Using an online marking tool in developing and assessing academic literacy.
In this paper a corpus of writing by first year university students is used to determine the value and best mode of employment of an online marking tool in developing and assessing academic literacy abilities.
The online marking tool Schrijfhulp Nederlands was developed by researchers in the Instituut voor Levende Talen of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in cooperation with other institutes of higher learning. The user can upload text and request feedback and is then provided with assistance in improving the writing. The assistance comprises two main categories, namely text editing and text enrichment. Text editing is provided with regard to coherence and cohesion, style, and spelling. Under the rubric text enrichment the writer is provided with support such as looking up the meanings of words, choosing from a provided list of alternative terms suitable for use in an academic environment, and checking for the use of words regarding context and combination with other words. The developers of Schrijfhulp Nederlands stress the fact that, although support is provided by their marking tool, the user still maintains autonomy and remains responsible for improving the writing. This also implies that the support provided focuses on the process of writing rather than on once-off text production.
The developers of Schrijfhulp Nederlands are in the process of testing and refining their marking tool, and for this purpose have made an English version available to some South African universities for evaluation. This paper reports on work done in this regard in the Centre for Academic and Professional Language Practice at the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University. The focus of this paper is on essay type student writing submitted as part of the course in Academic literacy. Feedback provided by the lecturer on an assignment that forms part of a more extended process of developing academic writing skills is compared to that provided by the online marking tool. The aim is to determine the potential contribution of the online marking tool to existing modes of assessment and instruction and to suggest further development of features or refinement of existing ones.