Assessment (Activity #3)

Overview video

This video covers the basics of all tools and services as well as our plan moving forward.

Watch video overview

You may also want to view more details about the tools to help you in making your decision:

The MediaSpace channel for all these videos is:


Please find information for workshops held by the Activity #3 group during the week of July 13-17th.

PrairieLearn Workshop

5 daily meetings July 13 - 17
3:00 - 4:00 pm CDT

Learn More

Gradescope Workshop

5 daily meetings July 13 - 17
2:00 - 3:00 pm CDT

Learn More

Office Hours

Please find below a recording of the office hours. This is a recording of the second offering only but should give you insight into the discussions.

View office hours recording


We also constructed a FAQ based on questions from both sessions. You can find that FAQ below.

Will this level of support be offered again? For example, my course in the spring would really benefit from PrairieLearn, but the assessment in grade scope seems simpler and perfectly satisfactory for fall.
We generally have office hours for PrairieLearn every week. The Slack user groups will also be ongoing with access to training and examples for both platforms.

I know that the university recommends using online tools that are university-supported, but is there a list of such tools somewhere?
This list is in development, once we get the link we will post it here and it will be on the college website as well.

How much does PL support manual grading for questions with short answers, plots, derivations?   And how much does gradescope support automatic grading for numerical questions?

  • For PL, you can download all students' submissions for handgrading, but the user interface hasn't been very refined.  You get the students' work either as a collection of files or cells in an Excel spreadsheet, and can upload grades back as an Excel spreadsheet.  Mostly recommended (in the near term) if a small number of questions on a given assessment need manual grading on an otherwise autograded assessment.  We have found, however, that some traditional assignments that seem to require manual grading can be broken up into parts that are suitable for automated grading.
  • Gradescope has some auto-grading functionality, especially in the online assessment mode. In this mode, you can use numerical answers, fill in the blank, or multiple choice and provide the answer for auto-grading. You also have some semi-auto grading with the AI grouping feature. In this mode, Gradescope looks for patterns in responses (drawings, numbers, text) and groups them for faster grading.

Do both PL and gradescope support LaTex?
Yes, both support LaTex.

Would there be a reason to use both prairielearn and Gradescope in one course?
Yes, of course. It all depends on your learning goals. In addition, many students are already familiar with both tools from intro courses, so asking them to use one for homework and one for exams shouldn’t be too confusing.

What are your thoughts about running more frequent exams?
In our experience, the main motivation for having a few, large exams in a course are the practical challenges with running pencil-and-paper exams.  With digital exams and either CBTF (online) proctored or unproctored (i.e., honor system), there is little additional work to running (say) 4-6 mid-term exams vs. 2 mid-term exams.  We find that students prefer when each exam is a smaller fraction of their overall grade (less stress), the grading is distributed more evenly (for TAs), and that students keep up-to-date on the material better.  We DON'T, however, recommend exams every week, as this becomes fatiguing for students.

I am curious to hear about Gradescope and am interested in finding ways to deliver quizzes and exams. My fall Course, has a lot of open-ended questions, sketches, etc.
Gradescope is likely a good fit for your course. Gradescope will allow students to upload images or PDFs of assignments showing the full detail or decorations, complex sketches, etc.

Does Gradescope have a gradebook like Compass does, so that one can completely switch 'Grades/Grading' to Gradescope, rather than having to import grades into Compass?
If you do all assignments in Gradescope, then yes, you can use it as a grade book. The issues is if there are other grades, then you would be going back and forth.

While creating an online assignment in Gradescope, can the instructor simply add a PDF of the assignment/exam or is it required to type in the questions in the Gradescope format?
If you use the “exam” format, you can simply upload the PDF. If you use the ‘in browser online assignment’ then you have to type them in, but can mostly copy and paste.

Does the exam format have a time limit option within a time period eg. 2 hrs time to finish the exam with a 24 hr time period?
Yes, all assessments have a time period for opening and closing for submissions

How does a student provide a PDF without a scanner?
A commonly recommended app is Scanable, but there are several other equivalent apps.

For gradescope, if a student needs to submit a plot generated in R, does the student need to print out and then scan and upload?
You can upload any PDF or PNG or JPG to Gradescope. So a screenshot is fine if R can’t produce PDF. However, it looks like it supports R in the programming assignment mode.

What are some of the main advantages of Gradescope?
The dynamic rubric management in Gradescope is its best feature to ensure consistency across grading. Also the speed of grading in Gradescope is much faster than Compass2g, especially for large courses. Another great feature is the regrade requests, especially with the lack of physical classes for students to approach professors to ask for regrades.

What are some of the main advantages of PrairieLearn?
The flexibility in what you can do with questions, and how you can edit/copy/manipulate those questions is much stronger in PrairieLearn than Compass2g. Including things like using Python or R functions for grading is a great feature.

How much code does one have to write to make a "question generator"?
In practice, very little most of the time.  A typical strategy to making a new question is to find the closest existing question (usually one that you just wrote) to the one you want to make and copying it and then editing it to become the new question.  On the code side, this typically means adjusting the number or random parameters and setting their ranges and writing the piece of code that computes the correct answer (or judges the correctness of a student answer).  For many questions, this is modifying 5-10 lines of code.

Will CBTF-online only work with the "online assignment" of Gradescope or the "exam" format as well?
CBTF is more focused on the live proctoring and scheduling of assessments, the format does not matter, however, there will be a protocol to follow that may vary depending on the format of the assessment.

Are there proctoring options that do not require a smartphone? I am concerned about equity here - some students may not have one or may have limited data plans.
The college is recommending that all students should have a smartphone for purposes of remote exams. Here is a link to the college’s page on essential technology for online learning in Fall 2020. If students need assistance to obtain technology, they should reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students to get assistance. The CBTF will work with students to ensure that they have access to their exams.

Additional Resources

Webinar, “Not another test: Optimizing assessment systems to enhance teaching and learning.” by Jay Mann, Director of AE3

View Webinar     Download Presentation

Gradescope Help and Guides (external)