Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Scoring Students’ Written Assignments: Do They Even Read My Remarks?

During my last ten years in higher education, I have listened to my colleagues consistently bemoan the quality (or lack thereof) of their students’ writing and the time spent providing feedback. As a former high school English teacher, and now as a college professor, I too have spent countless hours reading students’ papers and carefully writing thoughtful comments and suggestions for improvement without correcting their work. 

Yet, I suspect that I spend more time on their papers than they do!

On occasion, I encourage students to revise a written assignment, based on my remarks, and then re-submit the paper.  Nevertheless, frequently the suggestions for improvements that I made have been ignored, overlooked, or misunderstood.  

Recently, with the trend of going “green,” I embraced the challenge of teaching both face-to-face and online courses “paperless.” No, that does not mean I stopped assigning papers, albeit tempting.  I decided to have all of my students submit all written assignments electronically. After reviewing the papers with open track changes and comments, I return them electronically.  Unfortunately, that process has proven no less time consuming, and I am still not convinced that my students read my comments or pay any attention to the track changes.  When I am working harder than my students, I know I need to change something!

How do I save time, trees AND provide more meaningful feedback to my students? Recently, a student in my 100% online asynchronous graduate course suggested using recorded screen captures to provide each
student with verbal feedback on their papers.  Much like a one to one conference to go over a paper, this personalized walk-through/talk-through approach seems to be very well received by my students. 

I am able to explain verbally what I used to indicate with cryptic symbols, proof-editing marks, and vague question marks or exclamation marks to convey my point. Remarkably, it is actually less time consuming!

I have said for years that as educators we need to meet our students where they are and coach them to where we want them to be.  Well, apparently it is time I joined the digital age and meet my digital natives in a YouTube recording!

Check out this YouTube demonstration of how to use QuickTime to record a screen capture of a student’s written work while providing feedback and then upload it to YouTube for your student to view:


  1. Thank you for sharing this amazing tool!

  2. Great write-up! Writing is a talent, and it must not be wasted. As with everything that we had been entrusted, we should

    let it grow and share it with the world.>learner motivation