The anonymous marking of student coursework is subject to uncertainty following the transition of online submission for some units from E:vision to Blackboard.
Since the implementation of the new e-marking system, essays no longer appear anonymous to the marker through default. To ensure that students remain unidentified, staff must ‘self-amend’ the system settings by a several step process. Even when the issue has been rectified, it is possible that the student’s name still appears on screen.
Anonymity of summative assessment is ensured in the UEA student contract. In 2015, the Senate Guidance on Assessment and Feedback made clear that “all summative work is [marked] anonymously.”
This was reiterated by the Institutional Review later that year which asserted that: “summatively assessed work is subject to anonymous submission in keeping with the University’s policy on Anonymised Submission. This ensures that markers’ judgments are objective, as well as those of moderators.”
The new marking system was implemented following several trials in the academic year 2015/2016.
Commenting on the situation Postgraduate Education Officer Madeleine Colledge said: “It is very clear to us that the type of anonymization on offer through Blackboard [manually hiding a name after it appears] does not currently meet the basic requirements of UEA’s anonymous marking policy. The feedback we’ve had from a number of academics is that the number of steps required to hide names means they’re just not bothering, and overall the situation gives students no confidence at all that their work is being fairly marked- with a clear and obvious danger of unintended discrimination.
“Given the differential rates of achievement particularly amongst international and BME students this is a very serious issue. Students need to see a clear timeline for the fixing of this issue and urgent consideration given to bringing forward the date for Blackboard changes to be implemented”
A university spokesperson praised the new marking system, and assured students that any faults would be resolved over the summer: “This issue is well understood by the University. The new e-marking system and treatment of anonymous marking has been carefully considered and a manual fix on anonymisation has been put in place ahead of automation becoming available.
“All staff using the system have been fully trained and we are confident that our policy on marking is not being compromised.The Students’ Union have been represented on the Working Group and have actively contributed to the development of the new system. The system was carefully piloted during 2015/16. “The new system has been extensively welcomed by students and staff as a big improvement. The manual fix is due to be replaced by a more automated system when Blackboard is upgraded and this is planned for Summer 2017.”