Providing timely, directed, and cogent feedback to student assignments is a difficult and time consuming task. Previous CTIE “Article of the Week” posts have addressed some of the issues involved in giving feedback on writing assignments (e.g., “Responding to Student Writing,” April 11, 2011; “Providing Effective Feedback on Tests and Assignments,” February 28, 2011; “Grading,” Nov. 29, 2010; “Designing and Grading Exams,” May 3, 2010, etc.). As I’m working my way through a pile of papers, I often think: the best thing would be if I had the student here, I could tell her quite concisely what I thought the strengths and the weaknesses of her paper were. Well, there are now ways that you can do something similar, using programs that incorporate your oral comments to a student’s paper or assignment.
OK, first things first: this is probably not for the technologically faint of heart. But neither is it so complex that only our colleagues in OCTET would understand it. Finally, for students, the only real skills involved are being able to open and click on a link.
There are different ways to do this, but the main recommendations come from a recent article by ProfHacker, a regular feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education. If you don’t have a subscription to the CHE, you can access it via the library’s website, making sure to sign in if you are off campus (if you are on campus and access it through the library’s web site, there should be no problem).
The article in question is by Heather M. Whitney, “Grading Computer Programming with Voice,” CHE (October 30, 2012). She uses three accounts (JotForm, Jing, and screencast.com) to allow her to pull up an assignment uploaded by students (in her case, some programming problem), use screencapture technology and a microphone to point out those places on the assignment which need improvement or were excellent, give students verbal feedback on what was and wasn’t working (up to 5 minutes of comments on Jing), and then return the assignments to an individual folder which only the individual student can see.
Whitney’s article links to others, including how to “Grade with Voice on an iPad,” (CHE, June 19, 2012), how to use iAnnotate on the iPad to comment on PDF’s, and an interesting article by Billie Hara on “Responding to Student Writing (audio style),” CHE, Oct. 16, 2009.
I have not used any of these techniques in my own classes, but they sound so attractive that I will probably start next semester, if not this since I often feel that I could convey my suggestions with greater precision if I were talking to a student, particularly if I’m working my way through a large stack of papers and I get tired writing. My sense is that there is a modest learning curve involved in using this technology, but that, once accomplished, the commenting would move smoothly.
I’d be very interested to know if others are using this technique, and, if so, what software you use, how long it took you to learn it, and, most importantly, what you found the results to be for your students in terms of feedback you have received and any evidence of increases in their learning.
Once again, if you need to connect to the Chronicle of Higher Education through the library, use the following link: http://tinyurl.com/CTIE-CHE .
Steve Volk, Nov. 5, 2012