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4-Aug-2010 We are currently preparing Assignments 2 to be installed as an Indie Project. This was estimated to be completed by the end of the Denver conference, but because of some dependency issues is taking longer than planned. As soon as this is ready we will roll a 0.9 version with the intention of having 1.0 before years end.

  • At Indiana University Assignments 2 is open and available to all courses for Fall Term. Instructors must choose between A1 and A2 when setting up their courses.
  • In conjunction with A2, a new version of Sakai's Turnitin Content Review services is nearing completion.

28-Jan-2010 New release of assignment2 at IU that will include:

  • available Turnitin integration
  • redesign recommended by our usability lab that includes:
    • updated instructor feedback screen for more intuitive grading of multiple submissions
    • inline gradebook grading
    • redesigned UI for extending resubmission for an individual student
  • bug fixes

3-Dec-2009 Assignment2 is unstealthed at IU

15-Jul-2009 Iteration 4 development, led by IU was completed and was deployed at IU on June 6th.  This included

  • Updated Instructor and student view of assignment list that uses Fluid components
  • Ability to duplicate an assignment
  • Automated submission notifications for students
  • Bulk upload of grades, feedback, and feedback attachments


Tool Summary

Functional Overview

The "Assignments" title for this tool should be taken to indicate its primary course management function, but its workflows are in fact of broad relevance for a variety of academic purposes. At bottom, the class of activities supported by the tool would be comprised of some or all of the following:

  1. the posting of a task description or criteria for submission
  2. the submission of some content designed to answer the posted description and meet its criteria
  3. the review of such submissions, and the ability to return feedback or assessment to submitters

The family of high-level use cases could thus include:

  • Homework in a traditional class, whether submitted electronically or not
  • Collecting, approving and rejecting conference papers or proposals for research or grant funding
  • A job search committee reviewing resumes, etc. through a multi-stage process
  • The refinement of a paper for publication with "pre-release" input from a few trusted colleagues

It is that first case - homework - which is the design focus, but hopefully in such a way that others are not excluded. The "Assignments" title seems therefore to narrow the case too quickly, but in the absence of a better, more generic term ( "Submissions?" "Assessor?" Every attempt achieves either an unhelpful ambiguity or lands clumsily), "Assignments" will continue to be used.

Process Roles

The class of activities can be anchored by user role in the process (as distinct from a role in the site):

  1. Assignment Author - that person, whether instructor or other content provider (e.g. textbook publisher or colleague who taught the class last year) who produces the task description and edits the criteria for submission.
  2. Submitter - that person which submits some content designed to answer or meet the posted description
  3. Reviewer - that person or collection of persons which reviews a submission and delivers some feedback or assessment

In the simplest homework case the author and reviewer are the same person, and after review the submission is returned directly to the submitter with a grade. But a great deal of assessment approaches ranging from the basic (e.g. team projects) to the innovative (e.g. complex forms of peer review) can take on more elaborate workflows, while other academic workflows might not carry the same assumptions about the relative authority of authors, reviewers and submitters. Process role is thus a more fruitful basis from which to proceed than an instructor-student dynamic.

Homework Considerations

The simplest case - a traditional and unimaginative model of one instructor grading the homework of many students - does not suffice for the support of even mere course management functions. More flexible support is needed for a variety of pedagogies (e.g. team projects, peer review) in the first place. In the second place it is not uncommon in larger courses for teaching assistants to take on the "Reviewer" role entirely, each responsible for a different "section" of the course, and so in addition to course management there must also be support for managing the activity of assistants. From the teaching assistant side they should only have to deal with those assignments and submissions which pertain to their limited focus, while from the coordinating instructor's side they must have support for their oversight of assistant activity (imagine, for example, a student protesting a TA's assessment - such that the instructor is obliged to intervene - and the kind of information they would need to have available to them).


