Using Gradescope to Give Detailed Feedback on Assignments

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies/eTech

Did you notice the “Gradescope” option under the “Build Content” option in your Blackboard courses in Fall 2020? Perhaps you also noticed the Gradescope resources posted by the Center for Instructional Technology?

Thanks to the support of the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Office of Information Technology, UA provided Gradescope for everyone using Blackboard on campus. And, thanks to the positive feedback of instructors, it is renewed for 2021! Instructors using the Gradescope found that it helped them to easily create and edit rubrics, grade faster, and give better feedback on assignments.

The feedback from instructors was very honest!

Saves Time Grading

“This tool has saved me a large amount of time and trouble for grading work submitted online. It is a great help that you can edit the rubric and your changes are reflected in answers that were previously graded. It helps me grade more consistently. It has been so helpful that I want to use it even when we are back to normal.”

“I use it in my statistics courses for homework and exams. It’s waaaayy easier than BB or WebAssign, especially for remote learning.”

“I was skeptical at first and there was a learning curve, but once I figured it out, it made grading much quicker and more consistent.”

Useful for Remote Grading

“I think Gradescope still needs more development to become as useful as it could potentially be, but right now it permits faculty to give students more meaningful feedback on assignments turned in digitally. This has been extremely important during COVID.”

“Bubble sheet grading. Unlike the scantrons, I can go question by question and assign partial credit for bubble sheets! This is a game-changer as multiple-choice no longer becomes all or nothing, you can earn partial credit!!! And it’s question by question. Furthermore, I can manually correct a single student’s bubble sheet.”

“Grading papers is not only safer (due to non-contact with physical papers), but it is also more convenient (I can grade from any device, and students can access their results anywhere). There are some quality of life features that I believe could be beneficial should Gradescope eventually include them (such as arranging rosters by last name, and pen/stylus markups on papers). Overall, top marks for this program. I would definitely use this even if we weren’t dealing with a pandemic.”

Technical Advantages

“Compared to the inline grader within Blackboard, Gradescope loads each submission about 10x faster. I don’t know why Blackboard takes so long to load a PDF but with Gradescope it is instantaneous. I spend way more time loading each student’s PDF in Blackboard than in Gradescope. In a class of 90-100 students, even 10 seconds per PDF adds up!!”

“Late submissions. Blackboard [does not permit me to] upload on a student’s behalf (maybe I can, but I haven’t figured it out). Gradescope lets me upload submissions on a student’s behalf which is critical for this COVID era and late work. If I just leave an assignment open on Blackboard so that there are late submissions, I get tons of emails from students saying, ‘I thought the due date was X.’ With Gradescope, the submission can close at the original due date, and then the late students just email me the assignment and I upload on their behalf.”

Areas for Improvement

“It will be great if Gradescope would be compatible with Lockdown Browser for quizzes and exams. Alternatively, it would be great if Gradescope would also include webcam monitoring on their platform.”

* Gradescope’s most recent newsletter notes their response to this feedback: “Securing Assessments – We’re working to help you maintain the integrity of your assessments with options for randomizing your questions, browser lockdown, online proctoring, and more.”

“In these days of online instruction, Gradescope’s capacity to interpret simple, literal sentences has become less unique. When many exams are taking place online and handwritten tests have become uncommon in these special times, the text entry and simple interpretation tools native to Blackboard can easily reproduce Gradescope’s capabilities in a fully automated fashion. […] UA may reconsider it when large classes — the ones for which Gradescope would be most useful — start to get back to in-person handwritten tests.”

construction site with grader at work