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Guidance in Marking using the ETMA system


  1. Introduction and Background
  2. Strengths and Weaknesses of Electronic marking
  3. Before Term Starts.
  4. Getting off to the Right Start with your students
  5. Organising ready for the First TMAs
  6. Using the ETMA system
  7. Collecting the ETMAs
  8. Checking the TMAs
  9. Marking the Scripts
  10. How the student will see your marking
  11. Returning the ETMAs
  12. Appendix 1 - Guidance to Students for ETMA preparation
  13. Appendix 2 - Styles
  14. Appendix 3 - Marking Tool

1. Introduction

We produced a Guide to "Painless ETMA Preparation" for Students shortly after Pauline started electronic marking in the days of M206. It was regularly updated as we gained experience and we also obtained a lot of feedback from Students and , in particular, tips from other Tutors. A number of our hints were incorporated into the OU "Using the Electronic TMAs System - a student Guide to ETMAs" after the first year. As time went on it was extended to provide information on viewing the returned TMAs and some notes on how to avoid problems in submission. The guide also contained much of interest to tutors in preparing for marking and returning the ETMAs and it now seems appropriate to separate out the sections more appropriate to Tutors and to Students. That does not mean that there is no need for good communication and cooperation between Tutors and Students, it is crucial, and they need to see both sides of the task. With cooperation the system works very well. In the ten years only one of my students has been unable to participate and that was in year one.

2. Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths: Electronic marking has many strengths which benefit both the student and the tutor. Our experience is that, in a similar time, one can give more specific and legible feedback than marking up a paper text. Where common problems occur it is easy to paste in notes or use other features of the ETMA marking tool to reference them. It is also easier to ensure that the marking is uniform - how many tutors find that after marking half the TMAs that they have gained some more insight and ought to go back. With electronic marking one can mark many TMAs in parallel and also quickly go back and paste in extra notes or change a single part-mark without modifying the PT3 etc. It also leads to a faster turnaround which is valuable on courses where TMA and Tutorial dates are too close. The cycle is reduced by at least three days in the post plus the turnaround at Milton Keynes typically saving a week overall. It has encouraged many of my students to send in their TMAs early and on one occasion I had almost every TMA in and marked by the cutoff ready to send out at midnight.

Weaknesses:There are also weaknesses which can not be ignored - it is much more difficult to mark in the margins of other activities: on the train, at lunchtime in the office or the hotel room at night. The marking tool needs a powerful machine with specific software loaded so marking at work is nearly impossible - unauthorized use of Civil Service machines for paid work would have been an automatic disciplinary offence for my staff, as would loading software or even document files - most firms and even Universities must be the same. Laptops are slower and do not have the large displays needed for efficient marking and are more difficult to keep up to date for viruses. The other area of which can arguably be regarded as a weakness is that electronic marking needs discipline to avoid doing more than is required - one can deliver more value in the same time but there is a temptation to go further than one would ever do on paper.

3. Before Term Starts

Before the start of term and certainly before you need to speak to students from a position of knowledge you need to get set up for electronic marking - ideally as soon as you have your contract. Existing tutors will need to review what they have and what is needed by the course, both hardware and for software. New tutors need to decide how they will operate and what new software and hardware has to be purchased before they start to set up. The OU electronic marking uses largely standard software but loading any software does have implications and if you already have some of the software its configuration will need to be changed. In some cases it is changed automatically and without you knowing - this further precludes use of work machines.

Hardware Requirements

General hardware requirements: You need suitable hardware if you are going to be able to mark efficiently. We have downloaded TMAs, marked them and uploaded on a Libretto 50CT which was a tiny laptop with a 75 Mhz processor, 16 Mbytes RAM and a 640x480 6.2 inch screen - it was more difficult and one pays a penalty of 15-20 minutes per TMA. Currently we use an MSI Wind U100 netbook running Ubuntu Linux extensively when away from home and a number of low specification machines at home

Hardware requirements for the marking tool. The tool runs with a largish fixed Window which is always on-top. It has an option to sit this alongside the Window in which you are marking but this means that you must have at least a 1024 x 786 screen which means that 17 inch is marginal and a 19" wide screen monitor is desirable. The alternative is to minimise the marking window most of the time and lose the ability to use ticks or drag it almost off the bottom edge just leaving it's toolbar in sight. A wide screen is much more important than a powerful processor.

