A critical component of the learning process lies in the feedback that students receive on their work that validates their progress, identifies flaws in their thinking, and identifies skills that still need to be learned. Many higher-education institutions have developed an active pedagogy that gives students opportunities for different forms of assessment and feedback. This means that students have numerous lab exercises, assignments, and projects. Both instructors and students thus require effective tools to efficiently manage the submission, assessment, and individualized feedback of students’ work. The open-source web application MarkUs aims at meeting these needs: it facilitates the submission and assessment of students’ work. Students directly submit their work using MarkUs, rather than printing it, or sending it by email. The instructors or teaching assistants use MarkUs’s interface to view the students’ work, annotate it, and fill in a marking rubric. Students use the same interface to read the annotations and learn from the assessment. Managing the students’ submissions and the instructors assessments within a single online system, has led to several positive pedagogical outcomes: the number of late submissions has decreased, the assessment time has been drastically reduced, students can access their results and read the instructor’s feedback immediately after the grading process is completed. Using MarkUs has also significantly reduced the time that instructors spend collecting assignments, creating the marking schemes, passing them on to graders, handling special cases, and returning work to the students.
In this paper, we introduce MarkUs’ features, and illustrate their benefits for higher education through our own teaching experiences and that of our colleagues. We also describe an important benefit of the fact that the tool itself is open-source. MarkUs has been developed entirely by students giving them a valuable learning opportunity as they work on a large software system that real users depend on. Virtuous circles indeed arise, with former users of MarkUs becoming developers and then supervisors of further development.
We will conclude by drawing perspectives about forthcoming features and use, both technically and pedagogically.