Online management of assessment
The University’s aims include:
- Students will primarily submit work online and will have access to feedback and their marks, online from a single point of access
- Feedback tools and resources are made available that support staff to generate quality feedback for students quickly and consistently
- Marking criteria and practice is clear, fair and transparent
- Assessment processes are effective and efficient and activities are automated as far as possible
These aims have been driven by a recognition that the University wants to improve the assessment experience of students by providing electronic submission as well as consistent, constructive and timely online feedback.
The student view/sector view rationale
The SHU student view:
NSS/PTES (2014) – there is considerable variation in students’ assessment/feedback experience across the university, key issues include: feedback varies widely from excellent to very poor; feedback is lacking in detail and explanation; unconstructive comments with no justification of why something they produced was either good or bad; they would prefer qualitative assessment over check-box feedback; would prefer all feedback to be online for ease of access and increased legibility.
NUS Principles of Effective Feedback & Assessment (2014) – submission processes should be simple and where possible; feedback should be constructive, helpful and detailed, to enable a student to understand why they received the mark they got and what to do to improve for next time.
SHU Students’ Union Course Rep Conference (Feb 2015) Student Priorities – legible feedback; feedback on time; consistency in feedback
SHU Students’ Union Elections & Referendum Booklet (Mar 2015) Manifesto Points – “minimum level of feedback”; “improve feedback”; “lobby the university to improve the experience of Blackboard”
Student Focus Group Workshop (March 2015) – problems with legibility of written feedback; issues around consistency of use/checking of Turnitin scores by tutors to ensure fairness; electronic receipt for all submitted assignments; where work is submitted online, feedback should be online too; annotated comments is the most useful feedback for students; a record of all feedback would be useful for the student to reflect on their work in order to improve next time; be able to request more detailed/constructive feedback if needed (electronically or 1-1).
The wider student view:
Research shows an overall student preference for Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) and reveals that few need training to support its introduction.
Benefits for students increase when the end to end process is managed electronically so that marks and feedback are also delivered online.
Many students report that feedback in electronic form is easier to use and therefore it is more likely they will revisit it at a later date.
The Sector view:
“… there is a trend towards normalising electronic management of assessment (EMA) practices largely driven by students but also staff demand, groups or bodies, senior management and national agendas.”
Heads of e-Learning Forum (HeLF) Summary 2013
The use of technology is now a fundamental part of the support for assessment and feedback practice across the sector but there are a few examples of fully integrated approaches to support the whole assessment and feedback life-cycle.
Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) a landscape review – JISC (August 2014)
It is clear that we are in a period where institutions are looking to take a more strategic approach to the application of EMA and this is being formalised in institutional strategy and policy. A few examples that are in the public domain include:
- The University of Manchester, Faculty of Humanities has a comprehensive Policy for online submission, plagiarism detection, marking and online feedback
- The University of East London has an organisation wide approach to e-submission, e-feedback and e-marking
- York St John University has implemented e-submission, e-feedback and e-marking for all appropriate text-based assignments
- University of London has a website giving guidance to staff implementing EMA which is ‘extremely widespread and embedded’ although not mandatory
Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) a landscape review – JISC (August 2014)
The Programme will directly support the University’s strategy to provide an excellent educational experience by delivering:
- clear accessible guidance information around assessment design, marking and feedback
- a view of upcoming assessments for the current academic year
- submission of and access to assessments online
- provision of feedback and marks online
- policy, process and technology to provide an integrated model for the provision of marks online (single mark entry)
- access to a course view of feedback and assessment outcomes
Academic Advice Framework – Academic Advisors
It is envisaged that Academic Advisors will be able to access a student’s record of online marks and feedback in order to engage in a two-way dialogue with the student on their academic attainment and progression over the course of their studies. This will allow students to reflect on their feedback to improve their continuing personal and professional development.
Submitting work online
Online submission will be the norm across the University from academic year 2017/18. The vast majority of coursework prepared in an electronic form will be suitable for submission online.
However, it is recognised that there may be some specialist coursework or assessment types which cannot be submitted online, for example:
- in-class submissions including lab tests/phase tests
- physical artefacts
- files exceeding 250MB (although media based files up to 2GB can be uploaded to the media service via Blackboard)
- some dissertations/theses
Online submission (sometimes referred to as ‘electronic submission’ or ‘e-submission’) is the process of submitting assignments electronically online. It allows the student to submit a digital copy of their work and for their tutor to retrieve students’ work in their own time through Blackboard, normally as an attached file, or a series of files. (See Benefits section).
As more students produce digital work it is important to provide them with a way to submit this for assessment quickly and easily. Technology allows us to do this through integrating the submission and feedback process within systems familiar to the student on Blackboard module sites.