Software requirements

You will need a number of pieces of software on your machine to carry out electronic marking.

You will need a utility to handle the Compressed Archives (Zipped) for downloaded ETMAs.

You must have OpenOffice or an up to date version of Microsoft Word (2003+) for efficient and effective marking. Word 2007, part of Office 2007 which is loaded on many up market machines also brings new facilities and the default file formats are different.

Configuring Word

There are a number of options in Word which either you need to set up.

View - Page Layout .The first and most basic setting is the View - this is either set by the dropdown View menu or there is usually a tiny set of icons in the bottom left of the window alongside the scroll bar. You must be in Page Layout otherwise you will not see all the graphics. The mode often seems to revert to Normal when the template is opened or a file is reopened. This seems to catch people time after time.

User Information - Your name: You need to make sure your name is correct in Word as it shows on every insertion of information and annotation and is displayed in the "Bubbles" when one hovers over entries. It is set in Tools -> Options -> User Information Tag. It can otherwise be very embarrassing especially if it shows you are using somebody else's machine or software. Many tutors (and even staff) make similar mistakes and do not change the Author on documents they modify to provide teaching notes and in conference postings which can again show in "Bubbles" when one hovers over files - change it using File -> Properties -> Summary Tab.

Autocorrect:The Autocorrect options have severe effects on, in particular, program code. Word has a number of correction facilities which are turned on by default and will, for example, change (correct!) the capitalisation of words without one being aware. It will, for example, always ensure a sentence starts with a capital letter. This gives problems with students preparing code which is often case sensitive and I have had students contacting me to ensure they had not lost marks when they realised what had occurred. It is clearly also possible for Tutors using the marking tool to seriously lose credibility if changes are not noticed in their marking. It is possible to end up with all sorts of other odd changes and some of my marking was converted into copyright symbols and smileys by the Autocorrect settings - try typing (c) in Word. If one notices the changes one can often go back and correct them individually but it is much better to turn the facilities off . Autocorrect is on the Tools drop down menu.

Fastsave: Most versions of Word have an option for fast saves. This has the disadvantage that the undo information is not garbage collected very well and file sizes can just keep increasing. The undo information that remains can be easily viewed and can be a severe security risk if, for example, tutor notes are edited to provide a post mortem. This feature is turned off by some versions of the marking tool during marking and by mistake not enabled so you may already be OK! (Information provided by Simon Dugmore). The safest way is to do a final Select All and Copy Paste into a new document - one file I received reduced 16x when I did that!

Configuring OpenOffice Writer

The best way to mark is to use the Track Changes facility which is present in all Open/Star Office as well as all Microsoft Word versions. This is turned on and off in Open/Star Office by Edit -> Changes where there are tick boxes, the important ones being for Record and Show.

If you are using the Changes facility you should turn Autocorrect Whilst Typing off to avoid some strange anomolies. This is turned on and off in Open/Star Office by Format -> Autocorrect -> untick Whilst Typing

An alternative method is to use Comments (Called Notes in Open Office). These do not show up very well in OpenOffice where they are a tiny vertical yellow line which you hover over – they are more visible in Microsoft Word. They will be mostly used as an addition to direct changes in the text, perhaps to justify a change.

The final tool for marking is to insert a tick which is probably the most useful but depends on both tutor and student having the appropriate fonts installed. In Open Office the font set is called Dingbats but in Word it is Wingdings or Wingdings 2. It is therefore necessary for Tutors using Open Office under Linux to add the Wingdings and Wingdings 2 fonts to their system. See below

First some preliminaries to set up Open Office for marking and for students to view. I went through all the set up screens for Open Office to see what options were available. They were reached from Tools -> Options. The changes we made and some comments follow:

Open Office Options for Teaching

Option Sub-Option Parameter Value or Comment


User Data


This can lead to embarrassments if you are not on your own machine so set your name and initials


This is not very clear - you need to add all your initials as they are used in some markup such as inserting comments


My Documents

Can be set to point to C:\etma\downloads if you are only doing marking



Warn about formats when saving

Untick to get an easy life.

