Assignments with BlackBoard

Most of us give assignments in our courses (papers, proposals, projects, lab reports…) and ask students to submit an electronic version of their work. The most common submission methods are usually by email, through Dropbox, using google docs or other similar tools… However, students tend to get confused when we multiply the tools used for communication in a course, and so do we. Moreover, some students have difficulties sticking to the submission deadlines and the common tools do not really help enforce those 🙂 And most importantly, the feedback process can be a real hassle for us: download file-insert comments-grade-copy grades into grade-book -upload/share file with student(s) – potentially get a second version of the work – and ditto the whole process… 😐

After trying out online document sharing tools and email exchanges for a while, and not being satisfied with the entire process, i realized (thanks to Robbie) that we can use BlackBoard to set up assignments. It’s really easy and very efficient, and it is after all the official institutional course tool at AUP that (all) faculty and students are using.

Through BlackBoard, you can create assignments and provide feedback to students while easily managing all sorts of settings: availability, instructions, type of submission -individual or group assignment, number of attempts – single or multiple attempts, due date, grading options -score or letter…You can see who submitted the work and when, then grade the assignments and provide feedback (comments) to the students through BlackBoard. You don’t even have to download the files, unless you want to of course. You can set up your assignments gradually as the course unfolds, or create them all at the beginning of the semester and make them visible to students at specific dates. On the student end, they can download/upload files individually or in groups, insert comments, see your feedback and their grade, submit an improved version of the work (if authorized), and most importantly they have to stick to the deadlines!!

You can find all the details about BlackBoard Assignments here :

I have been using this for all sorts of assignments this semester and it is working perfectly well. The students find it easy, and they know that everything related to the course happens through BlackBoard, including email communication with the whole class or with groups created within the class – but I’ll keep that for another post 😉



Grading papers and exams on your iPad or iPhone

I have been thinking of a useful and easy-to-use tool to share with colleagues, and i remembered that i once needed to grade exam papers à distance” and found something very helpful by looking online.

A while ago, some of my students sat for a make-up exam while i was away for a conference. The grades were due before my return so i had to correct the exams à distance”.  The exams were scanned into PDF documents and shared with me through Google Drive. I had to grade and send them back  in electronic format also, to give students feedback about their work. I obviously didn’t want to print and re-scan all the exams once done, some were quite lengthy. So i started grading them by inserting comments and adding text boxes into the PDF files though the “Annotate”option.

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I quickly realized that this would take forever and it wouldn’t allow me to write/draw certain things i needed to convey to the students. In fact, I just wanted to “manually write” on those files. So i looked for a tool that would make my task easier and more Eco-friendly. PDF Reader seemed to be a good solution, among many other similar such applications, which i could download on my iPad for free. All i needed was my PDF exam files and a stylus and my iPad, and i was good to go.

I downloaded the files and imported them into my PDF Reader application, then i graded them using the stylus, adding annotations and comments, as i would if i was grading the actual hard-copy exams using a regular pen!

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This discovery allowed me to finish my grading and send back the files in very short time, it was piece of cake! Ever since, i have been using to grade project reports that students submit online for example. I think such tools (similar tools are suggested here: are very practical and easy to use to provide feedback on any type of assignment that is electronically submitted by the students.