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Chief Information Officer John Hemingway and his team successfully transitioned 97% of Durham University’s academic staff and students to online-only assessment during the UK’s first national lockdown in March 2020. However, it was academic colleagues that spearheaded the initiative to adopt Gradescope on an institution-wide basis.
Durham’s seamless and streamlined move to online assessment was made possible with Gradescope.
Without Gradescope, marking and communicating results within the agreed timescales would not have been possible.
Gradescope has helped instructors reinvent their teaching and assessment processes.
I see Gradescope as part of our teaching and learning landscape moving forward. As we move forward, we will look to extend the use of Gradescope and make it part of our future learning experience.
- John Hemingway, Chief Information Officer, Computing and Information Services, Durham University
Before news of the coronavirus pandemic, Chief Information Officer, John Hemingway, and his team were on track to complete a number of major infrastructure projects, but the impending lockdown forced an almighty rewrite of their priority list with the view to transition all university operations online—including assessment.
In just two weeks, John and his team successfully moved from 5% of the university working remotely to a staggering 97%—a major transition and transformation for the institution.
The shift to online learning also highlighted opportunities to enhance Durham University’s existing assessment tools.
In response, academic colleagues were quick to put forward the concept of Gradescope, and in working closely with the Gradescope team, they managed to produce an outstanding operating model in respect of online teaching, assessment, and student learning, with Gradescope at the centre.
Through this model, John and his team were able to define Gradescope’s capabilities under the constraints of the pandemic. Following this, they handed the reins to the physics and maths departments to independently engage with the platform and carry out full due diligence which helped to confirm that Gradescope was the most feasible solution for the university at the time.
“There was a whole momentum to the Gradescope implementation that was driven by academic staff, and its rollout is a positive example of how the technology function and academic community at Durham can collaborate to achieve great outcomes.”
Internal training, combined with the drive and determination of academic staff, ensured that more and more colleagues became increasingly proficient with the Gradescope tool. Gradescope has since encouraged them to rethink the way they teach and assess, and it has enabled them to reinvent their processes in a way that meets the needs of hybrid learning.
After a year of using Gradescope throughout three UK lockdowns, the platform is now fully integrated into Durham University’s digital ecosystem using Blackboard—an integration essential to Gradescope’s long term adoption: “Gradescope is now part of our landscape and the academic staff intend to use it now, not just for exam marking, but for the submission and marking of coursework.”
Gradescope has offered students a streamlined submission process and an effective feedback experience for teachers that allowed them to complete their marking within the requisite amount of time, contrary to initial concerns. Academic staff are so confident that exams and coursework are covered beyond the pandemic that they are now using Gradescope for every assignment, including weekly homework tasks.
Student feedback has also been positive. They appreciate that their hand-in times are now more flexible, and not restricted by the opening hours of the university. They also have a full online archive of their handwritten work—something unavailable to them when submitting paper copies. With submissions now paper-free, this has helped to develop a more sustainable university.
Now that Gradescope is part of the future learning experience at Durham University, John is confident that he has met his objective as CIO, in that he has improved the IT services of the institution along with its infrastructure and digital presence in a way that continues to serve the ambitions of staff and students.
“A very simple message to other institutions who may be considering the challenges that we've faced, and that is to trust your academic staff. I'm fiercely proud of the fact that the initiative to adopt Gradescope and to implement it was driven by academic colleagues.”
Speaking exclusively to Palatinate, Durham's Official Student Newspaper, John emphasises that Gradescope has proved to be a ‘gamechanger’ for academics and notes that Gradescope is one example of why “some of the benefits of online [learning] should obviously be retained.”
Listen to John tell his own Gradescope story. Watch the video.
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John Hemingway, Chief Information Officer, Computing and Information Services, Durham University
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