At SHU, the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is used to facilitate online submission. Assignment submission points can be set up in any Blackboard site, with the submitted assignments (normally submitted as files) stored in the Blackboard Grade Centre for staff access.
Most file formats are supported, as long as the member of staff reviewing and marking the work has access to appropriate software to download and open the file outside of Blackboard. (See Formats below).
Large files: any non-media files exceeding 250MB in size or media exceeding 2GB in size can be submitted either physically on flash drives or disk, or submitted electronically via alternative mechanisms including third party cloud-based solutions (e.g.Dropbox) or the University’s Q Drive. Further guidance is available from the TEL Help article ‘options available for submitting large or media files’
- Flexibility and convenience – students can submit assignments without having to be physically present on campus and at any time prior to the deadline; tutors can access student work at a time and place that suits them; and external examiners can access a wider range of student work.
- Engaging students with feedback – online submission lends itself to using marking tools and techniques that can provide richer and easily legible feedback in a variety of electronic formats (e.g. annotated scripts, feedback rubrics, etc), and can be returned to students immediately after marking is complete.
- Supporting student retention – staff can see at-a-glance who has or who has not submitted in order to identify at-risk students, and student work can be readily checked for originality by uploading submissions to text-matching services (such as Turnitin), which in itself can be an additional form of instant formative feedback on their academic writing for students.
- Saving time, money and space – the administrative burden of receipting, sorting and distributing coursework is eliminated; work is stored securely and cannot be accidentally lost or damaged. The consumption of paper is reduced, as are costs associated with printing, photocopying and postage.
- Less physical space is required to archive student work as this is stored electronically online.
Media submissions: any media-based file (audio/video) not exceeding 2GB in size should be submitted to the integrated Media server via the standard Blackboard submission point. Media based files under 250MB can be submitted either to Blackboard or Medial. Further guidance on the media server can be found in the TEL Help article ‘using streaming Medial server for student submission’
Please refer to this article on managing file size when submitting online. This article provides guidance on how to manage the size of files and should be provided to students to help make files more manageable and smaller in size. The document is written for academic staff who are setting assessment tasks that require students to submit work with a file size that exceeds 250MB.All online assignments should be submitted to Blackboard but if you are wanting to download submissions to your own drive, using the local D and C drives is strongly NOT recommended.
‘Personal’ (D:) drive is personal in relation to the PC, not the physical user. D and C drives should not be used for saving your work. D drive is local (personal) to the PC, so anyone that logs onto that PC can see that information and, in the hopefully unlikely event someone stole that PC, they would be able to access the data and there would be no back up copy.
Also if the local drives on said PC were to corrupt there are no backups of the data, so you would lose it all and there would be nothing we could do to recover it.
Please see links below for more details as to why IT don’t recommend saving on these drives:
If your F drive (all staff get 500mb) isn’t big enough for your needs IT Support will consider requests for more space or requests for private areas on the N drive (that only you can have access to, unless you inform IT that other staff members need access).
F (Homespace) and N (N:\\AllStaff\Teaching Materials\then relevant SHU username) drives are backed up every night on SHU servers so if anything was lost or accidentally deleted IT can pull the data back from the server.
If you would like to talk to somebody about setting up a folder on the N drive that is only accessible for you. You can contact IT Support who will liaise with you about setting a folder up.
More details on Storage.
Giving instructions to students
Students must submit coursework for assessment as stipulated by the Module Leader.
It must be clearly articulated to students how submission is to be made online or via another method.
Whichever method of submission is stipulated, the deadline date and time must be clearly articulated to students via their Assessment Statement at the start of the year, as well as via Blackboard throughout the academic year.
It is recommended that the time set for submission is such that staff are available should any technical difficulties be encountered or students require access to support services regarding their submission. It is suggested that deadlines should be set between 9.30am and 3.30pm local time (local to the student), Monday to Friday (there should be no weekend deadlines or deadlines set for when the University is closed). The implications of setting a deadline on a Friday or the working day prior to a University closure day should be considered in relation to the ability to submit late coursework.
Standard deadline times in each Faculty are:
- Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences – 3.00pm
- Faculty of Development and Society – 3.00pm
- Faculty of Health and Wellbeing – 3.30pm
- Sheffield Business School – 3.30pm
Module leaders are responsible for providing students with clear guidance on how submission points operate.
Submission points will be created automatically, where appropriate, in Blackboard module sites for summative tasks and sub tasks (including non-electronic assessments). These will be created based on the assessment task information held in SITS including: due date, task name and assessment type, as provided by the course/module teams.
Turnitin, PebblePad, formative Blackboard submission points will NOT be automatically created.
