Overcoming initial barriers to adopt autograding
In their review paper “Propagating the Adoption of CS Educational Innovations”, Cynthia Taylor et al. provide an overview of common barriers that faculty face when adopting tools like an autograder. From our experience, we can help faculty overcome these initial barriers:
- I don’t have the time to adopt a new tool.
The most common barrier is time and effort needed to convert courses to a new “autograding” model. We have helped hundreds of teachers overcome this initial barrier by providing personal and extensive support.
It is often a daunting task to set up a first assignment in a new autograder, but once one assignment is set up, the other assignments are merely a matter of copy and paste and changing some details. This is why we always set up a first assignment for a new teacher adopting CodeGrade, to take away this initial time investment and immediately show them the benefits that can be reaped. Furthermore, we design an extensive personalized onboarding plan to make sure a teacher gets the most out of CodeGrade.
- Autograding does not fit my current practices!
Coding courses come in all shapes and sizes and every course is unique, this can make teachers think their course is not suitable for autograding. Or, faculty are scared a new autograder will not be compatible with their current tools.
Flexibility and interoperability of the autograder are very important here. The technology should fit the workflow, not the other way around. CodeGrade integrates with all major learning management systems and GitLab and GitHub. It also supports 180+ programming languages and any framework or library.
- Will autograding replace me as a teacher?
Adopting autograding in your course does not replace your role. On the contrary, autograding should be seen as a virtual assistant to the teacher, finally giving them time again to do what makes them so irreplaceable: be an expert in their field and know how to best teach that to new students. Autograding will not replace teacher-student interactions. Read more about how autograding can empower teachers in our recent article here.
Most barriers cannot be overcome by a “good autograder” alone, this is why teachers value CodeGrade’s support and LMS integration so much. These aspects are often overlooked when comparing autograding solutions initially.
Three steps to successfully adopt automatic grading
Now that you have identified that your coding course can benefit from automatic grading and you are (hopefully at least somewhat) reassured that initial barriers will be overcome. How do you go about actually adopting autograding in your course?
The three steps below summarize the best practices of institutions that have adopted CodeGrade before. From Harvard-Westlake School, to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to the University of Edinburgh.
1. Identifying that your course needs autograding
You have probably already begun working on the first step by reading this article and thinking about autograding in your course. You may want to save time on grading, improve student results, add more practical assessments to your course or all three. It is useful to determine why you want autograding in your course so we can best help you achieve your goals with autograding.
Some teachers just adopt an autograder for their own course or some may adopt it for their entire CS department right away due to a massive increase in student numbers. Your goals may align with your colleagues’ goals too, so it’s a good practice to discuss them.
2. Setting up a pilot without investing time
Now, it’s time to leave the initial boundaries of adoption behind you. Contact CodeGrade for a 30-minute personal demo and call, and we will do all the work for you so you can try out autograding. Click here to find our calendar and simply select any date and time that works for you, it only takes 1 minute!
You can use one of our many preset assignments or you can provide CodeGrade with your first assignment and we will make sure to develop autograding for this in a way that is easily duplicated to the rest of your assignments. We will help design your course with autograding to meet your goals. Finally, we will help fit CodeGrade in your workflow, because we do not want you to spend time to fit your workflow around CodeGrade: we will integrate CodeGrade in your LMS (Canvas, BrightSpace, Blackboard, Moodle, Open edX, …) and use our API to hook up any necessary tools you use.
3. Successful pilot to adoption
With only very little initial investment, you have now experienced what autograding can do to your course, to your time and your students. Unsurprisingly, empirical research   suggests that a bottom-up approach works best for adopting innovations in the classroom. If you and your students experience benefits first hand, a successful long-term adoption becomes much easier.
Now it’s time to find a model that suits your institution. We have been there and done that many times, so we will take care of this for you. Whether it’s a student-pay model, a license for a single course or an institutional license, you will get the same support as you did during your pilot.
Autograding for everyone
I’d like to end by sharing something we have come to experience of the past years: almost all teachers who try out CodeGrade in their course want to keep using it after their pilot. This is why we put so much effort in taking away the boundaries and helping teachers set up a successful course in CodeGrade. As mentioned before, empirical research suggests that bottom-up approaches work best. There is no educational change without happy teachers and happy students, which is why we focus so much on achieving that first and foremost.
Are you on the fence of adding automatic grading to your course? Feel free to book a call with us to discuss your thoughts here. My colleagues and I will give you our fair thoughts on autograding for your course without any strings attached.
 Taylor, Cynthia, et al. (2018, July). Propagating the adoption of CS educational innovations. In Proceedings Companion of the 23rd Annual ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (pp. 217-235).
 Henderson, C., Beach, A., & Finkelstein, N. (2011). Facilitating change in undergraduate STEM instructional practices: An analytic review of the literature. Journal of research in science teaching, 48(8), 952-984.
 Natasha Singer (2019). The Hard Part of Computer Science? Getting into class. In The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/technology/computer-science-courses-college.html).
 Nicole Johnson (2022). Uncoding Grades: Autograding Tool Improves Student Performance. In UNLV IT News Center (https://www.it.unlv.edu/news/uncoding-grades-autograding-tool-improves-student-performance-0).