Requirements (outdated) 

Assumed to be Already In Development
  • Depending on non-graded, non-calculated item in the gradebook helper (question)  (We are adding an item type to the gradebook that allows a user to enter up to an 8 character entry (i.e., An instructor could assign a grade of G or Good to a student OR An instructor could provide the room for the final exam), which will not be included in the course grade calculation.  They want to make sure that an Assignment can be linked to a gradebook item of this type. KJH)
  • When an assignment is re-graded, show most recent comments from instructor with previous comments collapsed until clicked to be viewed.
  • Replace "Grade" option text with "Provide Feedback" for "Ungraded" assignments.
  • In the Announcements tool, the Specify Dates setting reverts back to default values after adding an attachment. SAK 12406
Strong Need
  • Faculty (i.e., instructor, assistant, and AI roles) are listed in tool - remove them (don't list them for grading). Problem with current design.
  • When one instructor chooses to "save as draft," make sure all instructors (i.e., those with creation privileges) can access/edit them. All assignment item drafts should be available to all instructors. Problem with current design.
  • Default start date/time should be current time instead of always noon. Problem with current design. (question) (I assume this means the "open" date? CDF) Yes. KJH
  • Easy to use Download All and Upload All required by instructors. Notes: In the Assignments tool, Upload All, which used to replace all current content, is not replacing content, but adding to it. Problem with current design. (question) (Are we sure that replacing is really the right behavior? Is there some way to prevent, say, a TA overwriting the work of the instructor? CDF) (Good question Clay.  I thought we were working toward a model, which would at the very least log the changes that were made so that the instructor would know who had overwritten their work.  I guess this is a question for David.  I was under the impression that in rewriting Upload we were planning to simplify it for instructors.  Let me explain why I feel there is a need for simplification.  Upload was originally intended to work in a way that would allow the instructor to comment on the student's submission resources and then upload their comments along with a grade to the assignments tool.   In theory, this sounds like a good solution for instructors.  In application, this theory was extremely complicated.  We ended up with a different file for every submission resource as well as files for commenting and then another file for entering grades.  Not only is this model cumbersome for the instructor, it's also a bit of a nightmare to upload the work.  So, I suggested that we remove the instructor's ability to provide WYSIWYG-enabled feedback via the Upload feature.  Instead, we would provide the instructor with a simple spreadsheet that would allow them to enter grades and comments, which we would then store in the gradebook and display in the Assignments tool.  This would reduce the number of files the instructor would need to weed through and would simplify the process for assigning a grade and providing comments.  While it is not as flexible as the previous method, it solves the main use case that I believe most instructors will adhere to.  David, is this acceptable to you? KJH) Will there still be the capability of the instructor uploading a annotated/track changes document of the student's work or, in short, upload a feedback file?  Also, can the instructor grade some now and some later or is it an all or nothing proposition? -DAG
  • Email notifications required. Notes: Allow the email notifications to go to just one instructor not all instructors - allow an email address to be entered - the request is to have a spot to enter an email address similarly to the method for message notifications. Right now all instructors get notified when assignments are submitted - that is a pain when there are several instructors in the course. Note: There has been some work done in the Sakai community on restricting notifications to a particular role and limited by group. This might get at much of this (and hooking into the regular notification process) instead of creating a new method specifically for Assignments. If we still went with this suggestion, it would likely need to be selecting a user in the site instead of supplying a separate email address; just a guess. (question) (I think the default behavior for sections is fairly clear: only the section TA should get the notifications for submissions; likewise, only members of a group or section should get notifications for an assignment targeting them. The rest is not so clear) (I think David is asking for a new option, in addition to the section functionality, which would enable the instructor to choose a recipient for student submission notifications from a list of instructors for the site. KJH)  I don't except that last item to be there the first time around, but would like to see it eventually.  The limited-to-group notification needs to work for whatever role has been assigned to received permission, not just the TA role (thought that would likely be the most frequent use case) - DAG
