Electronic Management of Assignments


  1. Following consultation through the University’s Quality Enhancement Committee (QEC) and Teaching Quality Standards Committee, the University has taken the decision to move to full electronic management of assignments (EMA). This will be a 2-stage process and CLE will provide support, guidance and training in a variety of forms to ensure a smooth transition.
  2. First, from the start of the next academic year (i.e. for 16-17 semester 1 or year-long units) we will change from submissions into Turnitin to submission into Blackboard. Then, by the end of the coming academic year, we plan to have in place an EMA business process that is semi-automated online. It will accommodate creation of assignment hand-in links in each Blackboard (BREO) unit for every appropriate assignment, then marking, moderation and feedback in Blackboard Grade Centre (with similarity checking still in Turnitin), then direct entry of provisional marks into SITS.
  3. As part of this process, with the exception of units where assignments are clearly physical (i.e. art and design, for example) and for PG theses, no student will be expected to print and submit hard copy assignments. This means that we will be ceasing to support hard copy hand-in through the “hole-in-the-wall” method.
  4. First we’ll be moving to handling marking and feedback online in Blackboard’s GradeCentre:
    • Blackboard’s assignment tool can manage multiple files and more files types of a larger size than Turnitin.
    • Assignments will need to be set up to allow delegated marking; depending on the size of the cohort, marking can be assigned randomly to numbered sets or to pre-assigned groups.
    • With a single submission, as soon as a student has submitted, first and second marking can commence with neither marker able to see the other’s mark and comments. Once all marking is completed, the unit coordinator reviews the marks and reconciles them, choosing to automatically select max, min or average and then modifying individual marks if necessary.
    • Provisional marks and feedback are released for view by students in Blackboard and the marks are exported to a csv file for importing into SITS.
  5. By August 2017, a semi-automated business process that links SITS and Blackboard together will function bracket the online marking and feedback system:
    • Assignments in BREO units will be created automatically in the Assessment and Feedback area from data held in SITS: assignment name, type, deadline. This will automatically create the link for students to use and a marking column for each assignment in Blackboard’s Grade Centre. Unit coordinators can then allocate marking.
    • Once the deadline has passed, failure to submit will be flagged into SITS and PATAdmin.
    • Following reconciliation of moderated marks by the unit coordinator, as well as being made visible to students in Blackboard, the agreed provisional marks will be passed electronically directly into each student’s record in SITS. Any weighting calculations will continue to be managed in SITS.
  6. In summary, the main reasons for making this move are as follows.
    • Using Blackboard Grade Centre will allow us to identify students who have failed to submit within 15 days of their submission deadline, facilitating intervention to aid retention and engagement; we plan to make this information available in PATAdmin and SITS.
    • Turnitin’s reliability has been questionable and often feedback has been lost, increasing workload; Blackboard has proven much more reliable with fewer problems saving and uploading feedback.
    • Blackboard has a similar marking interface to Turnitin’s GradeMark, but Blackboard allows anonymous blind double marking with online reconciliation of marks, which will be made available in Blackboard to students alongside feedback.
    • Marks can be easily exported into a csv file for upload into SITS during the first year before the online link is made.
    • Feedback in Blackboard can take other forms than text in a box if required, allowing upload of files and longer audio recording if it’s appropriate.
    • Establishment of a business process to include SITS will provide better standardisation of assignment deadlines and timely gathering of moderated provisional marks, streamlining and automating a time-consuming administrative process.
    • Students will not be require to submit hard copy in addition to electronic submissions: the ‘holes-in-the-wall’ will be closed and, in the event that there is an agreed requirement to print assignments, there will be an online process to submit a complete cohort’s assignments to the PrintShop, paid from departmental budgets.