Backup copies.

Tick if you want to make back-ups

Language Settings

Writing Aids

Check to see if you will find problems with writing or marking code. Also see below for Autocorrect changes.



Change if you need to identify inserts when marking.



Can be set to print notes


Insert: Light Blue

Delete: Light Red

Attributes: Light Magenta

This is the important one for the display of any changes tracked and needs to be matched between Tutor and Student.

It is best to turn Autocorrect off in Open/Star Office when you are marking, especially if any code is involved, as you may find all sorts of unexpected changes which are easy to miss. This is turned on and off by Format -> Autocorrect -> untick Whilst Typing. If you leave it on you should look at its options for any obvious problems by: Format -> Autocorrect -> Autocorrect Options which has 5 tabs. Autocorrect is a very powerful tool when writing documents and books but a nightmare when dealing with code. We have also noticed some strange effects when it is used whilst 'Recording Changes' which can only be unscrambled by turning off Record Changes temporarily.

Finally I like to add a couple of buttons to the toolbar, including those for Notes and Symbols. Use Tools -> Customise -> Toolbars to do this - see below for more details. An alternative is to display the Insert Toolbar by View -> Toolbars and check the box for Insert - the insert toolbar has buttons for Notes and Symbols as well as some other useful possibilities for marking.

Adding Microsoft Wingdings Fonts to Linux (Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 and higher) so they are accessible from Open Office to insert Ticks.

You can find the the Wingdings fonts in C:\Windows\Fonts. I eventually found a web reference at http://www.vitalbodies.com/blog/2008/07/20/vitalbodies-guides-the-how-tos-of-fonts-in-ubuntu-hardy-heron/ where I discovered that True Type fonts which are available to all users are stored in folders under /usr/share/fonts/truetype in Ubuntu Linux so type in a terminal:

gksudo nautilus /usr/share/fonts/truetype

Next I created a new folder for your extra fonts which I called ttf-extra by a right click -> create folder etc.

Drag the extra fonts into the ttf-extra folder from where they were stored

The folder (and the files within it??) MUST have the permissions set to allow everyone to access it otherwise you may get some most peculiar errors in Firefox. It should be OK if you use the proceedure above but check just in case.

Then alert Ubuntu that you added the fonts by typing the following in a terminal

sudo fc-cache -f -v

This rebuilds the font cache - the options are verbose and to force complete regeneration of the cache (neither may be necessary but I followed the instructions before reading the manual page)

It is possible from something else I read that with Ubuntu Linux creating a folder .fonts in your home directory and copying the font into it may be sufficient for a single user - I have tried it for a single additional font and it worked. Other Linux systems may store fonts in a different place so you can try a search for truetype or fonts.

Customising OpenOffice Toolbars to make use of [track] Changes and adding tick Symbols easy.

It is nice to add a few buttons to the standard toolbars to allow one to:

You can get to the configuration Window you need by Tools -> Customise -> Toolbars and selecting the Toolbar to add them to in the top dropdown box - I add them to the left hand end of the Standard Toolbar and untick a few other options I do not use to make space.

Once you have space click on Add button which will bring up another set of selections - it is not easy to find Record and Show which is what we need first. Record is in the Edit catagory, Show in the View category and Symbol in the Insert Category. When you have found them click Add to put them into the Toolbar and Close when they are all there. You can now use the arrows to move them where you want. You will find that Record and Show are just text boxes and rather big so if you select first Record and click Modify -> Change Icon you can pick something suitable - I found a pen shape for Record and spectacles for Show. It is now very easy to Record your changes and make corrections to them by turning Record on and off as required and then see the end result. The Symbol seems to keep coming back to your last selection so you just need to find the Wingdings font which we talked about earlier and the tick is near the bottom.

It sounds a long proceedure but it actually only takes a few minutes which you get back in ease of marking in a very short time.

Customising OpenOffice to use Ctrl T to insert a tick symbol from the Wingdings Font

It is also easy in OpenOffice to assign anything you want to a keystroke via a macro. If you want to assign a tick to a keystroke, first record a macro:

Now you have recorded the insertion of a tick as a macro.