Submission points will be set up in Blackboard in the following way:
- as individual submissions but can be modified to manage group submissions later if required
- with unlimited submission attempts, allowing students to re-submit if there is a problem with their submission of there is a need to make changes
- to remain open for 7 calendar weeks (49 calendar days) after the published deadline date to allow submission of late work, extensions or in-module retrieval (where granted)
- made available at the point of creation to allow details, particularly the corresponding due date to be visible to the student in Blackboard notification tools and channels, i.e. the Blackboard Calendar and To Do list.
Where submission points have not been automatically created but are required, i.e. for formative assessments, as previously, these can be created manually at the start of the academic year.
A re-assessment submission point will be automatically created in a separate hidden content area at the start of the academic year. This will not be available to students until the Module Leader makes it available closer to the time of re-assessment. Module Leaders will have the responsibility to make this available to students as appropriate.
Should a student only upload their assessment to Turnitin and not to the Blackboard submission point, this will not be classed as a valid attempt and must not be marked and a mark will not be given.
Single Submission Point
The University’s submission model for online submission of work is that of a single submission point is used for first sit assessments to allow submission of work up to the deadline as well as submission of any late work or work with approved extensions, or to allow for in-module retrieval (where granted).
Release of feedback
Once the main cohorts feedback is released, markers need to be aware that any further feedback created after this point will be immediately available to students i.e. for those students with extensions or IMR. To control the release of feedback, staff can use the ‘save as draft’ functionality which allows online feedback to be published to the student at a chosen date and time.
The marking report can be used to identify work that has been submitted:
- on time, before the deadline (marked as normal)
- after the original deadline but within an approved extension (marked as normal)
- after an agreed deadline but within 24 hours (capped at pass mark)
- late (zero mark)
The report will identify the correct scenario (from above) for each piece of work and confirm the appropriate marking approach to be applied e.g. cap at pass mark, full mark or zero mark. The marking report will be available to staff via the Assessment Channel in SHUspace.
In-Module Retrieval (IMR)
The marking report is not able to identify work where IMR has been granted by the Module Leader as this data is not currently held in our systems. As such, Module Leaders should manage local records of students making use of IMR and ensure the appropriate mark is applied.
Where exception from the University’s model is deemed to be absolutely necessary, additional Blackboard submission points can be created and used by the module team. This may be practical where there are large cohorts and or marking teams or where specific management of IMR is required. Agreement to do this should be sought from your faculty assessment lead.
Alternative models such as the use of different submission points or adaptive release to manage the different extension periods, late submissions and IMR have been considered to ensure that the implications of their use is fully understood. Whilst there are potential benefits around controlled release of marks and feedback to students, consideration of the implications of using these alternative modules is needed as they will:
- require significant set up and management
- pose potential issues around late submission
- not allow the use of the marking report
- require a decision in faculty about who manages this
Further detail on the modules and implications of using can be found in the alternative modules for managing submission resources.
A single list of task marks will still be required when marks are provided to Students Administration.
Group Assessment Submission
Module Leaders should specify to students that when submitting group assessments they should be submitted by one member of the group (all group members will receive acknowledgment of the submission if work is submitted via Blackboard).
For further details see ‘Groups Overview’
Module Leaders are responsible for stipulating how work is presented for online submission (e.g. font size, word limits, electronic file type, etc.) for each assessment task. This must be clearly articulated to students in the module assessment brief published via the module guide and on the Blackboard module site.
Where the module leader has stipulated that the student should submit their assessment via Blackboard and the student submits their assessment via an alternative method, this will not be classed as a valid attempt and will receive a zero mark. The assessment task will be referred (if at first submission) or failed (if at referral submission).
Blackboard places no restrictions on the file formats that students can submit therefore it is important that the acceptable and accessible file formats are clearly stated. This is to ensure that students only submit formats that the markers are able to open, e.g, formats support by the University’s provided software.
Please note that the inline marking tools e.g. crocodoc accept a range of file formats but are restricted to Word (doc & docx), Excel (xls & xlsx), Powerpoint (ppt & pptx) or PDF.
Sheffield Hallam University has subscribed to Microsoft Office 365 as a University, providing Microsoft Office to all staff and students free of charge. This means staff and students have access to the latest version of the full Office productivity suite (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and more) available for offline and online use.
For more information, please visit https://go.shu.ac.uk/office365
Please note that if you are using the Print to Mark service, this does not accept Open Office and Mac OSX files such as Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Please also note that if you are intending to print any student work with mathematical notation included, please ask these to be submitted by the student as PDF files so the notation prints off in full.
It is considered good practice for each course/department to agree a consistent approach to assessment format where possible.
Students must take reasonable steps to:
- adhere to the required format as stipulated by the Module Leader
- submit legible assessment
- submit accessible work, ie. not password protected and not corrupt files
Assessment not submitted in the specified format will not be classed as a valid attempt and will receive a zero mark. The assessment task will be referred (if at first submission) or failed (if at referral submission).
