My school has been using Blackboard for the last 7 years. During that 7 years more and more teachers have begun having students turn in assignments via Blackboard. It is however a very tedious process to get assigments in this way. The assignments need to be saved locally to the teacher's computer, graded and then resaved, and then uploaded back to blackboard one at a time. I'm looking for a more efficient way to do this. We are starting a one-to-one tablet pc program next year with our incoming students. I know Dyknow has a way to do this, but I just found out today that we don't have the funds available to adopt Dyknow for the coming school year. Does anyone have a suggestion on a solution for a more efficient way that teachers can receive, grade and return electronic assignments?

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Terry Parent asked a similar question here. I would say Moodle is the best solution, because you can describe the assignment, students can write in their response or upload their file, you can grade it and there's a gradebook where the grades are recorded.

If that's not possible, Graham Petersen made a strong case for using Google Apps in the discussion I linked to.
It's been a couple of years since I played with moodle but it seemed pretty similar to Blackboard with respect to how students turned in work and how teachers could download that work and return it to the students once corrected, so I don't think it would solve my problem.
I really like using a service called at It allows students to drop off their paper without registering and the teacher can download all of the files at one time in a zip file. I then email each paper back with a brief comment. This method saves me from getting 120 emails to sort and track. I could batch upload the files back to, but then I could not put the actual grade on each paper.
Very cool service. Thanks. I created a drop with some family slides I want to share with my relatives.
I'm curious when you used this with students how did you have them get the papers into the drop? Did you have the students go to the website and upload the paper or did you have the students email the paper as an attachment to the drop email address? The problem I see with the first method is that students would be able to access other students work, but with the second method you could password protect the drop and only allow students to email their papers to the drop email address.
We designed Yacapaca to do just this, and for the same reason you specified - submitting work as uploaded/downloaded files really sucks.

One of the challenges we found was that teachers set a wide variety of assignment types, and they expect your solution to cope with them all. Consider dimensions of:

  • Granularity: is the assignment broken into a number of sections that will be marked separately?
  • Presentation: plain text? styled text? images? video? sound?
  • Description: is the assignment described in a single line, or is there a lengthy introduction with links etc?
  • Marking/grading/commenting cycle: just once per assignment, or is there an iterative conversation between teacher and student?
  • Social: do students work together in any way? Do they interact with people outside the class altogether?Or is the model purely teacher-student?

The really good news is that you definitely don't need to be paying Blackboard for any of this. There are free solutions that are as good or better. I would be delighted to help you set this up in Yacapaca for your whole school, and I'm sure there are plenty of other C2.0 members who could help you with other solutions.
I would like to take you up on your offer and see what Yacapaca can do. Thanks!
Great! Here is the best way to start exploring.
  1. Go to the Yacapaca homepage and create a teacher account. It's all free - I did say that already, didn't I?
  2. Once you have successfully logged in as a teacher, create one or more dummy students. You will need these to see how it really works. It's obvious how to do this, once you are logged in. Note their IDs & passwords - you will need them later.
  3. Go direct to Assignments -> Blanks -> Blank Tasks ignoring anything to do with quizzes - that side of Yacapaca does not interest you right now.
  4. There are four tasks there. They are simple blanks with no instructional content whatsoever. Set all four for your dummy student(s).
  5. Log in as one of your students, being sure to go to the separate student login page.
  6. On login, you will be presented with a to-do list, with your four items in it. Pick up each task in turn, and see what you can do with it. Different tasks have different permissions set - styled text, uploads, create new cards, etc.
  7. Save your work and return to the Teacher module. Look in Results and explore the different ways you can look at, mark, and comment on the student work. Again, it varies according to task type.
This is just a basic intro. If you want to see what happens when you start authoring course-specific tasks, look at the Bilingual Creative Writing series or the Applied Business course.

Come back to me when you want to go further!
Thank you so much for the info about Yacapaca. I checked it out and plan to use it. I'm new to Classroom 2.0, and I'm finding this a great resource.
I think you've hit the Achille's Heal of Moodle/Blackboard. Although we use Moodle, we do not use it for submission of papers for just that reason. Although the mark up/ commenting features of Word are excellent, the save and reattaching is tedious.

We use an email system called FirstClass, though even gmail might work. If you have students put the paper into the text of the message itself, and then set your default font, you can comment directly in the essay and hit send, putting the grade in the subject line of the reply email. You may need a client based solution, because browser-based (like gmail) might not have that default font function.

We noticed something else grading this way, you can have a stable of the most popular comments you make in another window and simply cut and paste them into the essay. In the end, students get much more feedback. The next step is embedding links in the comments (another advantage of a client-based email) so if your comment notes a grammar error, students can follow a link to an explanation of that error.
Turns out we are doing Dyknow after all. That will partially solve our problem. Dyknow allows you to submit and return panels easily. It also has a method to send files to students, but know way to receive files from students and grade and return files.
For the past year I have been using Zoho Writer, part of the FREE Zoho suite of Web 2.0 applications.

First day of class, every student opens a Zoho account. I give them my Zoho account name. They make a document with this info on it and save it for future reference.

Then I ask them to write me a short letter and to share it with me. I see it in my list of shared docs. I open it, make a few comments and share it back.

Once we have that system perfected, that's how they submit all work to me for the rest of the year. I can ask to see drafts and respond to them quickly. I also use a bank of stock comments for common mistakes and drop these in with a neat program for the Mac called TypeIt4Me. Been around for years and there are several worthy imitators.

Students can also peer review or do group projects quite easily.

I might also add that Zoho Show--their version of PowerPoint--also makes a nifty tool for in class presentations. If they share with me, then all I have to do is open up their file and let them have a go with it. Much easier than the time consuming process of working on the network to locate a file and opening it. Or worse, trying to email ppt files--a nightmare!

Again, the share feature makes team work and collaboration a cinch.

I hope every teacher gives Zoho a serious look. Google docs is also very capable. I especially like Google Notebook for web research.
To me, Wikispaces seems like a free and easy solution to this need.



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