Digital learning: Getting started 2. Electronic Assessment and Feedback

1. The

2. Electronic

3. Interactive

4. Digital

This resource provides an introduction to the tools available to you for electronic assessment and feedback at the University of Sheffield, with guidance on when and how to use these in your teaching.

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The benefits of electronic assessment and feedback

Digital tools bring key benefits for both students and academic staff at each stage of the assessment journey:


Online submission is convenient for students. It avoids printing costs, they can submit work from wherever they are and they get peace of mind with an automatic receipt of submission.


Digital tools make marking more efficient. Depending which tool you use, you can leave comments at key points in a text (and re-edit them, if necessary) access and customise commonly used marking terms and record feedback in a method that best suits the assignment, whether that be via text, graphics, audio or video.


Feedback in electronic form tends to be more legible, clearer and easier to understand. It removes the chance of being misplaced and enables students to access and revisit feedback at any time - increasing the likelihood that it will be used. Alternative forms unavailable on the written page, such as video and audio feedback, can also be used.


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What tools are available?

Tool What it's for


Turnitin is a tool that allows for the submission of written content via Blackboard.

Submissions are compared against a database of academic sources, student papers and websites to check for signs of plagiarism and given an originality score.

The tool has an element called Feedback Studio which contains a strong suite of feedback functions including: inline marking, summary and audio feedback and rubrics/grading forms.

Blackboard assignments

Students can submit almost any file types through their Blackboard course using the Blackboard Assignments tool.

Compared with Turnitin, it offers more flexibility in the kinds of content that can be submitted and allows for multiple files as well as group submissions.

However, it does not have many of the advanced marking features of the Feedback Studio.

Blackboard tests

Blackboard Tests can be used for formative, summative and under exam conditions assessments.

Most question types can be marked automatically (so do not incur any additional marking for the teacher), and generic feedback can be set up to explain why a particular answer was correct or incorrect.

The ‘pools’ functionality also enables you to create databanks of questions that can be randomised for each student.


The University’s video hosting solution can be used for assessment and feedback in the following ways:


Pebblepad is a flexible system for creating e-portfolios and other documents for logging a student’s learning journey through evidence and/or reflection. This can be done in structured Workbooks or freeform Portfolios, and can be assessed by tutors via an area of PebblePad known at ATLAS.

Examples of uses for PebblePad may be:

  • Gathering evidence for professional accreditation
  • Reflecting on experiences or achievements
  • Students authoring a creative portfolio to document a year abroad or other personal experience.


Crowdmark allows the submission of images or PDF files in response to questions set by the tutor. In addition there are also options available for multiple choice and written response questions.

It is particularly useful for scenarios where marking can be divided up by question rather than individual submission. Shared comment libraries which can be used to create rubrics and other marking tools are available.

Example of uses for Crowdmark:

  • Mathematical solutions where marks are awarded for the method
  • Submission of diagrams
  • Students practicing scripts in languages.


Numbas enables online testing in Mathematics, and other number, equation and formula based assessment.

It allows for randomisation within questions so students are provided with different instances of a given question. Questions are automatically marked and automatic feedback can be given on formative assessment.


Buddycheck is a peer evaluation tool integrated within Blackboard.

It allows students to evaluate the contribution of their peers, alongside their own contributions, to group assessments.

Allow students to try out submitting online

We have set up a practice Blackboard course to allow students to try out the process of submitting different assessment types online. You can access the course via the link below whilst logged into Blackboard.

Online assessment practice course

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Which tool should I use?

To help you decide which tool is most appropriate, you can start by asking yourself the following questions.

  • What kind of work are your students submitting?
  • Are they submitting individually or in groups?
  • Do you need to blind mark or double mark?
  • How large will submitted files be?
  • Are students submitting single or multiple files?
  • What tools are your learners already used to? Is it appropriate to add another?
  • What are the training implications for staff (both marking staff and administrative staff)?

Use the checklist below to see a comparison of the features available on the different assessment platforms to help you determine which to use.

Comparison table of assessment tools

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How do I give digital feedback?

There are several ways that feedback can be given to students. These features are available (in some way) in all the  tools we’ve discussed, unless otherwise specified.

  • Numeric grades - usually out of 100.
  • Summary feedback - a summary of comments on the submission.
  • Inline feedback - annotations on the text (Turnitin and Blackboard Assignments).
  • Rubrics and grading forms - to aid with marking consistency.
  • Audio feedback - an audio file of feedback (Turnitin, and Blackboard Assignments via Kaltura)
  • Video feedback - a video file of feedback (Blackboard Assignments, via Kaltura).

Audio and video feedback

Audio and video feedback can take feedback beyond what can be achieved on the written page. More detail can be included, and it may be easier to articulate complicated concepts verbally than in writing. Furthermore, students being able to see the tutor’s face adds a nice personal touch to the feedback process.

The Grade Centre

All the tools mentioned allow grades and (in most cases) feedback to be passed to a part of Blackboard called the Grade Centre.

This means students can access their released grades and feedback from the same place regardless of the tool that has been used.

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Additional resources

For guidance on choosing appropriate types of assessment according to your learning outcomes, constructing marking criteria and rubrics, ensuring assessments are fair, and giving effective feedback, please visit our Assessment and feedback getting started guide.

Assessment and feedback: Getting started guide

Back to Digital learning: Getting started guide

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