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Testing knowledge that students have learned is an important part of teaching. This is often done by summative assessment consisting of one final test at the end of a course. On the contrary, there’s continuous formative assessment, where students get graded assessments throughout the term, is slowly integrating into the teaching methods in universities and is a great approach to keep engagement on a high level in online or distance learning.

Especially in computing education, continuous assessment is proven to be the best tactic to teach students coding. Continuous assessment responds perfectly to the needs of computer science education and even simulates the real-life work environment of​ small and frequent deadlines that students will have to deal with regularly later in their career.

Benefits of Continuous Assessment in Computing Education

Courses with continuous assessment encourages students to keep up with the study material, as their understanding of the material is checked continuously. If a student runs into a problem in some part of the material this will be noticed quickly, giving the student enough time to fill​ in ​the knowledge gap. A study by Ángel Sicilia et al. on continuous assessment in online teaching of Object-Oriented Programming even showed that using continuous assessment lowered the failure rate to 5-10%, supporting the proactive approach which is impossible with just a final exam.

Another great advantage of the continuous approach is that students can directly put the received feedback into practice in later assignments. This helps to eradicate structural problems in an early stage, helping students solve the problems. A study from 2019 by Felipe Restrepo-Calle et al. on continuous assessment in computer science courses used the success rate, which is the percentage of correct solutions among the number of attempts, to show that consistent feedback improves academic performance. This is especially true for distance and online education too.

Continuous assessment is also highly useful for teachers as they can detect struggling students and difficulties within the course early on. This creates a dynamic structure for the course which the teacher can tailor towards the needs of the students by focussing on the parts where they struggle most.​ Especially for large student populations or distance learning, analytics in combination with rubrics can be extremely powerful, by being able to see proactively where students struggle, you can adjust your education accordingly.

Continuous Assessment is Time-Consuming

Even though studies show that this grading method has a stable success outcome for students, especially in programming education, continuous assessment is often avoided because of the increased workload. Instead of just grading the final exam, teachers would have to grade throughout their course which costs valuable time they simply don't have for grading. Or does it? With the right tools, like CodeGrade, teachers can enhance learning outcomes and student engagement.

Making Continuous Assessment Possible in Canvas Using CodeGrade

CodeGrade takes continuous assessment to the next level by providing automated grading that works together with rubrics, to decrease the workload immensely while providing valuable and insightful feedback to students. By autograding student submissions the moment they hand in, teacher workload does not increase, but rather decrease, while student engagement and performance skyrockets.

Rubrics in CodeGrade also help with the consistency of the grading and help students to immediately see what they should focus o​n. Combine that with our analytics, so teachers also get insights into what goes right and what doesn’t. With this new continuous approach, in which students hand in before the deadline and get immediate feedback, valuable insights on student performance and assignment structure are available even before the deadline.

CodeGrade integrates directly with Canvas, so that students keep their accustomed workflow and teachers get a range of powerful grading tools especially for programming education. In addition to continuous assessment, CodeGrade gives you powerful tools for efficient manual grading, code plagiarism detection, peer feedback, summative code examination, GitHub and GitLab integration and much more.

Many great institutions using Canvas have made the switch to CodeGrade for all their programming education, learn about their experiences ​here​. For more information about CodeGrade, you can also ​visit our website​. Want some personal advice or learn even more? Book a short 20-minute demo with us directly and let’s meet!

We hope to talk with you soon and work together to supercharge your computer science education in Canvas.

Keep innovating and learning.