For the last three years I have been an iPod user. When I got my first 5 GB iPod as a Christmas gift a few years back I really thought it was a nice, cool device that gave me a first class MP3 player … what I ended up discovering was that the iPod could enable a whole lot more than just listening to playlists. What does this have to do with grading?
I teach primarily using a hybrid, or blended, approach. In other words, I use the Internet as a huge part of my resident teaching and I don’t usually require students to be in class every week … instead I use computer mediated communication (CMC) technologies, like the PSU ANGEL CMS , or the new features of our own software, Edison Services to assign readings, gather feedback, and discuss things. This usually saves time, but in the last several semesters my classes have become much larger (around 60 students) … the students love the freedom to not be cooped up in class getting the “death by Keynote” treatment from me and it makes the times we do meet much more interactive and engaging.
One of the types of CMC activities I use are called Discussion Activities (DAs). DAs are short, open ended, read and respond style questions that every student in class must answer. There is one DA every week that must be responded to in the ANGEL CMS space. Now, when we came up with the DA concept, class sizes were more in the 25 range. It is very easy to read and grade 25 DAs in a week, provide feedback, and post grades but it is impossible to do the same thing with 50 or more students. What ends up happening is that I just turn the whole process over to a TA and students end up getting very late and unispired feedback.
This is where the iPod comes in. The newer iPods have a feature that we think can turn it into a very powerful assessment tool — ratings. I’ve been talking about the concept of one-click assessment for over two years now. One-click assessment will allow faculty to generate a rubric and assign a simple five star rating system to it. The technology figures out the percentages on the fly and it really streamlines the whole assessment process. Now, imagine having a simple app that would automatically turn text files into mp3 files, drop them into an iTunes library on the fly, and sync them to your iPod. Faculty could simply listen to responses and using the built in ratings system, perform simple one-click assessment on each. When the iPod is plugged back into the computer the files are updated with the ratings in place on the faculty’s machine. Again, a simple script would send the feedback to students instantly via Edison Services. I’ve tested it and it saves me a ton of time in grading DAs.