“Grading is my favorite part of being a professor,” said no professor ever.

While the principles and practices of “un-grading” have received attention recently, most teachers–and institutions for that matter–require grades as a means of evaluating student learning and communicating to stakeholders about student performance.

Increasingly, instructors and departments at the University of Chicago have adopted tech tools, such as Gradescope, to make grading workflows more efficient. Gradescope is an online grading tool that simplifies the process of assessing both scanned, pen-and-paper assignments and digital assessments.

This post will focus on digitizing traditional pen-and-paper assignments such as quizzes, exams, and problem sets. A future post will focus separately on programming assignments and online assignments in Gradescope.

Gradescope at the University of Chicago

While any department may benefit from Gradescope’s affordances, departments such as mathematics, computer science, statistics, economics, biology, and chemistry are some of the biggest users of Gradescope at UChicago. The most popular types of assignments are variable length (homework and problem sets), fixed length (quizzes and exams), and programming assignments.

Hannah Lant, Assistant Instructional Professor of Chemistry, teaches large enrollment classes and uses Gradescope for managing paper-based exams. She points out that Gradescope combines “the traditional benefits of paper-based exams” with the advantages of grading digitally. Graders working on one platform and using shared rubrics tend to produce better feedback, according to Lant. Gradescope also generates valuable statistics that can be used to discover where students encounter the most challenges. “If you’re a data freak, Gradescope is really awesome,” according to Lant.

In addition to saving time, creating consistency, and leveraging data, instructors who use Gradescope can also limit students’ use of generative AI tools by administering exams during class.

Supported Paper-Based Assignment Types

Gradescope supports the following assignments which are pen-and-paper based:

  • Exam/Quiz: This type of assignment is for fixed-length assignments that rely on a template that you provide, such as an exam or quiz. By default, instructors or TAs scan students’ work.
  • Homework/Problem Set: This type of assignment is for variable-length assignments which do not require a template. By default, students upload their work as a PDF or use their device’s camera with the Gradescope app.
  • Bubble Sheets: Similar to Scantron, this is an assignment type that is completely multiple choice. Students use the Gradescope Bubble Sheet Template to fill in their answers, and after scanning, the submissions can be graded automatically against a key that you provide.

Paper-Based Assignment Workflow

The workflow for these types of assignments in Gradescope looks like this:

  • Create assignment in Gradescope: Select the appropriate assessment and adjust the settings to your liking. For example, consider enabling anonymous grading to reduce the potential for bias.
  • Create assignment in Canvas: If you want to pass grades back to Canvas from Gradescope, create an assignment in Canvas and link it to the Gradescope assignment. For details on how to do this, see “Post Grades to Canvas” in our knowledge base article on Gradescope for faculty.
  • Scan student work: Depending on the type of assignment, you or your students will scan their work.
  • Grade submissions: Add a pre-built rubric or begin building one dynamically in the app. While grading, you can annotate student work, re-use previous comments, and assign points. You can also collaborate with TAs and graders for quicker grading, and if you wish, grade on a per-question basis.
  • Send and export grades: When you’re finished grading, you can post the graded student work back to Canvas. If you want students to review your markups and/or rubric items, you can publish the graded assignments in Gradescope for their review.
  • View analytics: See questions and rubric-level statistics to better understand what your students know and identify common stumbling blocks.

In Summary

Gradescope has become a valuable asset to many faculty and departments at UChicago. It’s reshaping the grading landscape, especially for courses with large enrollments. Both instructional staff and students appreciate how Gradescope merges the familiarity of paper exams with the efficiency of digital grading. If you’d like to learn more about Gradescope and how to use it, please get in touch with UChicago ATS.

Further Resources and Getting Started

Image credit: RDNE Stock Project