Office for Digital Learning


Electronic Management of Assessment

Posted on: 16 Aug 2016


Digital Futures (2015-2018) describes a vision for 100% online management of assessment and feedback for written assignments, where practical. The Strategy identifies the need for an Online Assessment and Feedback Policy to support this ambition.

The Digital Learning Sub Committee has recommended a staged approach to the implementation of Electronic Management of Assessment that is articulated in this policy.

It is recognised that there will be real, and perceived, challenges with realising the ambition of the Digital Futures strategy. Work undertaken by the VLE Futures Working Group, eLearning Course Directors’ Forum and Digital Learning Sub Committee has identified the following challenges:

  • Limitations with supported technologies (e.g. second marking, anonymous marking, group assignments and moderation workflows).
  • Reliability of supported technologies (e.g. Turnitin service disruption).
  • Staff Resistance (e.g. fear of change, anecdotal evidence of poor quality experience with some technology, lack of trust in supported technologies, perception that online marking is time-consuming and difficult).
  • Health and Safety issues (e.g. eye strain, repetitive strain injury).

The strategy must therefore be underpinned by suitable support and guidance to help academic teams make the transition to fully online management of assessment. Following acceptance of the policy, supporting guidance will be made available through the Academic Development section of the Office for Digital Learning website. The Office for Digital Learning will also provide training to support the implementation of the policy.


Available data within Blackboard shows that online assessment and feedback is well used at Ulster with approximately 100,000 electronic submissions per academic year, however practice is not standardised across Programmes, Schools and Faculties. The electronic management of assessment streamlines the assessment cycle for students, academic staff and administrators in terms of efficiency and allows for rich feedback and direct engagement with the students. Providing timely, clear, legible and meaningful feedback to students in a consistent manner is key to supporting and helping students feed forward as they progress through their studies.


This policy covers the three core elements of Electronic Management of Assessment.

  1. Online submission of written assignments: the process whereby a student submits work online for storage and retrieval for marking, feedback and review. This can include originality checking.
  2. Online return of marks: the process whereby academic and teaching staff provide online marks to students.
  3. Online return of marks and feedback: the process whereby students access and view their marks and feedback online.

This policy should be read in conjunction with The Ulster Assessment Handbook ( and principles for Assessment and Feedback for Learning


  • To standardise online assessment and feedback processes and practices at Ulster.
  • To provide students with the means to submit their written assessments online.
  • To provide students with online marks and feedback.
  • To provide staff with the means to mark online, digitally annotate assessments and provide digital feedback.
  • To provide structured processes for managing assignment workflows such as External Examiner access.
  • To provide a foundation for improving other business workflows such as the uploading of assessment marks to Banner.

Online Submission

  1. To ensure a consistent experience for students, online submission of written assignments will be the expected norm from academic year 2016/17.
  2. There are practical reasons why online submission of all written assessments may not be suitable and exceptions will be permitted for example, submission of subject specific file types. Exceptions should first be considered by Heads of School before being collated at Faculty level and submitted to the Digital Learning Sub Committee through If agreed, alternative arrangements can be made for submission. In these instances academic teams should use the Grade Centre within Blackboard to return student marks and any feedback.
  3. Academic staff should set up assignment submission points within their modules in Blackboard Learn. These should be contained within a clearly defined content area within the Blackboard Module area that is consistently named. Ulster’s Blackboard template uses the term ‘Assessment’ and it is recommended that the naming convention is used.
  4. Clear instructions should be made available alongside the submission box, providing information about the assignment expectations and how to contact the academic team with any queries.
  5. There are three supported technologies that can be used for online assignment submission, all integrated within Blackboard Learn.
    • Turnitin
    • Blackboard Assignment
    • Share Stream Media assignment (video submissions).
  6. Each tool has unique characteristics and supports different assessment types, for example; group work, anonymous marking, peer assessment. If your assessment design requires specific functionality, the Office for Digital Learning can provide guidance to help select the most appropriate technology.
  7. For extenuating circumstances the Office for Digital Learning recommends using a separate submission box.
  8. Online Return of Marks and Feedback

  9. To ensure a consistent experience for students, marks and feedback should be made available online from academic year 2018/19.
  10. Marks should be returned to all students on the same date, and the relevant Grade Centre column should be hidden until all marks are populated.
  11. There are three supported technologies which can be used for providing feedback digitally:
    • Turnitin Grade Mark / Turnitin App
    • Blackboard Assignment inline viewer / Grader App
    • Blackboard Grade Centre (by uploading Word/PDF documents).

Supporting Materials