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2 Posts authored by: Michelle Zakarin

      Before the pandemic took over, I was fortunate to speak at a conference where I discussed providing feedback to students through technology. In sum, I spoke about how technology can be a win/win for both teacher and student. Students require feedback to learn and teachers are required to provide feedback to students. It is obvious, but is worth stating, that feedback is only effective if it is read and understood by the students. I have been using technology to provide feedback for over ten years and already understood the benefits of not worrying about losing a hard copy of a paper or having a student who could not understand my handwriting. What was even more helpful for me and for my students, however, was when my institution adopted Canvas and I adopted SpeedGrader

      I had heard that Speedgrader was a game-changer so I went in with high expectations and I was not disappointed. In fact, the function exceeded all of my hopes. There are tons of videos by people much more proficient in using Speedgrader than I am, but that is precisely why I want to share this post. I was not proficient in its use and I was slightly intimidated at the thought of using it, yet my experience was a positive one.

      Allow me to explain. All of my students' submissions were waiting for me, in order, in Speedgrader. A simple click brought up my rubric. I had created my own rubric to use for my specific assignment. It was there for me as I read through the paper. As I began my first paper, with the rubric sitting beside the document I was grading, I saw that there were various opportunities to comment on the paper itself. These comments had nothing to do with the rubric so in addition to providing a detailed rubric with comments, I was able to make specific comments throughout the paper itself. I was awestruck. The commenting was easy. It required no training, just a little trial and error that is natural when I use any new electronic tool.There is a way to highlight (and in a variety of interchangeable colors), there is a way to drop a point to suggest something is missing, there is a way to cross out, the way I would do by hand with a red pen and there is a way to box out an entire section if there is something I need to state about a large portion of the work. Every comment is saved directly onto the document and is available when I am ready to return the marked-up version to the student.The students receive these marked-up papers through Canvas once the grading is complete.

      As for the additional rubric that was sitting in a split screen right next to the document, it was delightful to use. I used my rubric to provide additional, more general comments to students. I was able to allocate points to each section of the rubric and Speedgrader automatically added everything up for me. One of the best parts was that within the rubric, I had the option to save my comments so that I could reuse them for future student comments on the same assignment. This is incredibly useful.

      The last benefit that is worth noting is that Speedgrader keeps track of all of your assignments and the grades allocated to each student. Thus, at any time, a teacher can enter the gradebook through Canvas and see each student's overall grades. They are calculated and at the end of the semester, the points are waiting for me to convert into a letter grade.

      Any reason you are letting stop you from using Speedgrader needs to be dropped and you need to give it a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by its user-friendly feel and I think your feedback will not only remain as strong as before, but it may even get better. If you try it, please let me know your thoughts on its use. Happy grading and stay safe!

Hi Community!


I have been teaching in a higher education graduate school for more than fourteen years and until my fall 2017 semester, I had been calculating my students' grades based on an 80% paper and a 20% multiple choice exam. This was tradition.  This was simply the way things had always been done.  Sure, one paper being worth 80% of a student's final grade was a high stake (when I was in school, this paper was worth 100% - that's progress!), but I figured that was simply what students needed to take the assignment seriously and put in the time and effort needed to earn a good grade. Were there problems from year to year? Yes. Other faculty members would notice and often complain that the students who were so consumed with the high-stakes paper were unprepared in their other classes - or worse - were absent from their other classes.  The concentration on my high-stakes paper was having a negative impact on the students' learning in their other classes. Also, the students themselves often complained about the stress they felt from feeling overwhelmed by having their grade ride almost entirely on this one assignment. 


This past fall, I decided to try a new approach.  Instead of two, I had five graded assessments. The assessments ranged in value from 5% to 40%. I found that the students took each assignment and my feedback seriously under this new assessment strategy, as they knew each assessment would impact their grade to some degree. I also found that they were eager to ask questions to be sure they understood the material. The 40% assessment was for the final paper.  While this was much less than 80%, I found that students were still feeling some anxiety from the weight given.  I will be tweaking my value system next semester so that no assessment will have a value greater than 25% and I am hopeful that this will reduce even more stress. In addition, I will be using Canvas for the first time this semester (I am part of the initial pilot program at my institution) and I am thankful for its organization and clarity - another stress reducer. If anyone has any similar experiences or has used Canvas effectively for a class with multiple, low-stakes assessments, please feel free to share.

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