Let’s Go!

I was pleased when the title of this post popped into my head, as it can be read (at least) three ways:

  1. I’ve finally started this blog!

    Depite setting it up shortly after the service launched nearly two years ago, I’ve never got round to posting anything.

    I’m not making any promises, but I do want to try using this blog to record my thoughts – both about technical things (like code that I’ve written), and about theory (like my thoughts on papers that I’m reading about mathematics education).

  2. I’ve been using the Go programming langauge

    I’ve been picking this up over the past couple of weeks, to do some work on the GradeX tool which we’re using to manage our exam marking process in the School of Mathematics. I’ve been pleasantly suprised with how quickly I’ve got up and running in this new language, though I do feel that at this point I am mainly hacking away to get things working, rather than trying to write “effective Go“.

  3. We’ve got our exam marking process up and running

    Since we are continuing to run exams remotely for students in Years 3/4/5 and on MSc programmes, there has been a pressing need to figure out how we will handle the nearly 3000 scripts that we expect to be submitted over the next few weeks.

    I spent last week putting the finishing touches on our process for handling the submissions, and this week we’ve finally got the first scripts out to markers. I’ll now need to turn my attention to the checking/moderation process.

In the spirit of using this blog to record thoughts about technical things, I though I’d describe our process for handling exam submissions.

  1. Submission. Students submit scripts to a Learn assignment. We’ve set this up to allow unlimited attempts, and made clear to students that only their last (on-time) submission will be marked.
  2. Backup route. There’s also a backup submission route (through Microsoft Forms). We’re clear with students that we’ll only check this where they have been unable to upload to Learn for some reason.
  3. Download. After the deadline, someone (currently me or Steven) downloads a zip file of all the submissions from Learn. We use the option to download all submitted attempts, since the other option (last attempt only) might mean that for some students we only see a late submission, when in fact they had previously submitted before the deadline.
  4. Processing. We then run the gradex-ingest script on the unzipped folder of submissions. This also reads in the class list, which has each student’s UUN, anonymous Exam Number, and whether they are entitled to extra time for the exam. It takes care of the logic of deciding which submission to use for that student, and spits out a single PDF of that submission. It also produces a log file showing any submissions that were late, or malformed (e.g. students uploading multiple files, or non-PDF files).
  5. Mopping up. There’s then a bit of manual mopping up to do. This involves checking the backup Forms submissions to see if there are any further submissions to add in, and also assembling a single PDF for any students who did not manage to do that. Fortunately that has been rare on all the exams so far.

Also, just to try out the new code highlighting tool on this blog, here is a crucial bit of code in this process:

// Decide if the submission is LATE or not
sub_time, _ := time.Parse("2006-01-02-15-04-05", submission.DateSubmitted)
if(sub_time.After(deadline_time)) {
    if(submission.ExtraTime > 0) {
        // For students with extra time noted in the class list, their submission deadline is shifted
        if(sub_time.After(deadline_time.Add(time.Minute * time.Duration(submission.ExtraTime)))) {
            submission.LateSubmission = "LATE"
    } else {
        // For students with no allowance of extra time, their submission is marked late
        submission.LateSubmission = "LATE"

This uses Go’s weird-looking syntax for parsing dates to read the submission time of the student’s attempt, then compares that with the deadline while also taking account of the student’s entitlement to extra time. Later on in the script, we skip over any late submissions, then pick out the most recent submission for each student.

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