My close family and friends know from experience that the last two weeks in November are my least favourite of the calendar year, closely followed by the last two weeks in January. This is not due to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or the necessity to get organised for a big family Christmas. Instead it is down to the stress induced by a massive marking load which falls year after year on these dates – November is assignment marking time and January exam marking time.On Friday 15th November at 11pm approximately 185 written assignments will be uploaded to Blackboard by my MSc in the Management of Projects students. A simple calculation illustrates the marking challenge.
If I allow 30mins to read, grade and write feedback on each assignment (which does not seem unreasonable given the effort that the students have put into their assignments), and if I multiply 30mins by 185 students then I get the figure of 92.5 hours of marking with no breaks. I am on a 60% contract, and so supposed to work (although rarely do) approximately 21 hours per week.
This means that to mark my assignments I need 92.5hours /21 = 4.4 working weeks. University policy states that assignments should be returned to students with feedback within 2 weeks. You don’t have to be a maths genius to see that something doesn’t compute here.
And of course this assumes that I do nothing else within my working days during that time (which is impossible as I am still teaching, supervising, holding tutorials and attending to meetings and administration throughout this time).
Hence the stress.
So if you see me around over the next couple of weeks – Be gentle. I am doing my absolute best to mark the assignments fairly, provide meaningful feedback and deliver the marks back to you as soon as I am humanely able.