Excel autograding: alternative e-assessment

This poster on Autograding describes an alternative method of e-assessment which was developed by one of my colleagues.

It is designed for assessing practical write-ups, mostly in the first year of a Life Sciences degree, where all students follow the same experimental protocol, but are required to record and analyse their own results.

The drivers for the introduction of this new assessment method were:

  • to deal with increasing numbers – from 110 to 220 students per class – meaning many more papers to mark;
  • to improve the quality of feedback, making it more extensive, more consistent and more quickly delivered.

Another benefit is that students become familiar with using Excel, which is a useful transferable skill, and they receive detailed and consistent instruction in preparing graphs and other aspects of recording and analysing data.

Students like this method of assessment because they receive lots of feedback with a quick turnaround.

Staff appreciate that the autograding process makes marking quicker, simpler and more objective.

This is a useful alternative method of assessment, but it can’t be the only assessment method used on a course. Writing up a traditional lab report is still a required skill which must be practised and assessed.



2 thoughts on “Excel autograding: alternative e-assessment

  1. Autograding is an interesting approach, but tends to be limited to fairly well constrained areas, such as lab reports, some programming exercises and similar things. It therefore also tends to be limited to the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (perhaps up to analysis). Once synthesis or creation is involved the level of complexity rises considerably and autograding is not yet obtainable (though it probably will be once we get intelligent machines that can learn). But that is another story.

    • Thanks for the comment, Tom.

      I agree that this method of assessment is useful for specific situations only.

      What are your thoughts on multiple choice questions? Which levels of Bloom’s taxonomy do you think they are suitable for testing? I would suggest that they have wider application.

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