sometimes, students do work a little too fast and then expect a super-quick turn around time for feedback. These sorts of speedy students put pressure on you to grade and prevent themselves from reflecting on their process as they race towards efficient productivity. A relatively easy way to slow them down is via the iCollege Conditional Release features. Here, you control the release of modules or topics in the course by setting parameters related to time or action. For instance, you might want students to all work on one module every two weeks. Or, you might want students to master a particular concept before they move on. If you go this route, it’s incredibly important to justify why you’re preventing students from moving ahead at their own pace.

Would you like to talk more about transforming your assessment strategy while reducing your grading load? Contact the CETL at