I recently completed my graduate studies, and after 3+ years of intensive study and a lot of writing, I have an ardent belief that scholarly writing is NOT a solitary activity. Good teachers show students to that writing is a process. Usually, this requires collecting drafts and creating opportunities for feedback and iterative improvement.
But, how to be paperless and also manage lots and lots of student drafts? I know that from an instructor’s standpoint, it’s not always apparent how to best set-up Moodle assignments to support drafts, feedback, and revisions. With that in mind, I wanted to write up a quick post on some of the possible workflow options for instructors to collect multiple drafts with Moodle Assignments. There is no perfect combination of settings, but these are some important settings to consider.
There are a few powerful settings under the Submission types heading in the Assignment settings.
Files: One or Many?
The question here is: when collecting work at various stages, do you want students to upload a new file each time that sits alongside the previous draft, or replace the previous draft with a new one? If you expect multiple versions to be uploaded at once, ensure that the Maximum number of uploaded files is set to a number that will allow for this. Conversely, if you’d rather just deal with a single file from each student, make sure to set this to 1. As they move through different drafts, students will be able to replace their previous drafts with a new version of their document.
The other settings are less crucial for drafts but may still be on interest. For instance, if you depend on using Track Changes in Microsoft Word, you can use the Accepted file types option to prevent students from submitting PDFs or Apple Pages files.
If you are adventurous, you can skip students uploading files altogether. Instead, ask them to upload a file to a cloud service (at UP we have Microsoft OneDrive) and share a link to an online document with you. This allows a more involved and collaborative feedback process. To try this out, disable the File submissions option under Submission types and enable Online text that students can paste a sharing link to. Note that students may need an extra bit of support if they have not shared writing in this way before.
You’ll want to attend carefully to these settings as they determine how Moodle treats submissions.
Use the Submit Button?
One approach is to let students decide when to share a work-in-progress and when to ask you to consider a submission as final. Moodle assignments can allow for this if you enable the optional Submit button. This works with multiple file or single file submissions.
When the Submit button is on, students can upload files to an assignment, but they will be considered a draft until the student clicks the Submit button. You can provide feedback or grades for a student to review and they can choose what (if any) changes to make to their submission before hitting the Submit button.
One other possible benefit of this approach is that students can no longer make changes to their submissions after clicking the Submit button. When a file is submitted automatically upon upload, their file is considered submitted, but they can still make changes to it unless you manually lock submissions.
You can find this option under Submission settings by clicking Show more… to reveal the Require student to click the submit button selection field.
Note: because our default setting for Assignments is for the Submit button to be off, you should proactively remind students that they will need to click the submit button for your assignment.
If you want to allow students to optionally resubmit to work towards a higher grade, you can set the Maximum number of allowed attempts option to a specific number, or to unlimited attempts. You can then set the Attempts reopened setting to Manually if you want to reopen attempts yourself, or Automatically until pass if you set a Passing grade for the assignment.
If you feel it would be helpful to get email notices when a student submits, look under the Notifications options and set Notify graders about submissions to Yes.
One Assignment, or Many?
A final piece to consider is if you might want to use separate assignment activities for each draft. In the end this might be the simplest approach, especially if the drafts have different due dates or if you would like to grade each one separately. Another option that I have enjoyed as a student is to use an ungraded activity, like a forum, for learners to post early drafts. This allows the instructor and peers to give constructive feedback that the whole class might benefit from. Longer drafts and the final submission would then be uploaded to a separate Moodle Assignment for grading.
Moodle assignments offer a lot of choices to customize how you want to collect drafts. It can be a bit complex, but hopefully you see how these options can be combined to create a workflow that supports an effective digital writing, feedback and revision process.