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Digital education

Bilingual use of Grademark Quickmarks

5 December 2016

Welcome back to week four of our series on Education Innovation Fund projects. This week we’re hearing from Dr. Mark Connolly in the School of Social Sciences on providing bilingual feedback to students using Grademark.

Once there was a green pen.

A proud pen that worked hard marking countless scripts (often giving the same pieces of advice but we’ll get to that later).

This pen is now abandoned:  like a Pennsylvanian miner or Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3 it is bypassed by history, emasculated by technology.


I always used the green pen to mark essays. It was my attempt at being student friendly.  When first introduced to electronic marking I was more than skeptical: I saw it as another technological ‘solution’ to a problem that didn’t really exist.  I liked the comfort of my pen and paper based routines.

My first change in attitude came a few weeks later on December 1st  2012. I remember the date as this was always the submission for my foundational Year One module where, traditionally, I borrowed a dolly from estates so that I could transport the 150 essays to my office for sorting. Part of me liked this performance: I was physically wilting under the weight of work.

This was the first year that I did not have to perform this ritual. I simply lifted my laptop and headed to a nearby café.

My green pen was, to paraphrase one of my undergraduates, ‘so last semester’.


As I became more familiar with the Grademark software I was convinced by its utility but frustrated by some of its limitations. One limitation in particular was the marking ‘sets’ embedded within it. These are feedback on common errors but have limited utility (as we know simply writing ‘referencing error’ next to a referencing mistake has no formative value- see comments included for examples). In addition the bilingual functionality of the software was limited.

Along with a colleague in the School of Welsh I put forward a bid to the Centre for Education Innovation for funding to develop bilingual marking sets that will provide detailed feedback to students in relation to common errors within essays. What we are developing is definitely NOT designed to replace bespoke feedback but to provide a resource that is both time efficient and pedagogically sound. At present we are conducting focus groups and interviews across the university with staff and students to find out what they would find useful and what resources are already available.

We will trial these in 2017 and plan to embed the sets within Grademark later in the 17/18 academic year.



If you are interested in feeding into this project in terms of best practice/needs or if you would like to be involved in the pilot then please email me at

All those who volunteer to help will be given a green pen.