Back in October I participated in the Paper Pumpkin challenge, which encouraged conversations around online marking: Paper Pumpkin - Moving marking online, the uphill battle. Five months on I thought it would be time for an update. Since then we have not had many assignments due as it was the Christmas/Summer break and Summer School, but at my institution we have trained several thousand academics and professional staff in the use of Canvas. I have briefly summed up some of my thoughts on that process here: Keep on keeping on.
In the original post I talked about how great online marking is without all the bits of paper and the promise of quicker grading. Also, it is better for the environment due to less printing, and cheaper for the faculty and students for the same reason. Some staff have decided to give online only a go which is great, and the team I work with are doing all we can to make sure that that goes smoothly. As with all things, public (in this case staff) opinion is half the battle. Unfortunately not much has changed to sway the majority of the paper markers, although from more interaction with these people, some common themes have emerged as to why they don't want to do online marking:
- There is a generational gap - A lot (but not all) of those who have a problem with online marking are from the older generations. They could cite any of the reasons below, but they are more likely to have a problem with the concept. The same people likely struggle because they don't understand computers either, and we frequently have people not knowing what an internet browser or a "tab" is.
- Health reasons - Some complaints have been that screens hurt peoples eyes, or working on a computer is uncomfortable. While I can sympathize with these issues, there are a range of technologies available which can help with this. Tablets and laptops enable the use of a computer wherever suits you. Software such as f.lux: software to make your life better can adjust the brightness on your screen depending on the time of day. "Harden up" is something I wish I could say in these circumstances, but that doesn't really help the situation.
- Internet connectivity issues - Some people want to mark where there is no internet connection. This is a tough one. Submissions can be downloaded, marked, and then re-uploaded but this is a bit clunky. There isn't much more that can be done. Having said that, internet connections and wifi are increasingly common everywhere, and devices now often will be able to have their own modem or be able to tether to a device which does.
- It doesn't have all the options - This one is just an education issue. With tools such as Speedgrader and Grademark there isn't much you cannot do online now. One thing is the ability to just assign a letter grade without the student seeing the raw points, that would be a great help to encourage people to go online, this feature idea is suggesting that this option is added to Canvas: Allow final grade to be letter grade only
- They just don't want to - Even if they were force to mark online, some people just don't want to and will print out all the submissions anyway. There really isn't much that can be done in this circumstance except to either revoke their ability to print (yes I am kidding here, mostly), or to continually encourage them to give it a go and demonstrate how easy it can make things.
In the end all we can do is offer support to the staff that cite (consciously or unconsciously) cite one of the above reasons for not marking online. An official decree from those in charge would not work in my opinion, we need to use the carrot not the stick in these circumstances. Although over time I suspect that neither will be necessary and the transition will happen "naturally". Time will tell.