Now we need to attach this macro to a keystroke:

That is it - Ctrl T will now insert a tick.

It looks like a lot of steps because I have spelled out every detail - it is really very easy and you could define another macro where you inserted 'Yes, this is absolutely correct' instead and put it on Ctrl Shift T .

Virus Checking

We have always been paranoid on virus checking and few would argue these days. You must have a good virus checker and keep it up to date and so must your students. We threaten to give 0 marks to any TMA which is infected - the official position is not clear but we are not prepared to risk cleaning a file to mark, even if it is possible when using a Windows machine.

Virus Checker Updates: Virus checkers need to be kept up to date. We also run tests to ensure that it is configured correctly and detects test viruses periodically using the EICAR standard test virus. Do we get viruses sent to us by students and detect them? Yes. The most serious instance recently was with a student who had been forced to use a friends laptop because of problems with their own machine. It was not protected and had become infected with a macro virus and we were sent three infected files all of which McAfee detected. We relented in the circumstances and said we would accept clean copies if they could be provided but unfortunately by the time the student got back to the machine it had been wiped clean by the virus and all their work with it.

Risks of Self Extracting Zip Files: One particular hobby horse we have is the use of self Extracting Zip files. The OU unfortunately offers them on the ETMA system and the marking tool is optimised for their use. Some courses teams even use them in FirstClass. These make ideal trojans and also give virus checkers a very difficult task as the problem files are in a compressed archive. It is prudent not to execute any self extracting Zip file, even those delivered by the ETMA system without further checks.

Treat any self extracting Zip File with great respect - they are more difficult to virus check and the default setting for many virus checkers does not 'drill down' into a zipped archive because of the time it takes.

Viruses and Linux

Most Linux distributions, in particular Ubuntu are configured so they are inherently safe. There have been few Linux viruses, since one in 1997, and the built in Firewall in Ubuntu needs no further configuration unless you want to open it up for a web server or such like. This can be a problem when teaching as you will have no idea that emails and documents you have received were infected with Windows Viruses and you can happily send forward them to others. There are now some OpenSource Virus checkers which will run under Linux and detect Windows Viruses which were designed for Linux Servers such as ClamAV which I have on some of my LiveCDs to sort out other peoples problems and we have friends who use Avast! . We have also found Avast! excellent on Windows machines and it is free.

4. Getting off to the Right Start with your Students

Working as a team: Arguably the most important thing of all with electronic marking is that you and your students must work together. I could easily generate a TMA which was a nightmare to mark efficiently and effectively - high caliber students do it without even trying by using the full suite of layout, formatting and drawing tools. They must be persuaded to think about the effects of even minor insertions you make into their text and the effects of their formatting and styles being converted to those of a marking tool. You need to make contact earlier than with paper TMAs to ensure that they start in the right direction. We open communication through conferences and/or email as soon as the students have access.

Initial Conference Postings: We ask them to post details of their Word Processor, Virus checking package (and when it was last updated) in a "I'm Here" thread. This means we know the potential problem areas with WP formats and it shames them into updating their virus checking - more on that latter. We then follow up with postings containing information on preparation of ETMAs - much of our material has migrated to the Student Guide but we still send it out and we have put it in an Appendix. We go online occasionally to check who has read them using conference History and add more postings if required. A few minutes spent in preparation and guidance saves hours latter. In our case we also point them to our web site which contains more information than we can sensibly post into a conference - many do visit but it is more difficult to track.

TMA00: We try to issue our guidelines to ETMA preparation well before they start their first TMA and remind them a little latter at a time when they have started to prepare the first TMA. We also try to persuade them to make use of the facility to submit a test ETMA TMA00 to the system and to send a few lines of text from their WP within it. This enables them to find out about basic problems like passwords well in advance. Likewise at the tutors end it gives the opportunity to set up the file structure to receive the ETMAs and make sure that the downloading and returning to the student goes well.

Other Early Guidance to Students on keeping file sizes low: It is in every bodies interest to keep the up and download times low so there are a few tricks to reduce the sizes of Word Files. Word keeps a lot of undo information and does not garbage collect well. This can grossly inflate the size of a file.

