Electronic Management of Assessment

The Electronic Management of Assessment, or EMA, is the use of technology as a means to help deliver and support effective assessment and feedback. EMA is broken down into three main components within the assessment lifecycle:

  • Electronic Submission
  • Marking
  • Feedback

Assessments themselves can be delivered individually, or via student groups, and they can be formative or summative. Peer review assessments, which are an important tool for student learning at The University of Sheffield are also included within the scope of EMA.

There are two main tools at the University that can assist you with EMA: 

Blackboard The Blackboard assignment tool can be utilised for formative or summative assessments. This commonly includes written essays, but Blackboard also supports presentations, images, group work and media submissions. In addition, Blackboard can also be used to conduct timed exam assessments via the Quiz tool.

Turnitin Many departments prefer to use this tool as it provides a comprehensive text matching service, which acts as an aid to plagiarism detection. In addition to its powerful online marking and feedback functionality, it also provides offline marking for staff via the iPad App. Turnitin can be used for most summative or formative assessment types.

Technology Tool
Blackboard Blackboard Assignment tool, Tests and Collaborative suite of Tools (Blogs/Journals/Wikis/Discussions)
Turnitin Turnitin Assignment and PeerMark Assignment

EMA is broken down into three main components within the assessment lifecycle:  

  • Electronic Submission
  • Marking
  • Feedback

The assessments themselves can be delivered individually, or for groups of students, and they can also be formative or summative.

It is also important to note that peer review assessments, which are an important tool for student learning, are also included within the scope of EMA.

EMA Benefits

There are perceived benefits for all stakeholders:


Ease of submission: Students can submit remotely. There is no need for them to queue up to hand in assignments, which makes assessment submission much more convenient. This is especially beneficial for those students who are not based in the University (e.g. distance learning programmes or placements).  Automatic digital receipts are given upon submission.

Access to Feedback: EMA enables students to access their feedback remotely via Blackboard. 

Student experience: Providing feedback electronically to students may assist in making their assessment experiences more positive and more consistent across the University. It removes the chance of students misplacing written feedback, and enables them to access feedback at any time. 

Academic Staff

Flexibility: EMA can offer a number of benefits over traditional paper based marking. For example, the QuickMarks feature in Turnitin allows staff to access commonly used marking terms. The technologies also allow feedback to be delivered via audio and video, enabling more detailed, personalised and engaging feedback for students. 

Assessment design: Adoption of electronic assessment offers the opportunity for staff to review their existing assessments. Technology may offer not only a better delivery mechanism, but also more creative methods of achieving the assessments’ aims.

Time saving: Electronic marking may offer time savings for academic staff, although the evidence for this is at Sheffield is currently anecdotal.

Administrative Staff

No paper storage: Electronic submission means there is no need for administrative staff in departments to archive assignments on-site. Student submissions are all held on remote servers.

Streamlining assessment processes: EMA potentially allows for the streamlining of some assessment processes. For example, electronic submission reduces the amount of time administrative staff need to spend on handling paper submissions, receipting work for students, and managing the storage of these assessments.

The University’s principles of feedback document is a key driver for the uptake of EMA at Sheffield. In summary these principles specify that provision of effective feedback is key to student learning, and acts as a means to help students improve in their future assessments. It is therefore of vital importance that students are able to engage with the feedback.

EMA Perceived Challenges

At the University, the main three challenges are:

  • Limitations in current technologies (e.g. lack of support for second marking in Turnitin)
  • Lack of system integrations: When grades reach the Blackboard grade centre there is no integration with the Departmental Assessment System (DAS)
  • Staff resistance: Staff may fear changing working practice. Some staff have reported that it makes marking more difficult/time consuming, or disrupts traditional administrative processes.

How can the Digital Learning team help?

EMA in the University has now moved beyond the early adoption stage, and the Digital Learning Team has supported a number of departments with the transition. Therefore, if you are thinking about adopting EMA or would like some more guidance then please contact us at digital.learning@sheffield.ac.uk

We can help you by looking at your processes and practices, help identify pilot projects, provide necessary training for your colleagues and can assist with conducting an evaluation.