Effective programming assignments for ICT education and studies
April 8, 2020

How Automatic Grading makes Continuous Assessment in Programming Courses Easy

Testing the knowledge of a subject that students have learned is an important part of teaching. This is often done by a final assessment with one final test at the end of the course. But continuous formative assessment, where students get graded assessments throughout the term is slowly integrating more and more into the grading methods of university teachers and is a very helpful tool in online or distance learning.

Practicing coding is a key factor in acquiring the desired skill in programming education. Continuous assessment responds perfectly to this need and simulates a real-life work environment as the student will often be handed small deadlines it has to deal with regularly later in their career.

Courses with continuous assessment force students to keep up with the study material as their understanding of the material is checked continuously. Students study every subtopic individually and the affected repetition as a part of the learning curve is also beneficial for both student and teacher. If a student runs into a problem in some part of the material this will be noticed quickly, giving the student enough time to fill in the knowledge gap about that topic. A study showed that by using continuous assessment, the failure rate was very low, between 5-10%, supporting the proactive approach which is impossible with a final exam [1].

Another great advantage is that students can directly use the given feedback for the practice in later assessments of the course to eradicate structural problems in an early stage, helping students solving the problems. A study from 2019 used the success rate, which is the percentage of correct solutions among the number of attempts. It is an objective measure of the interaction between students and their feedback and shows that consistent feedback improves academic performance [2].

Start engaging your students with continuous assessment too!

Continuous assessment is also highly useful for teachers, as they can notice if there are specific parts of a course where most students struggle with. This creates a dynamic structure of the course which the teacher can tailor towards the needs of the students and focus on the parts where they struggle most. Especially for large student groups, analytics in combination with rubrics can be extremely powerful. Enabling teachers to see proactively where students struggle and adjusting education accordingly.

Even though studies show that this grading method has a stable success outcome for students [1], continuous assessment is often avoided because of the increased workload. Instead of just grading the final exam, teachers would have to grade throughout their course which costs valuable time they simply don’t have for grading. Or does it? Recent developments have made it possible to grade programming assignments very efficiently with the help of automated grading, analytics, and rubrics.

Automated grading and rubrics decrease the workload immensely as the teacher only has to set up the scripts at the beginning which will then, as promised, automatically run and evaluate the students’ code. Having a lot of graded assessments throughout the course won’t increase the workload in this way. Rubrics help with the consistency of the grading and help students to immediately see what they should focus on. Combined with analytics, this gives teachers insights into what goes right, and what doesn’t throughout the entire course. But to give teachers the highest flexibility, CodeGrade implements hybrid grading. The study from 2019 showed that only 18% of the total errors from students could be flagged by the compiler [2]. Using a continuous assessment tool helps with error analysis. Teachers can choose how much of the work is automated and how much is hand-graded. CodeGrade is adaptable to every need of grading and every way of teaching to make your work as a teacher as efficient and easy as possible, whilst improving the feedback for students.

Teachers love CodeGrade for saving time while improving education. Want to use CodeGrade at your institution? Don’t hesitate and email us at hello@codegrade.com!


  1. F. Restrepo-Calle, Ramı́rez Echeverry Jhon J, and F. A. González, “Continuous assessment in a computer programming course supported by a software tool,” Computer Applications in Engineering Education, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 80–89, 2019.
  2. Rodrı́guez E, M. A. Sicilia, E. D. Mariné, and Á. JM, “J. Continuous Assessment In Online-Teaching: The Case Of An Object-Oriented Programming Course,” in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Multimedia and Information and Communication Technologies in Education (m-ICTE 2003), 2003, pp. 1606–1610.

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