Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA)

Using technology to support the assessment lifecycle, from the electronic submission of assignments to marking and feedback.

Electronic Management of Assessment

Assessment and feedback lie at the very heart of learning and teaching, so getting assessment and feedback right pays dividends both in terms of successful learning outcomes and improving student satisfaction.

The term electronic management of assessment (EMA) is increasingly being used to describe the way in which technology is used across the assessment lifecycle to support the electronic submission of assignments, as well as marking and feedback.



The assessment and feedback lifecycle is an academic model showing a high level view of the academic processes involved in assessment and feedback. It is intended to be pedagogically neutral i.e., it is more concerned with asking questions and stimulating thought than having a basis in any particular pedagogic stance.

Assessment Lifecycle

The model can apply to both formative and summative assessment and to any scale of learning from a three year degree to a short course that takes place over a single day. It covers all assessment and feedback practice whether or not materials are in digital format or supported by information systems.

This high level model shows the types of activity that can be supported through technology.

At a more detailed level the processes also include: assessment scheduling; submission of assignments; tracking of submissions; extension requests and approvals; academic integrity; academic misconduct processes; examinations; marks recording; moderation, external examining and student progress checking.

Another important feature of the lifecycle is that it is iterative from both an institutional and student perspective.

Assessment Lifecycle

1. Specifying

Specifying means determining the details of a course or programme of study and consequently specifying the assessment strategy within it. Specifying takes place following a new course proposal or when an existing course undergoes periodic review.

2. Setting

Whilst the overall assessment strategy and approach is specified very early in the life-cycle, there is a process of setting assignment details that needs to occur each time a group of students takes a module. These details usually take the form of an assignment brief, which includes information about precise topics, deadlines, learning outcomes to be assessed, marking criteria and arrangements for feedback.

4. Supporting

Supporting students between the setting and submission of assessments is no more than what you already do – planning and delivering a series of structured sessions and activities, and a range of independent study tasks in order to prepare them for assessment – in other words ‘teaching’! Although it may also involve signposting students to appropriate support services (Study Development, Digital Training etc.)

4. Submitting

This part of the life-cycle refers to the process of students handing over assignments to be marked. Assignment submission methods depend entirely on the type of assessment being carried out and Moodle has a variety of settings/options which help to determine how the assignment works and which features are enabled, or not.

5. Marking & Production of Feedback

This is a key stage in the lifecycle when student work is formally evaluated against a set of predefined assessment criteria with marks and feedback provided. There is a difference between marking and feedback, and staff should regard them as distinct entities with different purposes. Quality assurance is also important for protecting and promoting fairness and consistency in assessment.

6. Recording Marks

This stage of the life-cycle is intended to show students how their marks were arrived in relation to the assessment criteria. Given the complexity of marking processes, it is unsurprising that there are considerable variations in the process by which a definitive grade is stored against a piece of work.

7. Returning Marks & Feedback

A key issue for students is clarity about deadlines for the return of marks and feedback. This stage is about informing students of the outcomes of their assessments. Marks and feedback can be returned together or separately, and may be returned in a variety of formats. In line with University policy, students should receive their marks and feedback three weeks after the assignment deadline. They should be made aware that marks are always subject to final approval by the assessment board.

8. Reflecting

This is one of the most important components of the life-cycle because it is where the real learning takes place - students engaging with their feedback and using it to improve their future performance - and yet it is one of the areas which is supported least well in existing frameworks. Both students and tutors should reflect on each assignment task they are involved in: students should reflect on their own performance and make themselves a personal action plan for the future, and tutors should reflect on the effectiveness of each part of the assessment cycle, from specifying to returning marks and feedback. It can be difficult to make time for this, with assessment usually coming at the end of a busy year, but it is worth making the effort. Administrators should also reflect as part of an ongoing effort to improve processes.

Assessment for Learning

One of the biggest shifts we have seen in learning design in recent years is towards assessment for learning, an approach that focuses on high-quality formative assessment and feedback rather than assessment of  learning, typically at the end of a course or module.

What we now know is that assessment for learning can encourage students to take responsibility for improving their own performance as they progress through a course or module. In this way, they develop skills of self-regulation that stand them in good stead throughout their lives as learners and employees.

Top Tips

Here are some top tips on how you can build in an assessment for learning approach…

Make assessment more engaging by incorporating activities based on blogging or peer assessment and review.

Cut down time spent on written feedback by giving audio feedback to the whole group then asking students to show how they have adjusted their own performance in the light of your feedback.

Wherever possible, make assessment more varied and inclusive by allowing students to draw on their personal experience and provide choice over topics, format and timing of assignments. Formats other than the written essay are harder to plagiarise too.

Ensure that learners can act on their feedback by making visible when all assignments in a modular programme are due. This helps avoid assignment bunching, evens out student effort and shows exactly how students are to be assessed.

Provide opportunities for self-testing. Encourage students to access these on their own electronic devices while in the classroom as well as in their own time.

Using social media, enable students to open up their developing work to critical scrutiny from peers, employers and other experts.

Build in reflective tasks to help students evaluate their progress towards learning goals.


If your assessment and feedback practices are stuck in a rut, digital offers a range of ways to change it for the better.

Technology Enhanced Learning | York St John University