George Kinnear's Blog

George Kinnear's Blog

Technology Enhanced Mathematics Education

Marking remote exams

Throughout April and May 2020, we’ve had 42 different exams running remotely in the School of Mathematics. These would normally have happened in exam halls, with students writing on paper and the scripts then passed around between staff for marking and moderation.

With the exams now happening remotely, students have instead been scanning their work and uploading it in PDF format.

So, how are we dealing with marking and moderating over 2200 PDF exam scripts?

We’ve taken the opportunity to try out three different approaches:

  1. GradeX PDF – this is a tool that was rapidly developed by Tim Drysdale in Engineering, with the aim of keeping the experience for markers close to that of marking scripts on paper.

    We’ve used this as our default approach, with a mean of around 50 scripts per exam.

  2. Gradescope – this is a popular web-based service, now owned by Turnitin, that we had heard about from colleagues in other mathematics departments some time ago.

    We have used this for 5 of our largest exam papers, in courses with over 150 students, because it has enabled multiple markers to work together more easily.

  3. RM Assessor – this is a service used by many school exam boards, including the SQA, with tools in place for managing large distributed marking teams.

    We have used this for our largest exam, with around 180 students.

Students have the consistent experience of submitting their exam script through a Learn assignment. These have been set up across all 42 courses by a team in our teaching office, using a consistent template. We then use the bulk download feature to export all the scripts, and do some offline processing (described in a previous blog post) to get a set of PDFs ready for whichever tool will be used for marking.

Marking (and moderation) is still underway, so it’s too early to say what our preferred solution is. But so far, it seems that on-screen marking is working well – some markers have reported saving time by not having to shuffle through lots of paper, and by not having to do mundane jobs like adding up marks.

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