Distance Learning Feedback. Why aren’t we using iPads

Today I attended a really interesting, but in some ways frustrating University of Leicester Distance Learning (DL) Forum (#dlforum). The subject of today’s forum was Assessment and Feedback, during which several of our DL departments described their methods of assessment, feedback and administration.

There were several interesting discussions around:

  • Anonymous marking and is it really necessary
  • Second marking and whether that is always necessary
  • Expected turn around times for marking
  • The amount of feedback required, we saw examples of 600-800 word feedback statements on assignments of 2500 words, is that necessary
  • Phsyical vs. Digital submission. How are physical assignments tested for plagiarism. Should all digital submissions be submitted via Turnitin. When should Turnitin reports be shared with students

However the underline theme that was coming out of many of the examples was the fact that almost all departments¬† still print all assignments to mark them, because of the classic reasons of “I can’t read on a screen”, “need to write comments in the margin” and “markers like to mark during commutes”. However I feel the these issues and also the huge printing costs could be over come with the use of iPads. OK the initial outlay would be costly, but I’m sure this cost would be gained back in no time.

So I put it to my trusty twitter network, asking if anyone knew of any examples of institutions using iPads for making? After a retweet from Alan Cann some examples came in:

So it would seem that there are some small scale pilots going on, but nothing substantive as yet, this is definitely sounds like an interesting research project in the future. It’s not like the tools aren’t already there, as Nick Morris said in his blog post Goodreader allows comments on documents, as does iAnnotate, both apps I have been using for sometime.

During the forum we saw some examples of administration of assessment marking, this included a number of Heath Robinson style spreadsheets and databases. At the Univeristy of Leicester this will be overcome by the Sunrise Project. The project will develop a central administration for DL linked to the Student Record System, which will enable the recording of marks and feedback comments onto the system. One great outcome of the project would be an iPad app, this would require a login, that would give assessors access to download assignments and make comments. When complete the marks and comments can be uploaded back onto the administration system.

It will see interesting how developments in this area progress.


  1. I like the idea of using an iPad or similar. I actually do mark assignments on my computer, but mostly because my university refuses to give me any printing facilities and I am reluctant to spend my own money printing (which is a whole issue in itself!)

    What I do wonder is whether a time would come where such devices are made easily compatible with the various types of learning management programs. At the moment I can imagine I would need to download all assignments and possibly even convert them to a new type of file to be used on the iPad?


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