The term electronic management of assessment (EMA) is increasingly being used to describe the way in which technology is used across the assessment lifecycle to support the electronic submission of assignments, as well as marking and feedback.
Assessment and feedback involves the management of a complex set of business processes, especially in higher education. Universities and colleges are seeing benefits and cost savings from using technology to support and to streamline these processes. Queens University in Belfast reported that a move to e-submission and marking saved 20 days per year (JISC 2014). This high level model shows the types of activity that can be supported through technology.
At a more detailed level the processes also include: assessment scheduling; submission of assignments; tracking of submissions; extension requests and approvals; academic integrity; academic misconduct processes; examinations; marks recording; moderation and external examining.
The assessment lifecycle
©This diagram was based on the original by Manchester Metropolitan University
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Feedback that is too general, vague, unclear or inconsistent; or is delivered too late to be useful, has limited effectiveness. (Glover & Brown, 2006; Weaver, 2006).
With students expectations for timely feedback increasing (Brinkworth et al. 2009) and the benefits to both students and staff well documented (Jisc 2014) there is an increasing need for academic and administrative staff to streamline their assessment processes.
This is where EMA can make a real difference to the assessment cycle.
The need for timely feedback should not take precedence over the need for quality feedback but should act as a driver for delivering quality feedback in a timely fashion. Price et al. (2010) identified problems with the students experience of feedback that was delivered via a set of tick-box forms. “Unfortunately, students often very keenly felt (perhaps wrongly) that staff did not care enough to spend time on the feedback, particularly where tick box feedback sheets had been used which students regarded as ‘an insult’.”
Assessment tools are not limited to simply grading or providing marks for work and the overall process of assessing work should be taking a more holistic approach. The drivers for effective assessment are therefore, timeliness; writing meaningful, personalised and positive comments; transparency of the learning outcomes; and should feed-forward to supporting the student in their next piece of work.
The University currently supports submission of assignments through the University VLE as the recognised point of submission. This process ensures that the University is compliant with its requirements from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) that we hold an archive of assessment for audit purposes. By submitting through the VLE the student submission is backed up on a regular basis and the documents can be retrieved.
In addition, the University has a Originality Checking Policy that states that all summative student work must be submitted to Turnitin. By creating a summative submission opportunity in the VLE, the student work can be set up to be submitted to Tii and an originality report generated and sent back to the assignment in the VLE.
The University also supports continuing the assessment cycle with the use of SpeedGrader in Canvas as the eFeedback and marking tool of choice.
Marking can also be completed via the
Canvas Teacher App  from the iTunes store. The app has an advantage in that it allows you to do your feedback and marking offline e.g. on a train or out of reach of reliable WiFi. For full instructions on how to use the app with Canvas, please use
Use of Word documents and tracking changes/comments
It is possible to download actual word documents and other electronic submissions from the VLE, track changes, apply comments and then upload the files back into the VLE. It should be noted that this process has more stages and is less efficient than using the SpeedGrader tools available in Canvas. Marking teams may choose to adopt this approach however as it is a transition stage between marking hard copy and full EMA workflow.
Audio and Video
Audio and video feedback can be provided to the learner in a number of ways. Most modern laptops have a webcam and microphone built in and often ship with tools that allow you to record audio, video or both.
A free desktop audio editor that works across all major platforms (Mac, Windows and Linux)
Voice recorders are also available for your mobile device that will allow you to record your voice and email it to yourself or your students to give audio feedback.
(other apps are available)
Video feedback can be provided through the apps that ship with the device, for example, an iPad 2 or higher has a camera built in that will record video and store it on your camera roll and most laptops come with a built-in webcam and will have recording software pre-installed.
SpeedGrader also allows you to record both video and audio feedback from within the tool. The advantage of using SpeedGrader to mark in this way is that the audio is attached to the feedback and the originality report so there is no need to upload or send additional files to the student.
ATLAS provides Lecturers and Admin staff with the ability to set assignments within PebblePad, manage and allocate marking, provide feedback through bespoke forms, as well as managing external examiners and moderation. ATLAS and PebblePad together are a self-contained system for setting and delivering assessment. For more information on this tool please contact
Brinkworth R, McCann B, Matthews C, Nordström K, 2009. First year expectations and experiences: student and teacher perspectives. Higher Education, 58(2), pp.157–173.
Glover, C. & Brown, E., 2006. Written Feedback for Students: too much, too detailed or too incomprehensible to be effective?
Bioscience Education, 7, 3.
Transforming assessment and feedback case study, JISC.
Price M, Handley K, Millar J, O’Donovan B, 2010. Feedback : all that effort, but what is the effect? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3), pp.277–289.
Weaver, M.R., 2006. Do students value feedback? Student perceptions of tutors’ written responses.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02602930500353061.