There is very little as rewarding as being a professor, watching students learn and engage with the world. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t work, and grading papers is one of the most time consuming aspects of that work. And as the semester goes on, more projects and more assignments mean you’re spending your weekends grading.
Let’s look at a more efficient way to grade when grading on a computer. For you, maybe this means in MS Word, or maybe it means online in a learning management system, such as Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle.
Gather Your Comments
First, take note of all those grading comments you repeat. You’ll want a list of all those stored up somewhere so you can reuse them quickly. Since you will be reusing them, you can take some time to make them super helpful. Why not add in citations from academic sources? This backs up any comment you have with not just more authority, but links out to more details than you have the space to provide right in the comment.
Store Your Comments
Stage 1 for you might be storing these comments in a Word document, or in any text editor/word processor. Have the document open as you’re grading, or responding to email. All you’re pre-written comments are there and ready to go. Plus, you can share this with a colleague, or a TA if you are coaching one.
Tried this already? Ready to move beyond a document? Maybe you noticed it’s not as efficient as it could be, there are copy/paste errors, searching or keeping things updated is a challenge.
Adopting a Text Expansion Tool For Faster Typing
You can use a dedicated tool just for quickly reusing your comments with a text expansion tool, such as TextExpander.
With TextExpander, you can use a quick search or abbreviation and instantly insert snippets of text from a personal or shared repository of content. For example, type “m.re” and it expands to your comment “This could be worded a little better. Please rephrase.”. Learn all about getting started over in our article “TextExpander 101“.
Step one is transferring your comments over to that app, then giving each an abbreviation you can type to call up that comment.
Note that since TextExpander is it’s own app, which works in all the other apps you use, you won’t have a problem switching between Word, e-mail, or an LMS.
Setting Up TextExpander for Yourself
There are plenty of places where you repeat yourself, probably too many to remember, so here are some ideas on the types of things you can store in TextExpander.
Students, Teaching Assistants, Grad Student Instructors and Grad Teaching Assistants all want your time, and may end up emailing you some questions. Some are undoubtedly similar if not identical. Look thru your sent messages and once you see the patterns, save up those answers. Not only are you saving yourself some time, but the faster students get their answers, the better.
Start to break down the types of comments you put on assignments when you are grading them. Gather together all the comments you make on each assignment into a snippet group in TextExpander.
Or, maybe organize your snippet comments by course. For example, you may have similar writing feedback for the English majors and Engineering majors through out the class, but their citation and formatting needs are different, so keep a version for each.
This way the 300+ comments you use each year are organized and easier for you to find and add to.
Live Comments on Speeches
There are a variety of courses you may be teaching. For those of you who work as speech coaches thru distance learning, comments are best given in real time. Keep a group of the specific comments you use in this case. This means you can spend more attention watching the speech vs typing out your comments.
Example snippet: “mect” => Paragraph of how to maintain eye contact
Example snippet: “advvf” = avoid verbal fillers
Why Professors Should Use TextExpander
It’s about saving time. Imagine you grade an assignment for 100 students with 6-8 pages of comments per. Or don’t imagine, just remember. Speeding up your grading could save you 16 hours per assignment. As more assignments come in by the end of the semester, you’re saving days of time.
Check out the monthly TextExpander report and see how much time you’ve saved yourself.