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Who's got time to grade papers?

Staying on top of grading is a challenging task. Providing comprehensive feedback to students that is both supportive and constructive can be a time-consuming process. As soon as I finish grading one assignment, it is time to start on another. When I plan time to grade papers, I often get requests to attend meetings or complete other time-sensitive committee and administrative tasks, which makes providing timely feedback to students a juggling act.

Providing feedback to students is an integral part of student learning and growth. Boettcher and Conrad (2016) suggest that timely feedback is essential because students may become demotivated if they don’t receive feedback when expected. Below are five tips to increase your ability to provide timely and effective feedback to students.

  1. Blocked small chunks of time on your calendar throughout the week to grade papers. You may decide to hold posting grades until you have completed the entire class. This helps to mitigate untimely interruptions and keep the grading momentum going.

  2. Limit feedback to the amount of information that the student can absorb. Start with a standard message and use positive language to add individualized comments as needed. If you use our LMS Canvas, assign a rubric to all assignments. Build the rubric to include specific criteria for excelling and use the comment section to provide additional feedback and instruction that focuses on areas for improvement.
  3. If typing long written responses are not your thing, provide video or audio feedback instead. It does not have to be perfectly edited. Talk as if the student is in the room. You can easily incorporate areas where the student excelled, explain concepts, offer suggestions for improvement, provide links to additional references, and share available support services in a brief period. If you notice common errors with the whole class that need to be addressed, create a voice-over mini-lesson and share it as feedback with the entire class.

  4. Provide in-text feedback while grading the assignment. This helps the student understand exactly where the errors occurred in the assignment. Provide the scores on the rubric and refer students to your in-text comments.
  5. Set reasonable expectations on when students should receive feedback on assignments and work consistently to meet those expectations. All assignments are not the same. Some take significantly more time to provide effective feedback than others. Build that additional time in when developing the expectations. If there is a delay in reaching your goal, notify the students.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Bowen, J. A., & Watson, C. E. (2017). Teaching naked techniques: A practical guide to designing better classes. Jossey Bass.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

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