Dr. Kristian Nybom is an adjunct professor and university teacher in the Department of Information Technologies at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. He has taught Java programming courses for many years, ranging from introductory courses to advanced ones. Åbo Akademi University is the only Swedish language university in Finland and attracts students from all over the world, and is in this role very important for education, research and the social environment.
Åbo Akademi is a relatively small, yet multi-faculty, university. Kristian teaches the course Programming II, with an enrollment of about 100-120 students yearly, making it one of the larger courses at the university. In this course, students are taught the basics of Java programming and the object oriented paradigm. This course is followed by a course in Data Structures, which Kristian also teaches.
Kristian’s frustrating and time-consuming grading workflow before CodeGrade
Before CodeGrade, Kristian and his teaching assistants had too much work on their plates having to manually grade all submissions: “We had 4 programming assignments during our course and it simply took too much time to grade all the assignments. With three teaching assistants which were students, we had to grade around 100 submissions every second week. This was very time consuming, and many course participants got feedback on their solutions long after they had submitted their solutions. It took too long before the students got their feedback.”
The reason his grading took so long was due to an inefficient workflow, one that was actually very similar to the one the CodeGrade founders had that led them to create CodeGrade: “The students would just upload their submissions to Moodle [Åbo Akademi’s LMS]. The teaching assistants would then have to go to Moodle, download the code from the student, put it in the right folder locally and import it into their IDE. Only then they could actually start to grade by manually running the solution code to see if it works and looking at the code to maybe give feedback on that. Finally having to go back to Moodle to write down the grade and feedback.”
Working with instructors, we come across this workflow a lot and always hear the same thing, and Kristian notes that as well: “The workflow was very frustrating and time consuming. It was too tedious and too slow for the students: by the time they finally got some feedback they often already forgot what they had even done during the assignment! I didn’t like that at all, a lot of time would go into downloading and grading, which I would have preferred to spend on teaching and helping students.”
Speeding up grading with CodeGrade
With adopting CodeGrade, Kristian moved most of his course to CodeGrade and set up autograding for three Java assignments: “Once I understood how it worked, setting up my assignments in CodeGrade was quite easy actually. It took some time to set them up, but once that was done I had much more time to spend on actual teaching and helping students, that was great!” Kristian thinks the investment is well worth it: “If I had not put some time into setting up autograding, I would have to spend that time on grading. During my course I have gone from continuous grading to continuous teaching, which is much nicer!”
CodeGrade eliminated all frustrations he had with his previous workflow: “With CodeGrade, I don’t need to download anything anymore. I can just see their code and if it works right away within CodeGrade. In the automatic tests, I can clearly see what went wrong and where, and looking at the code I can check which problems there are and help students. I also do not have to manually set any grades in Moodle, as CodeGrade takes care of everything.”