‘Assessment and Feedback’ is a somewhat notorious category within National Student Survey data, frequently ranked poorly compared to other areas. This trend is present in most UK universities even when ‘Student Satisfaction’ is ranked highly. The 2021 Student Academic Experience Survey from Advance HE and Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) named assessment and feedback as one of the key areas to improve in higher education.
The move to fully digitise assessment in 2020 embraced existing technology that could enhance the submission and feedback process for many teaching staff and students. Pre-pandemic, it was clear that submitting assignments electronically provided many advantages, including faster input of feedback, improved legibility, and long-term storage of assessments. However, it also increases the functionality for a number of formats beyond the standard written text that can improve marking efficiency and enhance students’ experience of receiving feedback.
Turnitin Feedback Studio
Feedback Studio is the suite of marking and feedback tools for Turnitin submissions. It has several options for providing feedback to students.
QuickMarks is a feature in Turnitin that enables you to insert comment bubbles for common errors such as ‘Awk’ for awkward phrasing or ‘Improper citation’ for referencing errors. Simply drag and drop the comment onto the relevant sentence in the student’s essay. Turnitin provides banks of pre-made comments that you can access by clicking the drop-down menu. You can change the selection of default comments to tailor your feedback, ensuring it is relevant to the assessment in question.
In addition, there is the option to create custom comments in QuickMark’s settings. Custom QuickMark comments will save to your account, making these easily accessible every time you mark in Turnitin. Clicking anywhere in the submission will provide shortcut options to QuickMarks, free-text comments (allowing hyperlinks) or inline text comments. The benefits of using QuickMarks allows you to provide more feedback in less time through the use of repeated comments, it helps the student apply specific in-text improvements and, importantly, gives them a stronger understanding of the link between their feedback/grade and the rubric/marking criteria.
Generally, teaching staff use the Feedback Summary box in Turnitin to provide written comments on student essays. However, the option to leave a voice recording is available in Feedback Studio and may provide many benefits. Firstly, it is likely you will be able to provide more feedback in three minutes of talking than you can typing. Secondly, it creates a personalised feel, allowing you to talk as if directly to the student. For time-poor academics who prefer to talk through their critique, this is a viable addition. Simply click on the blue record button to start the feedback recording. You can replay, delete, re-record and save the recording, however you cannot edit.
If your students are submitting work to a Canvas Online assignment (not Turnitin) you will use SpeedGrader in Canvas for marking and feedback. The functionality is slightly different.
Marking in Canvas SpeedGrader allows annotations to be made on student submissions. You can add point annotations (which can be colour-coded) directly onto the essay and add comments or use strikethrough to cross out words. There are options to highlight a single word or passage of text or use an ‘area annotation’ to create a box around a section of the essay. Finally, ‘free-text’ allows you to write directly anywhere on the page, and ‘free-draw’ is the same principle – especially useful if you are marking using a stylus or touchscreen.
Audio and video feedback
SpeedGrader gives you the option to record a media comment using either audio or video. You can start the recording directly in Canvas SpeedGrader using your device’s microphone and/or webcam, or upload an audio/video file.
It is important to note that captioning software is not yet built into either Turnitin or Canvas online assessments and therefore a transcript will not be produced automatically. However, speech recognition is integrated into SpeedGrader. This allows you to speak into a headset or microphone to produce a text transcript, which you can then edit how you please.
Most Schools at Sussex now use marking rubrics for their assessments. This allows students to have a clearer understanding of their feedback and to critically engage with it. It also encourages academics to provide a more well-structured and consistent response to the work. It is important that rubrics are continually critiqued and developed with the students’ module learning objectives and outcomes in mind, especially for non-essay based or alternative assessments such as portfolios and podcasts. Rubrics can be changed both in Turnitin Feedback Studio and Canvas SpeedGrader. The latter allows the attachment of text-based files, which enables relevant articles to be shared as part of the feedback.
The different options in Turnitin and Canvas allow you to return effective and engaging feedback to students, providing students with multiple forms of feedback which will help to improve the quality of their next assessment. If you would like to explore these options further, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or read our e-Submission Guidance for Staff.
While low NSS ‘Assessment and Feedback’ scores and a pandemic may have provided the impetus for an overhaul of assessment practice, there is a way to go. The Rethinking Assessment report by Jisc and Emerge Education released in May 2021 pushed for a complete transformation and reimagination of assessment. Whether that’s developing the use of artificial intelligence to support marking or integrating completely automated end-to-end assessment platforms, it is clear that technology will play a prominent role in the future of assessment.