5. Organising ready for the First ETMA

The tutors guide has suggestions on how to set up a file structure for marking and suggests using the self extracting Zip files. It is worth quickly running through the Training Course to make sure everything is working even if you have used the system before.

6. Using the ETMA system

Tips on using the ETMA System: There are a number of points which regularly catch out both students and tutors that you need to be aware of:

7. Collecting the ETMAs

We check the ETMA site every few days before a TMA is due and normally wait till we have a batch of 5 or 6 to download together - students do not trust the system and always seem to send in much earlier than by post. If your connection breaks it is not a major problem - just immediately reconnect without leaving the screen and repeat it and it will just do it all again - you may have to select to overwrite the previous incomplete file. If you log out or change page the system tends to assume it all worked and the files disappear from the unmarked file screen. This is an inconvenience not a disaster - you can go and collect them as many times as you like from the screen which has the unmarked, marked and remarked TMAs - it also holds every version sent.

Versions: One often gets several versions if the student thinks they have had problems with email submission. The ability to have several versions is useful as sometimes the system gives problems and students email the TMA to us in frustration and go to ground - we have then been known to use the email submission route on their behalf knowing that even if they succeed there will be no problems. You just have to take care to collect and mark the correct one and whatever happens they will be able to pick up from the web site.

8. Checking the ETMAs

We have always had a quick look at the scripts before starting to mark the first e-TMA to identify the worst incompatibilities This is even more important with the new tool as it more integrated with the e-TMA system and your directory structures so problems and solutions are best found before marking each group of scripts.

Common Problems with ETMAs

What to do if there are problems: Only a few ETMAs will have problems. One common one is that some students files are consistently reported as write protected by the marking tools although not actually protected.

The most common non-problem of all is that no drawings are visible in the tool

Misplaced drawings The most serious problem is that the drawings are misplaced or completely lost. Misplaced drawings are common in files that have been converted between different Word Processor formats.

It can also happen when Styles or other formatting has been applied which changes in the marking template. The templates also set standard margins and other page formatting which means that page ends and drawing positions move - sometimes under text. The problem also occurs when the original question is copied by the student - OU staff often use the Mac version of word which uses styles which cause severe problems in the template when the student accidentally uses them by editing the question! I have put a little more on in an Appendix on Styles

Sorting the Problems:

9. Marking the ETMA

General Considerations

When a tutor begins electronic marking it is best to start by computerising your best practice in marking TMAs on paper. Good practice for teaching has to be the basis for good electronic teaching. Then explore how the technology may enable even better feedback to students, yet still within the broad envelope of no more than 1 hour per script for marking.

Ensure you have the largest possible area for displaying the script

Try and turn around TMAs as quickly as possible. Electronic TMAs should mean an enormous increase in turnaround speed (no postal delays), and the faster the students receive feedback, the more effective it is likely to be.

Marking the Scripts

It is important to make the most of opportunities to teach through written comments and to offer advice and support both on the assignment script and the PT3 assignment report form. Always try to add comments at the point where needed supplemented by end-of-question and end-of-script comments. I hardly ever use footnotes because students are less likely to read them than if the text is in the middle of their own work. Sometimes it is not possible to make comments within diagrams and screen captures, so you need to be very careful in explaining exactly where marks were lost, and how improvements could be made. Always phrase comments so that the student can see, and accept, how he or she might improve on their script and why.

I always mark in batches of TMAs and begin by marking all the Question 1s, then move on to Question 2 etc. I generally do not use any special font but use whatever is in use by the student at the point where I am adding my comments. But I do remove italic and bold, if they are set. Ideally the font for programming comments should be that generally used by the course team in the TMA, so it matches the student's programming and also stands out compared with normal comments. Never use only capitals - it is regarded as shouting. For mathematics courses I sometimes use selective cut-and-paste from the TMA, the tutor notes, or my own notes. This is quick and easy with electronic marking. You can keep a separate copy of Word open in a Window to do this - the tool does not permit multiple TMAs to be open simultaneously. Some courses provide post-mortem handouts, or tutors use their own notes to generate handouts. I never provide the complete solution to students.

