Manual Grading

Some questions may require manual grading, either fully (e.g., freeform essay-type questions) or partially (e.g., coding style, or "show your work" components). PrairieLearn currently supports two methods of manual grading:

  • Course staff may download a CSV file with student answers, perform any grading tasks offline, and upload a CSV file with question scores and optional per-question feedback.
  • An online web interface is available for grading individual instance questions.

Configuring a question for manual grading

For questions that require manual grading, the question can be set up for manual grading by using manualPoints in the assessment configuration, like this:

    "questions": [
        {"id": "manualGradingOnly", "manualPoints": 2},
        {"id": "combinedManualAndAutoGrading", "autoPoints": 2, "manualPoints": 6}

Questions set to use only manual grading (i.e., with manual points but no auto points) allow students to "Save" answers, but they don't have a "Save & Grade" button. Instead, the student just saves answers as many times as they want, and all of their submitted answers are stored.

It is recommended to also mark manually-graded questions as "singleVariant": true so that students are only given a single random variant, even on Homework assessments. By default, manual grading is performed only for the last submission of the last variant, so having a single variant simplifies both the grading process and the student feedback. The singleVariant setting can be updated in the info.json file in the question, like this:

    "uuid": "cbf5cbf2-6458-4f13-a418-aa4d2b1093ff",
    "singleVariant": true,

Any elements can be used in the question.html to write manually graded questions. All of the student input will be saved and available for manual grading, including pl-string-input, pl-file-editor, pl-file-upload, pl-rich-text-editor, etc.

Manual grading using file uploads

Downloading the students' submitted answers

After students have completed the assessment, download the submitted answers by going to the assessment page, then the "Downloads" tab, and selecting the <assessment>_submissions_for_manual_grading.csv file. This looks like:

uid,uin,qid,old_score_perc,old_feedback,old_auto_points,old_manual_points,submission_id,params,true_answer,submitted_answer,old_partial_scores,partial_scores,score_perc,feedback,1,explainMax,0,,0,0,42983,{},{},{"ans": "returns the maximum value in the array"},,,,,2,explainMax,0,,0,0,42984,{},{},{"ans": "gives the set of largest values in the object"},,,,,2,describeFibonacci,100,,10,0,42987,{},{},{"ans": "calculates the n-th Fibonacci number"},,,,

This CSV file has three blank columns at the end, ready for the percentage score (0 to 100) and optional feedback and partial scores. The submission_id is an internal identifier that PrairieLearn uses to determine exactly which submitted answer is being graded. The params and true_answer columns show the question data. The old_score_perc column shows the score that the student currently has, while old_auto_points and old_manual_points show the auto-graded and manually graded points already submitted. If feedback was already provided in a previous upload, the old_feedback column will contain the feedback the student currently has.

If the students uploaded files then you may also download <assessment> from the "Downloads" tab. The scores and feedback should still be entered into the CSV file.

The <assessment> file contains all files uploaded by the student for grading. For workspace questions, list any files that you want to include in this download file in the "gradedFiles" list in the question's info.json file:

"workspaceOptions": {
        "gradedFiles": [

Uploading the scores and feedback

After editing the percentage score and/or feedback for each submitted answer, upload the CSV file by going to the assessment page, then the "Uploads" tab, and selecting "Upload new question scores". If you leave either score_perc or feedback (or both) blank for any student, then the corresponding entry will not be updated.

Each question will have its score and/or feedback updated and the total assessment score will be recalculated. All updates are done with credit of 100%, so students get exactly the scores as uploaded.

If you prefer to use points rather than a percentage score, rename the score_perc column in the CSV file to points. Note that either of these options updates the question's points so that the full score of the question reflects the value of the column. For questions with separate auto and manual points, you may replace this column with columns named manual_score_perc, auto_score_perc, manual_points, and/or auto_points.

If a feedback column is provided, it will be shown by default to the student above the submission panel, as seen in the image below. The feedback can use Markdown formatting.

Feedback shown above student panel

You also have the option to set partial scores. These can be based on individual elements of the question (typically based on the answers-name attribute of the element), or any other setting you wish to use. Partial scores must be represented using a JSON object, with keys corresponding to individual elements. Each element key should be mapped to an object, and should ideally contain values for score (with a value between 0 and 1) and weight (which defaults to 1 if not present). For example, to assign grades to a question with elements answer1 and answer2, use:

  "answer1": { "score": 0.7, "weight": 2, "feedback": "Almost there!" },
  "answer2": { "score": 1, "weight": 1, "feedback": "Great job!" }

If the partial_scores column contains a valid value, and there is no value in auto_score_perc or auto_points, the auto-grading points will be computed based on the weighted average of the partial scores. For example, the score above will be computed as 80% (the weighted average between 70% with weight 2, and 100% with weight 1).

WARNING: note that some elements such as drawings or matrix elements may rely on elaborate partial score values with specific structures and objects. When updating partial scores, make sure you follow the same structure as the original partial scores to avoid any problems. Changing these values could lead to errors on rendering the question pages for these elements. You may find the original partial score structure in the old_partial_scores column.

Manual grading using the Web user interface

The user interface for manual grading is built to encourage a workflow where all submissions for each individual question are graded together, instead of grading one full assessment instance at a time. This allows graders to focus on the specific issues associated to one question at a time, and provide more consistent grading across all assessments. Individual student submissions are tagged for manual grading if they have manual points assigned to them, or can be manually tagged by course staff. Once a submission is graded, the interface advances to the next submission for the same question.

After students have completed their assessments, open the "Manual Grading" tab. This page will list all questions in this assessment, as well as the number of submissions that require grading. For questions that have at least one submission tagged for grading, the "Grade next submission" button will be shown, which will jump directly to one of the submissions that need to be graded. Alternatively, clicking on the question's title will open a list of all student answers for that question.

The list of student submissions for a question gives course staff the ability to tag individual student answers (or all answers for the question) to specific graders. This can be done by selecting the submissions to be tagged, then selecting the "Tag for grading" button and choosing the grader responsible for those submissions. Only staff members with Editor permission for the course instance are listed for tagging.

In the grading page for individual submissions, the grader can assign a specific set of manual points to the question, and provide feedback as needed (Markdown formatting is allowed). For questions with auto points, it is also possible to override the auto-grading points assigned to the question. Graders also have the option to use a percentage score instead of points. Once these values are set, the grader can select "Submit", which will update the score and open the next question to be graded.

In some situations a grader may not feel confident to grade a particular submission. In such scenarios, the grader may Skip the question, or use the dropdown of the same button to assign this question to be reviewed by another grader (e.g., an instructor or lead TA).

By default, the grading page will show the question, correct answer and submissions with the same content as a student would see it. However, for questions with long descriptions, it is possible to hide some of this information by using the pl-hide-in-manual-grading element. This allows the grader to focus on important parts of the question or answer. It is also possible to add information to the question, such as staff-only solutions or grading comments, using the pl-manual-grading-only element. Any information within this element will be shown to graders, but not to students.