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Focus More on Teaching than Grading: Try MATLAB Grader

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2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference


Corvallis, Oregon

Publication Date

March 20, 2019

Start Date

March 20, 2019

End Date

March 22, 2019



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Paper Authors


Eric Davishahl Whatcom Community College Orcid 16x16

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Eric Davishahl is assistant professor and engineering program coordinator at Whatcom Community College. His teaching and research interests include developing, implementing and assessing active learning instructional strategies and auto-graded online homework. Eric has been a member of ASEE since 2001. He currently serves as chair of the Pacific Northwest Section and was the recipient of the 2008 Section Outstanding Teaching Award.

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Jeffrey Alderson MathWorks Orcid 16x16

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Jeff Alderson has spent his entire career working on technology that empowers students, families and educators to make informed decisions about education - specifically college and career transitions for ALL students, including those with special needs.

He collaborates with education, business and technology leaders to realize technology strategy, architecting software platforms and solutions that consolidate and rationalize business and technology services while positioning institutions to rapidly respond to market trends. Jeff is responsible for development of key architecture standards and best practices for education data systems, assessing a broad array of technology solutions against an evolving product strategy and technical landscape. While actively guiding the development of new products and services for the p20 landscape, Jeff collaborates with other vendors of student information systems, electronic student record exchange systems and key stakeholders in secondary and postsecondary institutions.

Prior to joining Eduventures, Jeff worked as Lead Architect for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (formerly Choice P20 Solutions) in the education technology sector, supporting architecture and security engineering for clients such as the New York State Education Department. Previously, while at ConnectEDU for 10 years in a fast-paced startup environment, Jeff held multiple roles in the organization, helping to grow the business from four to over 150 employees. Prior to joining ConnectEDU in 2004, Jeff was a security engineer in Oracle Corporation’s advanced programs group.

Jeff has over 15 years experience in deploying secure, standards-based, data solutions for education and government, as well as five years service as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. Mr. Alderson received his B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from WPI in Massachusetts.

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Workshop Proposal


Get started with the web based auto-grading platform for MATLAB assignments named MATLAB Grader. Instant feedback on code accuracy and helpful hints on common programming errors help students learn at their own pace and schedule. As students get real-time feedback on their solutions and code, instructors can focus more time on effective teaching. Learning analytics embedded in the auto-grading platform provide instructors with insight into patterns of student learning.

Participants will learn how to set up auto-graded MATLAB assignments by adopting existing problems from a catalog, how to modify problems to better suit their assessment goals, and how to develop their own problems that can be automatically graded. Facilitators will share exemplar auto-graded problems, best practices for problem design and use cases for learning analytics built into the platform . The workshop will also include pedagogical models for incorporating auto-graded assignments into a broader assessment regime with more open-ended assignments.

The workshop will start with a brief presentation introducing the MATLAB Grader platform and its potential benefits for student learning. Next, participants will solve a sample homework problem in MATLAB Grader to get familiar with the student experience. Participants will then move to the role of the instructor. Facilitators will guide participants step-by-step as they work on their laptops to setup a “sandbox course” on MATLAB Grader and create an assignment using problems from a catalog. Once everyone has set up a course and an assignment, facilitators will demonstrate how to modify a problem and share their perspectives on best practices for developing new problems. Participants will also gain instructor access to a pre-populated example course they can use to explore the learning analytics features.

During the second half of the workshop, participants will work independently or in groups to develop their own custom assignments. Throughout the workshop, facilitators will be present to answer questions, offer technical support and aid discussions.

Note that this is similar to a ticketed (but free) workshop planned for the 2019 ASEE National Conference in Tampa, FL.

Duration 2 hours.

Required Supplies Participants should bring a laptop, preferably with MATLAB installed. A local MATLAB installation is not required to use MATLAB Grader, but does make development work easier. Participants are encouraged to bring an existing MATLAB programming assignment that they would like to adapt to the MATLAB Grader environment.

Davishahl, E., & Alderson, J. (2019, March), Focus More on Teaching than Grading: Try MATLAB Grader Paper presented at 2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference, Corvallis, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--31879

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