Electronic submission and feedback at Sussex – the story so far

Infinite Loop by Faruk Ateş

Infinite Loop” by Faruk Ateş, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 licence (Original cropped and retouched)

This summer will see the graduation of the first student cohort to have experienced electronic submission and feedback throughout their time studying at Sussex. To mark this significant milestone, this blog post reflects on the story so far.

Starting in 2014, members of staff from across many Schools and Professional Services have been working on the University’s e-submission and e-feedback (ESEF) project. This is a major university-wide initiative, delivering a step change in the systems and processes supporting assessment, marking and feedback. Formed as an active response to messages coming from students through the National Student Survey (NSS) and Students’ Union, the project recognised the need to transform and improve the quality and methods used for assessment and feedback. Three years later, Sussex is one of only a few universities1 to have established a fully automated end-to-end solution to facilitate the submission of student work, tutor marking, moderation of work (internal and external) and return of feedback.

Where are we now?

Since the launch of the new e-submission and e-feedback system at the start of the 2014/15 academic year,  approximately 90,000 electronic submissions have been made by students and over 700 members of staff have received training and support from Technology Enhanced Learning. In that first year, the system was available for use purely with text-based assessments on level 4 (first year) undergraduate modules, via the Turnitin software, but it has continued to grow and develop year on year, in line with a plan to extend use and respond to feedback from staff and students.

Please let us use e-submission and the Turnitin software as quickly as possible in the Masters courses. Not only will this help us teach students about academic integrity and reduce the incidence of plagiarism, it will help improve the marking process dramatically. (Anonymous, from the staff e-submission survey).

For 2015/16, capacity was increased and a moderation workflow developed which allowed the system to be extended for use with level 3 (foundation) and level 5 (second year) module assessments. From this year, it is now possible to use e-submission and e-feedback across all levels of study at the university, with the inclusion of level 6 (third year), resits, and postgraduate module assessments where required.

It would be helpful to submit portfolio pieces separately, rather than needing to copy and paste them into one document. (Anonymous, from the student e-submission survey).

We have also extended the range and potential of assessment types by introducing Mahara, a digital portfolio system and also an alternative e-submission route which enables single or multiple files of any type or format to be submitted. In addition to a weekly training programme, Technology Enhanced Learning have supported staff to make the transition to online marking by providing extensive online guidance and resources, as well as assistance to develop discipline and school specific practices.

Screenshot of Quick Marks to support study skills

Skills Hub Quick Mark set

Alongside these activities to support the transition in marking practice TEL have worked in collaboration with colleagues in the Library and Careers and Employability Centre who support study skills to create sets of reusable feedback comments (QuickMarks). These are available to all markers to use when providing feedback and provide a simple and accessible way to embed links to our existing online study skills resources into student feedback.

Staff and student feedback

What students and staff have said about e-submission and e-feedback

The solution has been well received by staff and students alike. Students have commented on its ease of use, flexibility to support their studies and enhancement of the learning experience.

It is an excellent tool. Saves paper, allows more flexibility in the student’s schedule, and the instructions are very easy to follow. Definitely improves the learning experience. (Anonymous, from the student e-submission survey).

Another significant benefit has been the clarity and legibility of feedback through the presentation of typed comments.

E-submission is much more convenient. feedback can actually be read as well! Sometimes I have found handwriting quite difficult to understand and so I didn’t know what actually was the correct answer. (Anonymous, from the student e-submission survey).

Staff have commented that it has improved their working processes and given them the tools to provide students with more detailed and higher quality feedback.

It has immeasurably improved my ability to respond to students work. I can offer more detailed and focused commentary, whilst saving time, and working more flexibly than with paper scripts. An excellent addition to the University experience for faculty and students. (Anonymous, from the staff e-submission survey).

Along the way, some have been pleasantly surprised by the way it has transformed their work and ability to provide feedback.

I was initially sceptical about the e-submission process as I’m not very confident with technology but found it user friendly and time saving and would favour e-submissions to paper submissions now. (Anonymous, from the staff e-submission survey).

