Monday, September 8, 2014

Simpler assignment creation and class list management

We just rolled out a few more features!

Simpler assignment creation

Only one type of assignment

There is no longer a distinction between standard assignments (where the instructor specifies a class list) and open assignments (where students can self-enroll by clicking on a join link provided by the instructor).

Rather, the instructor can always edit the class list, adding and removing students, and also has the option of handing out the join link if desired.

You can now clone assignments

We have implemented one of the top user requests: you can now clone assignments.  So, once you create the first assignment for your class, you can create the subsequent assignments by cloning the first assignment, changing just the title and the submission and review dates.

When you clone an assignment, you create an assignment that is identical to the cloned one, except for:

  • The name ("Copy of " is added to the name)
  • The dates (you have to provide new dates).
The class list is copied over. 

Note that, as explained below, each assignment has its own class list.  So, if you clone an assignment, then add a student to either the cloned or the original assignment, the student is not automatically added to the other assignment.  For this reason, if you expect the students enrolled in the class to change, you might want to wait and clone assignments only just before the clones are needed, so their class list will contain all changes since the start of the class.

Simpler class list management

We have simplified the management of class lists.  Each assignment has its own class list, not shared with any other assignment.  You can edit the list as one of the options in the assignment: 
Selecting Class List will take you to a page where you can interactively edit the class list, as well as downloading it.

If you need to manually copy the class list from one assignment to another, you can first download it, then cut and paste it into the class list of the other assignment:
If you need to do this frequently, let us know, and we may provide some better import options.

As always, if you had any feedback, we would love to hear from you.  You can contact us at

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.