As far as streamlining grading systems for the schools themselves, these programs have been highly successful, making grading and assignments much more accessible for teachers.
However, what about students?
As my peers and I have come to see, the many technical and interpersonal issues online grading platforms create are grossly under discussed. Removing one-on-one, in-person discussions with teachers, and replacing those interactions with an automated system that follows an algorithm, means an entire layer of classroom communication gets cut off.
This prevents dialogue between student and teacher from occurring when students need extra help with managing the system or assignments, or have performed poorly on something and the automated percentages cause a grade to fluctuate.
Prior to digitized education, teachers may have been more empowered to offer extra credit or test retakes, but certain grading platforms prohibit individual students from retaking a test or paper, unless it’s assigned to the whole class.
With systems like Canvas, which get overloaded and even crash at unsuspected times, the ability for students to upload work by their deadlines is impacted.
Schoology and Google Classroom, two other educational platforms, have also dealt with a plethora of issues over time, with app-wide crashes being reported, failure for some pages to submit, and even entire assignments being deleted.
No longer are students able to properly advocate for themselves by actively having individual opportunities to perform well based on personal merit, and effort being put in in class. The reaction of teachers in response to a technology issue depends on how well they understand the very systems that are determining students’ academic worth.
With teachers failing to catch up with technology, students are left floundering to pull their weight.
Missed assignments or late assignments add an extra layer of ambiguity, since grades are locked in as soon as they’re entered, preventing students from being able to advocate for themselves, or dealing with something as simple as being unable to connect to the internet.
Last school year, my math teacher didn’t appear to understand how to weigh the various aspects of class grades as far as the percentages for how much individual assignments would be worth, resulting in a lack of grading curve that made homework assignments and quizzes worth the same weight.
One bad grade severely affected the following successful ones, making it as if my efforts to succeed were hopeless.
In the end, the heroic B+ I pulled off could have easily been an A in a time where face-to-face interaction and a student’s personal progress throughout the semester was more of a factor in the final grade than a bot crunching your numbers.
The impact of COVID-19 continues, with students having to catch up academically and socially after fully remote learning for several academic years in a row.
With questions being raised about the effectiveness of digital learning in general, one thing has become abundantly clear: Strictly online grading strips students of their ability to advocate for themselves, and teachers from being able to see the shades of gray in between the numbers.
Now that most school systems have jumped onto the online grading bandwagon, let’s hope that this aspect of the “new normal” doesn’t continue to disadvantage students already struggling to overcome the challenges of the post-pandemic world.