Using specifications grading in a fully online course

The idea of specifications grading is to set a high standard for individual pieces of work, which are then graded in a binary way - they either meet the standard or they do not. Typically there will be opportunities for students to resubmit work to try to reach the desired standard.

We will describe how we have used this approach in a fully-online course for incoming undergraduates at the University of Edinburgh. The course covers similar content to Advanced Higher Mathematics and A-Level Further Mathematics, and the bulk of the course grade is based on performance in weekly quizzes. We set high standards for the weekly quizzes, with only scores of 80% or more counting toward the final grade. The final grade is determined by the number of quizzes where a Mastery (80%+) or Distinction (95%+) result was achieved.

We will describe how we have made this approach work successfully in our course over the past two years, and discuss some of the potential pitfalls that you should consider.