Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick Four-Step-Guide to Grading Essays Online

A colleague writes:

How do teachers grade formal writing effectively and efficiently online when you have a student load of 100? I have tried countless times to grade from the dropbox, and I always end up giving up, because students are sloppy about submissions, I can't grade easily on the go, and it takes a much longer time to open the documents.

Dropboxes are a pain in the keester.

I suggest the following admittedly DIY strategy:

1. Have the kids post their essays on a blog. There's no reason why you should have to manage dozens of unwieldy Word documents. Plus, if it's posted to a blog, you can easily grade it from anywhere you can connect.

2. Cut-and-Paste the student's essay into a Word program.

3. Comment on the paper in 'Comments Mode' and record your grade.

4. Email the edited version back to the student.

Bam! You're done! The one thing the super-savvy among you may try is to convert the paper into a pdf before sending it back to the student; you can do this in Acrobat Pro or via Open Office. [ADD 2.12.09 5:24PM] Then the student may post the essay with the teacher's comments on their blog.


  1. I am having students use Google Documents to write their assignments and then share the document with me. I can grade them at school or at home and can type my comments right into their document.

  2. I agree with the person who posted above, about using Google Documents. I am very wary of turning in essays on a blog, simply because there is so much plagiarism going around. It would both put hundreds of essays out there, for students to copy, and for students to submit via copy/paste. Granted, it's not difficult to plagiarize on paper, but with paper, there is no option to "delete entry." The evidence is there, turned in by the hands of the students. With paper, there are no accusations that the teacher may have manipulated the essay, through a word processing program. It's tough. I would love to carry around my laptop to grade my 140+ essays instead of a large stack of papers, save resources and teach with technology. But I can't do that yet, not at the cost of intellectual integrity.


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