Where next?

Despite the success of the project so far, and positive reception as reflected in the survey feedback, the project team is still busy and working actively to make the system even better. This summer will see the introduction of a new and improved interface for Turnitin, with the Grademark component updated and rebranded Feedback Studio, which will provide a range of enhancements to the marking and feedback process.

For more information on our e-submission and e-feedback processes please see our online guidance and resources on the Technology Enhanced Learning website.


Electronic Management of Assessment 2016: a Heads of eLearning Forum (HeLF) Survey Report (pdf) Newland, B, Martin, L https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bz7E74T5Am22bXpIRmxxV0RyRWM

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Posted in Marking and assessment, Study Direct

Developing students’ discipline-specific vocabulary.

Every discipline has its own specialist terms and concepts. As students progress in their studies they learn the relevant language, but when they begin their studies there are lots of words that they are unsure about. Developing students’ fluency in the language associated with their discipline will put them in a better position to understand course materials and discussions and to express themselves in writing, so it is well worth introducing some activities to scaffold that aspect of their learning.

"Shakespeare's words" flickr photo by Calamity Meg https://flickr.com/photos/disowned/1158260369 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

“Shakespeare’s words” flickr photo by Calamity Meg https://flickr.com/photos/disowned/1158260369 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Some ideas for using learning technologies to develop vocabulary.

  • Polling vocabulary and key concepts. You can check understanding of key concepts in lecture settings using response systems such as Poll Everywhere. This could be by asking students which terms they feel confident about, or testing them on the definition of a new concept introduced in the previous lecture.
  • Flashcards. There are a number of mobile apps and online tools for creating flashcards (such as StudyBlue and Quizlet). Students could research key terms and create cards before a seminar then test each other.
  • Sorting activities on the SMARTboard. Using an interactive whiteboard, list terms or concepts and definitions that can be moved around and matched up.  
  • Online quizzes. A Study Direct quiz with multiple choice or true/false questions could be used to let students test their understanding of key terms.

Read more ›

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Posted in Learning Design, Polling tools, Study Direct

Gamification using Poll Everywhere’s Segmented Responses

Gamification in education is a pedagogical approach in which elements of games are incorporated into teaching sessions and/or online delivery, with the aim of increasing student engagement. This could be achieved by introducing a competitive element (through, for example, the use of teams), by incorporating the idea that students can ‘level up’ by achieving certain milestones or aims, or by including elements of video games.

"wordle_03" flickr photo by 4RealRose https://flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/8270056883 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

“wordle_03” flickr photo by 4RealRose https://flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/8270056883 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

One way to start incorporating gamification into your teaching sessions could be to use the ‘segment responses’ option in Poll Everywhere, the student response system used at Sussex. This option allows you to pose an initial question to your students, for example ‘Which team are you in?’. Answering this question then assigns students to a certain team, so students who answered A will be assigned to Team A while students who answered B will be assigned to Team B. Poll Everywhere then tracks the responses to the questions that follow, grouping the different teams’ responses and displaying charts of the answers, introducing a competitive element between the teams which can encourage students to engage with the activity and respond to each question. Poll Everywhere have made a useful step-by-step video which takes you through the process of setting up your polls, gathering responses and generating reports. Read more ›

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Posted in App review, Mobile learning, Polling tools

Portfolios, assessment and Mahara

We have recently introduced the Mahara e-portfolio system at the University of Sussex, as part of our integrated e-submission and e-feedback solution (ESEF), electronically managing assessment from assignment brief to moderated marks. The primary aim of adding Mahara to our suite of applications was to broaden the range of assignment types available for electronic submission, both allowing our students to submit a more diverse range of media types and also capturing the more complex relationships between assignment elements that characterise portfolio submissions.

ePortfolios have a wide range of differing conceptions and purposes, leading to a certain level of ambiguity in definitions and terminology (see Hughes, 2008, Grant, 2005). Our initial implementation, paying particular attention to the role of the portfolio in presenting selected content for assessment, therefore represents only a section of the possibilities for learning and personal development, but more on that later. Read more ›