Peppering the script with ticks and crosses is no substitute for full, written comment. It doesn't take much longer to write "yes" "excellent" or "well done" than it does to use a tick. Mathematics scripts tend to be right, mostly right, or wrong - stronger students (scoring 90 to HU) may be quick to mark, with a lot of ticks and little in the way of errors. Good students need comments just as much as weaker ones - they may appreciate being pushed a little further than they have gone already, or shown alternative approaches. Weaker student needs to be prompted in a different way, and comments need to be encouraging, but also detailed enough for the student to revisit the TMA with the course material, and complete the questions where there had been mistakes. I usually show part marks in exactly the way they are awarded in the TMA question, even if they are always full marks. For good students, this is slower (but safer) than the alternative of assuming full marks, and just marking up the script whenever marks were lost.

Completing the PT3

The first part seen by the student is the PT3. So it is important that it gives the right impact. I try and use a "sandwich" approach: begin with positive comments on the strong points of the TMA indicating, emphasizing and building upon its strengths; follow with constructive criticism if required, giving examples of areas for improvement and how to achieve this and round off on a high note of achievement. There is a lot of scope for really extensive comments from the tutor, but it is best limit comments so that they would fit on a normal paper PT3. Sometimes I add comments to the PT3 as I work through each question, but usually I write PT3 comments at the very end although this is slower because it involves re-reading the solutions. One benefit of the electronic TMA is that it is possible to build a collection of appropriate paragraphs, and cut and paste relevant ones onto each PT3. But there should still be personalised text too.

10. What the Student will see

When marking one has to take into account what the student will see and be prepared to advise them.

11. Returning the ETMAs

As implied earlier we like to mark in batches and return in batches once one is sure that the marking is uniform. The new Marking Tool makes this very easy to do and adds the PT3s and Zips everything up together to send. You only need Winzip to check or extract marked scripts at a later stage. We have seen no problems with the new tool.

APPENDIX 1 - Advice on Layout to aid marking and feedback to Students

It has become clear that for electronic marking to work well and provide well presented feedback that some anticipation is required in laying out the TMA. A beautifully presented and polished TMA can have the whole layout destroyed by a single line being inserted! Anticipating the additions your tutor will make to your text and allowing for them will make it much easier to view. The additions which will be made include:

Most of these take up additional space and need a suitable location. Our advice is to:

APPENDIX 2 - More on Styles

The OU TMA questions make use of a number of advanced features of the Word Processor they use. They also use a number of Fonts which are not available in Word on most PCs. This means you have to take care when pasting in text from the TMA questions or using their documents as an outline for your answer. In Word the "style" of a paragraph is usually displayed in a little window on the left of toolbar for the paragraph containing the cursor. If this is "normal" then all is fine. It may also reflect any indenting/numbering. The "style" information will also migrate into paragraphs you add below a paragraph with a "style" - use the drop down menu next to the display of the "style" to reset to "normal". The same applies to fonts but that is much more obvious and easy to understand and change.

"Styles" also causes problems to students with screen captures that either don't end up in the right place, or on top of one another when they paste them into a document with its roots in an OU document. A reasonable form of presentation can be created in this case if:

(Thanks to Tony Corbett for identifying these problems and a solution)

Appendix 3 - Using the Marking Tool

Introduction: The latest marking tool has made marking much easier but brought with it the need for changes in working practice and a new set of tips to get round problems and make it's use as efficient as possible. It is much more integrated with the overall e-TMA system and is most efficient when self extracting zip files are used for the downloading and extracted into a directory structure which the Tool recognises. As stated earlier we have considerable reservations about self extracting Zip files but the e-TMA system now has virus checking facilities and claims never to have let one slip through yet. The Tool also has the ability to package the marked scripts and create the Zip files and early troubles with speed and reliability seen to be overcome in the latest versions. Self training courses are provided. The following Tips are, as yet, in no particular order and reflect our experiences and obvious extensions of our existing hints - some have been tripped by the experiences of others reported in various conferences.

Repeat extractions and downloads: The self extracting zip files ask for a directory (folder) into which they expand. If you need to get a fresh copy of a students script from your downloaded file or you get a second copy for some reason from the e-TMA site you must take great care not to extract to the same directory - the tool overwrites any existing files including any work you have marked without asking. Either extract to a different directory or Open using Winzip by right clicking on the file and select Open with Winzip from the menu. you can then drag the file(s) you need to the correct directory or open documents directly to check their contents.

