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Flinders Uni implements paperless assignment system

The Electronic Assignment Management system enables students to submit assignments and academics to return graded assignments online

Flinders University has implemented a new digital system, which it helped design and develop, to manage and streamline the administration of student assignments.

The Electronic Assignment Management (EAM) system enables students to submit assignments online and academics to mark and return graded assignments electronically and efficiently.

The assignment system went live earlier this year and is a joint project between the university, e-learning technology provider NetSpot, and open source learning management system (LMS) provider Moodle.

Flinders University Centre for Educational ICT director, David Green, told Computerworld Australia that the implementation was in response to the digital era, as well as becoming more flexible and convenient for students.

“Students want… more online assignment submissions because from their point of view, in this day and age, it should be expected that they can email, submit their assignment online rather than having to post it or deliver it in person if they’ve already created an electronic version of it,” Green said.

But ICT project officer, Grette Wilkinson, said that the student online submission option was not the key element of the EAM system; instead, it’s what happens after the assignments have been received that separates it from other learning management systems (LMSs).

Green agreed with Wilkinson, referring to this gap between the submission and distribution period as a “blackhole”, where students were told what their mark was but did not know why they got it.

The new system, however, allows academics to grade student assignments online and provide additional feedback online, including customised responses, links to other resources, and attachments to extra digital materials.

In addition, the assignment system has also streamlined Flinders’ distribution process by enabling lecturers and tutors to hand back assignments to a number of students simultaneously.

“What we’ve basically done is work with NetSpot and Moodle to build something that would allow staff to distribute the assignments to people, give the assignments to be marked by those people electronically, and then to be pushed back into the LMS to be distributed to the students rather seamlessly,” Green said.

Wilkinson added: “[During the pilot phase] in order to return marked assignments to students electronically, they needed to do that one by one.

“So what we’ve done is made some changes so that they can create a zip file with all of the marked assignments and upload that file onto the system, and it will automatically know which marked assignment will go to which student.”

Students will now also receive an online receipt to inform them whether or not their assignment submission had been successful, which Wilkinson said was a means to help alleviate student anxiety.

“Students were also unsure in some cases whether their submission has been successful so we’ve implemented a system whereby students receive an email receipt letting them know whether their assignment was sent successfully,” Wilkinson said.

Prior to the implementation, Flinders University had been using the LMS WebCT since December 1998. However, the university switched to open source Moodle as WebCT was unable to support its changing needs.

“We were with WebCT originally so the elements that we were using were going to be unsupported in the near future so we had to shift to something,” Wilkinson said.

Green added: “This gave us the opportunity to re-evaluate and we were going to have to change in any event, so we just had a bit of a process by which we try and identify what’s best for Flinders and at the time, we thought open sourceness was certainly part of that and we thought that Moodle provided a platform that better represented ways people taught and ways students learn rather than the other ones we saw.”

The assignment system is currently being used at Canberra, La Trobe and Macquarie universities as well.

Follow Diana Nguyen on Twitter: @diananguyen9

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

More about: Flinders University, Flinders University
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