Other ways of submitting work
Although online submission is the expected norm across the University, it is recognised that every faculty is different in terms of types of assessment.
Some work may have to continue to be submitted via Faculty Helpdesks or other assessment types may be handled in other ways. There will also be some coursework which is assessed by a presentation, exhibition or other media, which by its nature cannot be submitted on line or via a Faculty Helpdesk. Blackboard will support the receipting of these types of assessment where the module leader has specified this when validating their assessment task information in advance of teaching starting.
Online Submission – UG/PG Dissertations/Final Year Projects
UG and PG students should be given the opportunity to upload their text based dissertations/final year projects to Turnitin for formative purposes and a final summative submission to Turnitin.
If there is a requirement to submit a bound copy of the final summative submission, course teams will decide if an online final submission is also required to be submitted to Blackboard.
Online Submission – Portfolios
PebblePad can be used to supplement and enhance the functionality of required Blackboard module sites where there are sound educational reasons/benefits. PebblePad should be integrated with Blackboard for the submission of any coursework to ensure marks are linked with the Blackboard Grade Centre. Feedback is accessed via PebblePad.
Contact your Faculty TEL contacts for more information on submission routes.
SHU has developed a new receipting feature for our students when they submit their work via a Blackboard Assignment. After their work is submitted, students receive an email confirming the details of their submission.
Online submissions through Blackboard
The student – or group of students if it is a group submission – will get an email confirming who submitted the work, when it was submitted, the module title, the assignment title, and the name of the file(s) submitted, including file size(s). It will also contain the name of the module leader and their email address as well as a link to the relevant faculty helpdesk should further help or support be needed by the student. A copy of the receipt will be saved as a PDF in an area of the Blackboard site teaching staff can access.
All other submissions
Physical work can also be receipted by helpdesks or in class by tutors where determined by the Module Leader. This will generate an electronic receipt for the student and an attempt is recorded in a Grade Centre column, enabling feedback to be provided.
For assessment types such as presentations, Module Leaders will have a choice about if they issue a receipt of not and will need to confirm this when validating their assessment data to determine the type of Grade Centre column that is set up.
What if a student can't meet their deadline?
The Assessment Statement is intended to help students to manage their time and plan carefully to meet all assessment submission deadlines.
If students have any concerns about completing their coursework on time due to personal circumstances, ask the student to speak to their Student Support Officer.
A Student Support Officer will advise students about requesting an extension to a coursework submission deadline. This request must normally be submitted at least 24 hours before the deadline date together with a copy of any uncompleted work and documentary evidence of their circumstances.
Coursework submitted within one working day (24 hours) of the deadline date and time without an authorised extension will receive a mark capped at the minimum pass mark. Coursework submitted beyond that time without an authorised extension will not be classed as a valid attempt and will receive a zero mark. The assessment task will be referred (if at first submission) or failed (if at referral submission).
If a student misses an exam, ask them to contact their Student Support Officer as soon as possible. Please note that if students arrive late, they are permitted to enter an examination during the first 30 minutes, including any reading time allocated to the examination.
If students have a general problem with prioritising, or working under pressure, Study Support can help them to develop practical ways of managing their time and workload.
Guidance for students when submitting work online
There’s a range of guidance currently available to students on how to submit work online to embed in the Assessment Content Area of your Blackboard site. See the resources below:
How do I submit work to Blackboard?
How do I submit group work online?
There is a potential issue affecting students who submit their assignments to Blackboard using the Microsoft Edge browser. Students who submit their work using Edge and who have a copy of the work open whilst the submission is in progress are encountering an issue whereby the content of the file that is submitted becomes blank (i.e. any text, images etc. are removed and a single blank page is submitted).
When advising students or publishing guidance about submitting work to Blackboard, please can you alert students to the following advice:
If you have recently submitted an assignment to Blackboard using the Edge browser please check both your email receipt for the submission and review your assignment via the submission point. If you have ‘0 bytes ‘ file size showing on your email receipt and/or a blank page in the assignment preview window, you will need to submit your work again via the Start New Submission button.
If you are an Edge user who is yet to submit (or needs to resubmit because of a problem), ensure you do not have a copy of your work open whilst submitting your assignment to Blackboard, or better still, use an alternative browser.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your work is successfully submitted. Always check your email receipt and the submission point again following each submission.
If Blackboard becomes unavailable
Business Contingency Plans are in place to provide a consistent approach if ever Blackboard becomes unavailable for the submission of student work or to allow marking or the provision of feedback to be completed by staff.
What will happen if a submission point is unavailable at the time of submission?
If a submission point is unavailable at the time of submission a one working day extension from the time the system is restored is to be provided to all students affected. Digital Technology Services will place a standard message on Blackboard and Faculty Student Services teams will contact students with further details. Module Leaders do not need to take any action.