  • Flexible resubmission process required. Notes: Provide ability to set a time span when students can freely resubmit. The resubmission would, based on the instructor's setting, either replace the submission or, optionally, be additive. Students cannot go back and revise submitted
    assignments or add additional attachments; needs multiple submit option. Option to allow free resubmit up to a deadline. (assignmnts2). Support multiple submissions for an assignment item with each submission available for viewing. (under development) Add a resubmit field to the
    form used to create or edit Assignments allowing the whole class to resubmit until due date. Use Cases: a) Know in advance everyone will do a rough draft, a rewrite, and final draft. b) Allow all students to submit multiple times up until due date.
  • Provide a "No Submission" option to support reading assignments and similar activities.
  • Allow a grade "override" when a student enters an assignment but selects "save draft" rather than "submit." Currently, the "grade" option is removed for a student who has not clicked "submit." The only way to issue a grade for the student is to reopen the assignment and ask the student to submit something. This is true even if the students submits the assignment in an alternative form (such as a Messages attachment because the assignment due date was past). In addition, there is no way for the instructor to give a grade of zero if the student never does anything.
Moderate Need
  • When an assignment is graded, allow the option to send a message to the student (we had this in original)
  • In students status page, allow students to receive an indicator like "message" or something that suggests that a faculty member has left comments or a grade. The request is for an icon or message or something next to the wording. Important as part of editing process for writing classes.
  • Students who submit assignments to the instructor outside of the Assignment Tool will not see the correct status listed in their assignment summary. The student will continue to see "not started" even when the instructor has posted a grade in the Assignment Tool.
  • Support multiple duplicates - when "duplicate" is chosen, ask for number. (question)  (They want to be able to choose to duplicate and then enter a number, such as 5, and then 5 duplicates of the assignment would be generated for them (i.e., Assignment 1 - Assignment 5).  Does that help? KJH) 
  • In the Assignments tool, the Save Draft option is not available for the instructor when editing imported assignments, and it needs to be.
Future Development
  • When Assignments are posted to the Calendar, the Calendar needs to support open and close dates. Assignments posted to Announcements should respect open and close dates as well.
  • Provide a way to link the Forums to the Assignments tool so that faculty can provide full instructions with due dates, etc., in Assignments, but the students actually submit from the Forum tool. One of the assignment types in Assignments would be Forum and when the student opens the assignment, the linkage to Forums is seamless.
  • Support peer-review of assignments. Peers do not see each other's identity, but instructors does.
  • Support a "Remind X Days Before" when a notification would be sent out to participants about the Assignment item's due date.
Reminder: Key Features to Retain
  • Notifications (currently to both faculty and student) when a student submits an assignment
  • Ability to assign a grade to all students without a grade
  • Download all student work onto faculty computer, upload corrected work, all in one sweeping motion
  • Set deadline in calendar
  • Set due dates
  • Set accept until dates for late work
  • Identify the type of submission with words that make sense to faculty - perhaps involve a small focus group to see what words make sense
  • Ability to release all grades once graded
  • Ability to assign assignment to selected groups
  • Status indicator to know what has been graded, released, etc



 Suggestions (Note: these should be in JIRA!)





Include the option of posting the open date and the accept-until date to the calendar, in addition to the due date


Roger Henry


A Cambridge lecturer finds that if the assignment was very brief ('write the 3 key points you learned from our guest lecturer's talk in the text box'), the UI rather is frustrating.
He wants to quickly check over what everyone said - at the moment, (with Assignments 1) he has to click on 'Student 1', read their work, click 'cancel', click 'Student 2', read their work, click 'cancel', click 'Student 3', read their work, click 'cancel' etc. He finds that with 117 students, this is really taking a long time!
He would ideally like an option to see everyone's comments at once, but if not, he would like to be able to go to 'Student 1', click 'next student', click 'Student 2', click 'next student' etc.


Harriet Trussott


I would like the ability to import/export assignments from the Assignments Tool to/from text files. This would allow instructors to share assignments with others more easily. Currently we've created project sites that act as assignment repositories and permit users to copy down assignments to their own course sites.


Kevin Longo


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