How do you grade?
I had the best intentions in August when syllabi planning. I had my weeks laid out nicely, my readings selected (with the exception of three I added in the latter half of the semester), and gosh darn it, I had my due date calendar up to speed. Delivering an online course means I had to be super organized about things since I’d never actually “see” my students in person, but 100% online.
Inevitably, I made a few mistakes and **gasp** over assigned some work, taking away a few assignments and giving the points to everyone. No one seemed to mind.
As I head to the latter portion of my semester, I’ve accounted for all the things I’d hoped to engage with my students about and I worked hard to design a MANAGEABLE course for ME. Yes, ME. I’ve learned a few things and quickly tried to compensate. I’ve also changed how I do things in many cases to help streamline the process for my students and for me each week.
- I front loaded assignments to ensure that all of us (students and instructor alike) would have time to complete the final paper for the course. It has long been a point of discussion to professors everywhere of how to load a course.
- I took an “every other” route with this course. There was work due every week, but every other week was a bit lighter in the amount of writing expected and the assignment expectations. One week, a personal reflection would be due of about 500 words and a ‘group chat’ among teams in the course. There would also be a reading and/or another reading or a guest lecture in the form of video or audio. On the opposite week, there would often be an article critique due (1000 words) and sometimes nothing or sometimes a reflection on a documentary pertaining to their chosen industry. With such a broad course topic, my course attracts a wide variety for an audience and it’s important to me as the instructor to try and understand what is important to each student.
- I stopped making comments in document (unless there were a LOT) and instead, started emailing students directly with my comments. If there were gross APA, syntax, and grammar errors, I simply said, “this document had more than three errors in the first few paragraphs, please check.”
- I set aside one day a week (barring any schedule issues) to grade. In a set amount of time, blocked off my calendar, and didn’t come to campus until it was done.
- I tried not to “over grade” or make so many comments/make the email so long, that the student wouldn’t care. Usually a short paragraph, less than three sentences to drive home a point or pose questions. Nothing too verbose. My students all work full time to, they don’t have time to read short novels.
- Set clear expectations up front. I told my students what I expected early on. I let them know they’d struggle week one and two and then we’d get into a rhythm. Only a few panicked.
- I sent out rubrics to help manage expectations.
- I accepted drafts on the final paper during ONE WEEK of a set length for review. I reviewed each one I sent.
- I sent a mid-semester survey to give students a voice if they had feedback for me. Only four answered.
What can I work on?
- My online organization of the course materials. Some things didn’t get organized as well for every student. Their folders for assignments also got jumbled halfway through the semester and I had to make a folder in each folder. Arrggghhh!
- Grading hiccups. Technology wasn’t always my friend in terms of the CMS our university uses.
- I worked hard and sometimes struggled engaging all learners. I also am learning to accept that not all of my students care about authentic learning, some just want the bare minimum for the degree.
- Time. I still think I can be more efficient with my time. I’m still figuring out how to do that.
What advice would you offer a new faculty member who’s teaching, researching, serving, and not sleeping? 🙂