Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CrowdGrader now lets reviewers and authors discuss submissions

We have just added a new feature to CrowdGrader: authors and reviewers can discuss the submissions anonymously.  Attached to each submission is a discussion forum, where author and reviewers alike can post messages and discuss, in anonymous fashion.  The discussion forum is visible only to the submission author and reviewers, and to the instructor.

In our experience as teachers, perhaps the most common cause of errors in grading is misunderstandings between the student who submitted a solution, and the students who grade it.  Many of these misunderstandings could be clarified quite easily if reviewers and authors could communicate. Some typical examples: 
  • I cannot find the file solution.txt in the .zip you uploaded, how did you name it?
  • You have two versions of the solutions; which one am I supposed to grade? 
  • Is your Android app designed for tablets or phones? 
  • How do I install your app?
  • I was not able to compile your program.  What command line did you use, precisely?
We hope that, by letting authors and reviewers communicate anonymously, we will help avoid misunderstandings, and we will give authors and reviewers a better educational experience.

Whenever a new message is added, the students involved in the review are notified via email; reminders also appear on the CrowdGrader site.  To prevent conversations from dragging on too long, the forums are active only during the review period: after the review period closes, the messages can be read, but no new messages can be posted. 

For the moment, this feature is available only if you select it.  To do so, edit an assignment, and check the option:

How does it look?

Suppose a reviewer has a question: 

The author can view the question, and reply:

The reviewer then thanks the author.  When another reviewer looks at the submission, the new reviewer is notified of the ongoing discussion:

And can contribute in turn:

This is how the same discussion appears to the author of the submission:

We hope that you find this useful.  In the future, we might make submission discussions enabled by default.