Thursday, 24 November 2011

Review of using the iPad to annotate student work for feedback

As discussed in earlier posts. I have been piloting the iAnnotate iPad app to enable me to provide annotated feedback to students who submitted via the VLE. The following discussed a piece of work students submitted to me after I gave a lecture on a Foundation Degree Course in the Division of Science and Technology, for a communication and technology module.

The students were required to submit a short piece as a formative feedback exercise around the effective using a web 2.0 technology to enhance their learning. As an aside, the majority chose YouTube and Facebook. So we need to include these technologies more within our student induction, support material and staff development programme.

Overall, I got 60 submissions of around 500 words each. They submitted them via Wolsey (Blackboard Assignment Manager). After which I downloaded them, uploaded to Dropbox, accessed dropbox on my iPad, opened in iAnnotate, marked, saved back to Dropbox and then uploaded to Blackboard.

Some key observations of the process

Marking in the iPad:

  1. My annotations where typed text, therefore, the software enabled me to very easily achieve the task. Given the nature of the question, there was soe generic feedback around referencing. Therefore, I simply copy and paste this feedback it all assignments which required it.

  2. I found I could mark the assignments where I liked, and it was easier as I didn't have the bundle of paper to manage

  3. Reading on screen was fine. As the file is automatically converted from doc(x) to pdf, some of the re-formatting was poor

  4. The typing was fine, in terms of speed, accuracy and comfort. However, it was short paragraphs.

Overall, having marked lots of assignments by hand, I found this to be more satisfying. That said, I was only providing a simple feedback. For instance, no diagrams or images.

Managing files and the process:

  1. This is were I made my main mistakes. The process is very easy, however, a limitation of the iAnnotate software is how it manages and displays files. So, not realising this I simply uploaded all the work into one folder and opened in iAnnotate. However, i then got into all sorts of problems finding where I'd got up to. Especially as I marked a few at a time. Consequently, I'd suggest in dropbox you create a number of sub folders and allocate 10 scripts to be marked in each folder. This extra step at the start will save lots of work later :-)

  2. Another tip is to include a sub folder in Dropbox called Annotated scripts, and upload the annotated (completed) scripts to this folder. This separates the student work from those you have marked, which again makes it easier to manage the return to student process.

  3. It does help to mark the scripts in a wi-fi area. This means you can complete the whole process (dropbox >>> iAnnotate >>> dropbox) in one step. You can mark off-line, however, you will later need to sync the annotated scripts to dropbox. I tried this and missed a few, therefore, causing me more admin problems later as I had to check against the gradebook.

  4. The upload from Dropox to the Assignment Manager was straight forward, as each submission adds the students username to the file name. A potential issue I can see , with no simple solution, is the need to keep the a list of the grades by student for each submission. The problem being if you use the grade area in the gradebook, it can be very labour intensive to open the annotated script to get the grade to input. Therefore, I'd suggest given the results are unratified, to only include the grade on the annotated script and not re-key into the grade space within the gradebook.

Where next:

I've been working with course admins and lecturers in the Division of Science ad Technology to widen the pilot. Therefore, we will get more input on the effectiveness of providing feedback for disciplines and submission types where text box feedback is not appropriate.

The evolving work flow is available below via the link. However, if you'd like to discuss how you might get involved in the pilot at UCS, then email us at

Emerging workflow >>>




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