Can Universities Escape the Labyrinth of Grading and Course Management Systems ?

Universities have embraced technology to revolutionize the way education is delivered and managed. While this transformation has brought numerous benefits, it has also given rise to a unique challenge for students: the bewildering array of assessment upload and grading systems. As students, we find ourselves navigating a labyrinth of platforms, each with its own interface, login credentials, and requirements. Here are my 2 cents on the biggest struggle of being a student with all the the confusion caused by the proliferation of these systems.

The Maze of Systems

Imagine starting a new semester, full of excitement and anticipation for the subjects ahead in an ivy league university and all, only to find yourself grappling with a multitude of online platforms. One professor requires assignments to be submitted through Gradescope, while another insists on Turnitin. Discussions happen on Piazza, but course materials are on Canvas. The confusion begins to mount as each course introduces yet another layer of complexity.

  1. Multiple Logins: The first hurdle is remembering the logins and passwords for each system. Juggling these credentials becomes an unintended exercise in memorization that detracts from our main focus—learning.
  2. User Interfaces: Each system comes with its own interface, buttons, and navigation. What should be a straightforward process of submitting an assignment becomes an exercise in deciphering a new user interface every time.
  3. Deadlines and Formats: Every platform has its own way of displaying deadlines and formatting requirements. Misinterpreting a due date or overlooking specific instructions due to platform-switching can lead to unnecessary stress and compromised work quality.
  4. Feedback Dispersal: Graded assignments and feedback are often scattered across multiple systems. As students, we find ourselves hopping from one platform to another to access feedback on assignments, making it challenging to consolidate and apply this feedback constructively.
  5. Tech Troubles: Technical glitches are an unfortunate reality, and when they strike, they can lead to missed submission deadlines, lost work, and exasperating efforts to resolve the issues.

Coping Strategies

In the face of this technological maze, students have developed coping strategies to manage the chaos:

  1. Sticky Notes and Reminders: Creating a digital or physical checklist of the platforms used for each course, along with logins and deadlines, becomes a lifeline for staying organized.
  2. Calendar Integration: Syncing assessment deadlines with personal calendars or task management apps helps prevent last-minute rushes and accidental oversights.
  3. Communication Channels: Relying on classmates and online discussion boards for clarifications on platform usage and submission guidelines can bridge the information gap.
  4. Time Management: Allocating time to familiarize oneself with each system at the beginning of the semester minimizes future confusion and frustration.
  5. Feedback Consolidation: Students often manually consolidate feedback from different systems to facilitate easier reference and improvement.

Caught in the Bad Romance Cycle of Learning New Systems

With each new semester comes a fresh set of courses, each potentially accompanied by a distinct assignment and homework management system. The cycle often involves educators spending considerable time introducing these systems to their students. However, this initial investment of time and effort may not be fully appreciated when considering the broader implications.

  1. Student Learning Potential: The time dedicated to learning the intricacies of multiple systems could be better spent on acquiring industry-specific skills or deepening understanding in course content. Instead, students must allocate valuable time to deciphering each system’s interface and features.
  2. Duplication of Training Efforts: Educators find themselves repeatedly undergoing training to become proficient in the various systems they introduce to their students. This doubling of training efforts consumes valuable hours that could be better directed towards refining their teaching methodologies or engaging with research.
  3. Impact on Course Content: The time spent introducing management systems takes away from the opportunity to delve deeper into course material or engage in interactive teaching methods that enhance student comprehension and critical thinking.
  4. Reduced Student-Teacher Interaction: Valuable in-person or virtual class time is often dedicated to explaining the logistics of using these systems, reducing opportunities for meaningful interactions between educators and students.
  5. Financial Drain: Beyond time lost, there’s a financial implication tied to training costs for educators. Institutions invest resources in workshops, training materials, and support services for each new system, which adds up over time.

The Financial Drain of Multiple Course and Assessment Management Systems

Let’s assume an educator teaches four courses in a semester. Each course requires one week of instruction on the respective assignment and homework management system. Additionally, the educator spends two days undergoing training for each system before the semester begins.

  1. Educator Training Time: 4 courses × 2 days training each = 8 days of educator training time per semester.
  2. Student Learning Time: 4 courses × 1 week instruction each = 4 weeks of student learning time per semester.
  3. Total Time: 8 days (educator training) + 20 days (student learning) = 28 days.

Now, let’s put a financial estimate to this lost time. Assuming an average educator salary of $50,000 per year and a 16-week semester:

  • Educator Training Time Cost: (8 days ÷ 112 days) × $50,000 = ~$3,571
  • Student Learning Time Cost: (20 days ÷ 112 days) × $50,000 = ~$8,929

The combined financial cost of lost time for educator training and student learning in this scenario amounts to approximately $12,500 per semester.

While the integration of assignment and homework management systems has the potential to enhance the learning experience, the complexity and associated costs cannot be ignored. The continuous need for students and educators to adapt to new systems each semester results in a considerable drain on time and resources. This drain not only impacts the acquisition of industry-specific skills but also doubles the financial training cost for educators.

A Call for Simplicity

While technological advancements are undoubtedly beneficial for education, the plethora of assessment upload and grading systems presents an avoidable hurdle for students. As education stakeholders, we encourage universities to consider the following steps:

  1. Streamlined Adoption: Evaluate and adopt unified platforms that integrate essential functionalities, reducing the number of systems students need to navigate.
  2. User-Centered Design: Prioritize platforms with intuitive interfaces that require minimal effort to learn and use, allowing students to focus on their studies.
  3. Clear Communication: Ensure professors provide clear guidelines for platform usage and deadlines, minimizing confusion and misunderstandings.
  4. Feedback Accessibility: Implement systems that centralize assignment feedback, making it easily accessible for students to track progress and growth.
As students, we acknowledge the immense potential of technology to enhance our learning experiences. However, the confusion and frustration caused by the multitude of assessment upload and grading systems hinder our ability to fully engage with the educational process. This creates a space for a streamlined and user-friendly, even AI powered platform for students to focus on learning, growth, and meaningful interactions in classroom and online. 

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