Oy!?!  Streamlining the Grading Process

When I first started teaching online, I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of time I spent grading and providing feedback.  Being a workaholic, what little semblance of a personal life I had left quickly disappeared during that first semester.  Have you been in this situation before?  If so, you know what I mean when I say things had to change and change fast.  I reviewed my own process and researched how technology could help me in my fight to reclaim time.  Though my efforts are still a work in progress, I offer the following suggestions that have proven beneficial to me.  I hope it helps you, also.

Use the right tool

I prefer essay questions over multiple choice and true-false.  I believe students can better demonstrate their understanding of the material with essays.  However, when I use short answer and essay questions on exams, I lose the ability to have Brightspace score (marking this as correct or incorrect) and grade (send the item to the gradebook) automatically as I have to individually grade the essay questions. My solution: remove all essay questions from the exam and move those questions to a dropbox-based assignment.  This makes it easier for me to use a rubric for essays and provide more detailed feedback using the “Add feedback files” feature.  It also saves me time on quizzes because I am completely removed from automated process.


Of everything related to teaching, I dislike grading the most.  Therefore, I would find myself postponing grading and, when I sat down to grade, it would take me a long time as I would focus more on my disdain than actually finishing it.  My solution: I schedule a grading block on my calendar each week where I must finish all grading for the week during that time period.  Mine is 7:15 to 9:30 on Monday nights, yours will likely be different. Because it is a tight deadline, I know I have to completely focus and commit to the grading process.  Then, the remainder of the week, I can direct my energy to what I love which is the practice of teaching and developing my students.


Use Technology to Assist

Many teaching and grading tools exists to assist in the grading process.  For instance, Grademark by Turnitin, has a feature which will automatically mark common grammatical and spelling errors in student papers (and provide information on how to correct them).  Other tools such as rubrics and the D2L Grader app for iPad have also proven beneficial. I encourage you to explore the different technologies that exist to assist in this section of teaching. 

Set Clear Assessment Expectations

Provide me 40 “A” papers and I will have them graded within 40 minutes.  Provide me one “D” paper, and I will need 40 minutes for that paper alone.  It is true that not all students will provide exceptional work; however, we can increase the number of high level work by providing explicit assessment instructions.  By taking the time to write detailed instructions and expectations of work, I save time by reducing the number of subpar work that is submitted by my students.  This, in turn, saves me much time when grading.