Developed at U.C. Berkeley by CS faculty and alums, Gradescope is a set of online tools that provides a streamlined, flexible, and consistent grading process, even for classes with very large enrollments.
In Fall 2017, Berkeley licensed Gradescope for campus-wide use. As the new service lead for Gradescope, I interviewed experienced instructors from Chemistry, Computer Science, Statistics, Economics, and Physics to understand the tool’s value and impact. They identified the five major benefits highlighted below.
#1. Saves time on grading
Gradescope can reduce the time required for grading by 30% to 50%, without requiring advance preparation. To create a rubric, just start grading. Gradescope learns from your example(s), actively looks for patterns, and updates the rubric automatically whenever you encounter a new answer. Any new responses/feedback are immediately stored and available to all graders, even retroactively. For example, if you decide later that you want to adjust the point deduction for a particular mistake, just change the rubric for that question and all grades willcan be updated immediately.
Since everything is digitized and online, graders can also review exams at any time, from anywhere. GSIs no longer need to be in the same room, grading in one sleep-deprived haul, or lugging a pile of exams home over break--an annoyance and a risk should any papers go missing. And last but not least--Gradescope is now integrated with bCourses too, so posting grades and syncing enrollments is simple and easy.
#2. Improves consistency and transparency
Gradescope helps ensure consistency and fairness across graders, students, and sections by encouraging a horizontal workflow. Rather than each grader tackling a stack of exams from top to bottom, one person can be assigned to review all the responses to a particular question or set. Easier questions can go to newer GSIs, leaving veterans to evaluate trickier ones. Grading from an evolving rubric and having the ability to re-use commonly applied comments also means the first student gets as much attention as the last. Instructors can also supervise graders and check grade stats online. For Shobhana Stoyanov (Statistics), this is Gradescope’s greatest value: the confidence that every student was graded fairly.
Grading statistics can also reveal trends about which questions were the toughest and where students lost the most points. This information is normally difficult to aggregate, even with Scantron, and provides valuable feedback when you’re thinking about covering the same material next semester.
#3. Saves time in class, in office hours, everywhere!
Handing back hundreds or even dozens of paper exams can take up precious minutes of class time, in addition to being a logistical challenge. With Gradescope, you can return graded exams to students much faster and it only takes a few clicks. Having a digital record of exams can also save time during office hours, since both you and the student have ready online access, saving you from rifling through a physical stack of papers.
#4. Heads off academic integrity disputes
Gone are the days when a student could pencil in a change to their returned exam and ask for a re-grade. Having a scanned copy of every submission keeps students honest and reduces the likelihood of academic integrity issues. If a mistake is made, students can still request a re-grade with approval from the instructor or GSI. After returning graded exams, Evan Miller (Chemistry) disables the re-grading functionality for a few days to encourage students to review the answer key before requesting a review. Departments that have a policy of keeping final exams can now share feedback with students, giving them an opportunity for extra learning without a trip to office hours--often an impossibility for students no longer on campus.
#5. Allows you to create more meaningful assessments
John Arnold (Chemistry) says, “Gradescope allows me to give students problems where they start with an empty box, not play a game to determine which multiple choice answer is correct.” In courses with large enrollments, Gradescope removes some of the limitations that constrain pedagogical choices, so instructors are free to create more open-ended assessments, give timely feedback to students, and spend more mental energy and class time on engaging students in learning rather than dealing with logistical headaches.
Gradescope is now freely available to all Berkeley instructors. If any of the advantages above sound appealing, we encourage you to check it out by visiting ETS’s Gradescope service page to learn more. To request support and find out how the campus is supporting instructors’ needs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miles Lincoln is Berkeley’s service lead for Gradescope and Course Evaluations, and a staff member of Educational Technology Services.