Formative feedback at scale

Too much grunt work

Students do exercises and get feedback. If they’re to learn from the feedback, they need details on what they did right and wrong: “Good job on the program, Jane, but you have some bugs to fix…” This is called formative feedback.

Computers cannot give formative feedback. They’re not smart enough to grade essays, evaluate program code, etc. Only people can give formative feedback. That’s a challenge. If you have 50 students in a course, each doing 20 exercises, that’s 1,000 things to grade. No prof wants to do that. Nor is it a good use of his/her time.

What to do?

We could give up, and go back to multiple choice. Let’s not do that, because you can’t test skills with multiple choice questions. Instead, let’s:

  • Create a workflow for formative feedback that’s as efficient as we can make it.
  • Have a way for people other than profs to do the grading.

That’s the Cyco Way. When they write course content, authors also make exercises, and rubrics for them. A rubric spells out what good performance means. For a Web page exercise: complete page, HTML indentation, …


When a grader looks at a student’s work, Cyco makes each rubric item clickable:

Clickable rubric item

The grader clicks to rate the student’s work on that item:


Graders can grade simple exercises in under a minute.

After the clicky clicky for the rubric items, the grader clicks another button, and Cyco generates a message:


Who does the grading?

Grading can be done by anyone with basic skills in the field (programming, finance, etc.). They could be retired folk, people taking time off from work to raise a family, advanced students working to pay tuition, etc.

“What about grading consistency?” you ask. Good question! The rubrics give you that as well. Authors can also give sample solutions, and notes on grading each exercise.

Feedback nirvana!

Formative feedback is critical for skill development. There is no way around it. Cyco makes it work.

The bottom line: students get more value for their money and time.

Like what you see? Take a look at what you can do.