Grading Computer Programming with Voice

As a part of our physics program, I teach a course in computer modeling. We introduce the students to Matlab and they learn both basic programming and principles of translating physics scenarios into computer models. Last year, based on our departmental assessment procedures, I determined that I wanted a more subjective way to give feedback to my students. To me, programming is more than just right or wrong code; I want students to develop good habits and styles of programming that use the tool to communicate the process of problem solving, not just the final answers. And I felt that that would be better achieved by giving students consistent verbal feedback, in addition to simple rubric scoring of their work.

This semester, I was a little overwhelmed by our course enrollment – 25, up from last year’s 15. With no TA assistance, I had to figure out a way to reach my goal of more personal, “conversational” feedback (as I put it in my assessment document) without meeting individually with each student about each assignment. Here at ProfHacker we have written before about grading by voice (see here and here). And my friend and fellow physicist Andy Rundquist has blogged about implementing voice assessment with his standards based grading methods. I looked at all these methods and put together a system that worked well for this course.

First, I set up an account at JotForm and created submission forms which the students used to submit their files. JotForm has features that let you set a customized URL for each form, and that worked great for giving my students simple web addresses for each submission. You can also connect JotForm to Dropbox, and this was extremely helpful for having each student’s work deposited directly into a folder with their name.

Next,  I installed Jing on all my computers at which I expected to do grading. Jing is a program that essentially adds on a feature to your desktop, by which you can capture the activity on your screen. You can also use a microphone to capture voice. These features together allowed me pull up a student’s homework submissions and display them on the screen. I could then point to code that needed improvement or was exemplary, type suggested changes into the program itself, and give the students verbal feedback on what was and wasn’t working. Jing allowed me to record a screencast of up to five minutes.

Finally, I created a folder for each student at, a sister website of Jing, and put each student’s assessment video into their folder. Each student received a private invite to their folder and could see no other student’s work. When the students saw a grade for a given homework assignment in their online gradebook, they knew to look at their Screencast folder for the screencast assessment.

Overall, the process worked very well. Student feedback was very positive, and I think in the end it motivated them to pay more attention to the feedback they were given, instead of just glossing over rubric scores. I believe this system helped me achieve my goal of more personal feedback, even though the number of students increased.

So that’s how I implemented grading computer programming with voice. Have you ever tried grading by voice for your courses? How successful was it? Let us know in the comments. 

[Image Creative Commons licensed / Flickr user Ian Sane]

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