Posted in Marking and assessment, Study Direct

Podcast Episode 8 – A Space Beyond the Room – Using a blogging platform to support learners


Podcast Episode 8 – A Space Beyond the Room – Using a blogging platform to support learners

In this episode, Sally Burr talks to Dr Rebecca Webb, Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education at the University of Sussex, and a group of Doctoral and Early Career Researchers, who have started using WordPress as a tool for developing their writing in a blog called Writing into Meaning. In this podcast the learners show how the blog has proved to be a motivational platform to share their successes, a trigger for further experimental writing and a place where they can share their concerns as learners and writers.


Writing into Meaning Blog
Guide to Getting Started with WordPress
Sussex Blogs (WordPress)
Guide to Using Blogs in Higher Education
Using Blogging as a Learning Tool
Using Blogs in Learning and Teaching 

Subscribe to the podcast using our RSS feed.

Posted in Mobile learning, Podcast, Social media

Tech for active learning in large groups.

How can we promote and manage active learning during lectures? How can we measure student understanding and make sure that students are engaging with material?

In 1972, Donald Bligh (1) undertook an extensive study on the use of the lecture as an educational format. He found that it was effective but not more effective than other methods used for transmitting information and that it is relatively ineffective for many other aspects of education including the promotion of higher order thinking. Bligh also observed that concentration levels of students typically drop after 10 – 15 minutes of passively listening to a lecture. Since these studies took place, technology has provided us with an increasingly sophisticated, interactive and accessible range of formats for transmitting information and facilitating active learning. This article looks at a few tried and tested strategies for using technology to enhance learning for teaching large groups of students.

"Bristol ~ Wales ~ Cardigan ~ Do Lectures ~ London - April 2013" flickr photo by Samantha_Bell https://flickr.com/photos/samanthabell/8737957816 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Samantha_Bell https://flickr.com/photos/samanthabell/8737957816 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The ‘flipped’ classroom

This model changes the dynamic of learning and teaching to enable more active learning and can be applied to both small and large group teaching across a range of disciplines. The basic premise of this model is that pre-class independent study is typically focussed on transmission of knowledge, whilst time in class is spent on active learning to provide opportunities to apply concepts and reinforce understanding. This approach is commonly used in conjunction with the peer-instruction and team-based learning methods mentioned in this article. 7 things you should know about flipped classroom provides a useful introductory guide.

We have recently set-up a flipped learning group for staff at University of Sussex, please see our webpages for details if you would like to be involved. Read more ›

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Posted in Learning Design, Polling tools

What’s new in the A-Z of apps?

An image of an A - Z (apps)

“fpx0528111-a-z” flickr photo by fontplaydotcom shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Have you seen the Technology Enhanced Learning A-Z of apps recently? We now have nearly 100 entries on our list!

If you’ve not yet had a chance to look through our selection of teaching and learning tools, head over now to see the updated list which now includes:

> Anchor FM
> Box
> Cogi
> Photos for Class
> Slack and Wix.

See below for a review of the latest additions.

Read more ›

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Posted in App review, Images and Copyright, Technology Enhanced Learning

5 more tips for multimedia enhanced teaching and learning

Image source: CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use No attribution required

Why is a teacher like an artist? How can video, audio, digital annotation and other forms of multimedia be used in education?

Due to the overwhelming response we had to our previous blog post 5 Tips for Multimedia Enhanced Teaching and Learning, we have put together 5 more tips for using multimedia technology to make your teaching more diverse, engaging and inclusive. In their research on multimodality and multimodal learning, Gunther Kress and his colleagues argued that presenting information through ‘one mode alone fails to capture the meaning of a communicative event’ and that, when you combine modes, they interact to create ‘multimodal ensembles’ which convey ‘more complex, modulated meanings’.  Read more ›

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Posted in App review, Digital scholarship, Learning Design, Mobile learning, Technology Enhanced Learning

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We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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