Download Filenames: The filenames automatically allocated for download archives from the e-TMA site uses the Tutor ID and date - if you download a second batch you will get a duplicate .zip or .exe file. Add a, b, c etc on the end if you expect to download several times.

Student provides multiple "document" files. The new tool opens Word and attaches the template and PT3 automatically so you have much less flexibility in handling a script which has been broken up. The correct solution is to ask him to resubmit using a single (but see above). If you wish to carry on you will need to find out or select (see below) the master file which the Tool selects for marking and then insert the contents of the other files before marking is started using a stand alone version of Word. Do not change the filenames as the e-TMA system tracks what it has sent and expects to receive - leave the other files there as well. The eTMA system does not care about the file extensions but it is very particular about the names of the files themselves, and will reject them if they are changed. File extensions are not currently tracked because .rtf files are converted to .doc files. Check it has all worked at the end.

Selecting the Master File used by the e-TMA system:Some versions of the Marking Tool allow one to Right Click the student's name in the main window (next to where it said 'unmarked') to change the choice of document for the marks to go on - Note you have to save and close the marking tool and go in again before marking the document. (Reported by Jana H.M. Colchester) .

Checking what the student gets: A complete end to end check can be made by downloading the marked e-TMA from the e-TMA site and opening in Word Viewer or your word processor - new Tutors should try this a few times. Encourage the student to use the Word Viewer as there is great flexibility in Word on how "Reviewed" text is displayed and he may have a different setup!

Read the Tips, Tricks and Advice files provided with updates: There are a number of problems awaiting fixes identified at any point in time.

Let the tool finish each operation before starting another: Many of the problems identified seem to relate to parts of the tool and your activities getting out of step. This can be avoided if you let all parts of the tool complete their operations before you start another one including saving and opening of files and Windows.

Adding a Keyboard Shortcut to Insert Ticks: It is nice to run with the Scoring Window minimised and parked out of the way whilst reading the text and inserting comments if you have a small screen. This however removes access to the Tick button. The Tick is a standard symbol and it is possible to generate a keyboard shortcut to insert it - we have chosen Ctrl T which is a shortcut we do not use in Word and is easy to remember. Use the Insert Drop down menu and click Symbol. The Tick is in the Wingdings font on the bottom row near the right hand end. There is a button at the bottom marked Shortcut Key - you just press the key you choose (Cntr T) and click Assign and that's it. It by default is saved in your normal.dot template and will be available for evermore in Word.

Undoing changes in inserted comments and deletions: You need to turn the Track Changes facility off if you have made mistakes in your corrections which you need to remove - you will need to display the Review Toolbar by View -> Toolbars and click Reviewing. The Reviewing Toolbar has a button called Track Changes (about half way along - search for it by hovering over each one in turn). You can also add this Button to your own toolbars using Tools -> Customise -> Toolbars tab where you will find the button in the Tools Category. When you have found it drag it to where you want it in one of your own Toolbars and click Close. You can also add a button for Insert Comments in the same way if you use the facility a lot or leave the Reviewing Toolbar turned on if you have the space available. Experiment with turning Track Changes on and off on a training script rather than experiment on a real one.

Effects of Customisation: Customising the Toolbar and adding a keyboard shortcut for Ticks allows one to mark with the Scoring Screen minimised and parked until one adds part marks - this should transform your marking on a small screen. These are standard Word facilities so the impacts on the marking Tool should be minimal however they are unlikely to be supported by the Help Desk.

Work with small numbers of scripts and backup: Until the tool and techniques are fully understood and proven, work with small sets of scripts and back up occasionally by leaving the tool and copying the section of the directory (folder) structure you are using to somewhere safe.

Remember - a pessimist is an optimist with experience.


The views here are entirely our own and are not endorsed in any way by the Open University. What is written on these pages is our own experiences and is not intended to replace in any way the documentation supplied with any of the Open University software. Always Backup before installing any Software and on a regular basis. Do a proper cost Benefit and Risk Analysis taking into account your circumstances and knowledge base before making any changes. Past performance is no indication of the future returns.

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