We just finished our first quarterly exams. It’s the weekend and I’m sitting in front of my computer desk, sipping tea and NOT CHECKING.  I am actually spending the “weekend after” not checking or grading exams. Of course, I still have to grade essays and projects, but I don’t bring those home. I like to spend a productive weekend cleaning my house, doing other chores, planning lessons… but no checking!  I was able to do just that all thanks to this nifty little app called ZipGrade.

First off, I love tech in the classroom and I hate paper clutter. Sure… I love cutting and writing on them but I don’t want them lying around, piling up. It can be a very stressful and constant reminder of unfinished business. So when I started teaching I did my best to implement a paperless classroom. I accepted emailed assignments and I used my iPad to record grades and store my lesson plans.

I also wanted to automate my test grading since I had eight different classes and around 240 students at the time. But my previous school didn’t have a Scantron machine and I couldn’t find a decent grading app that was accessible, cheap, and user-friendly.  I ended up using answer sheets and just checked them manually. It did save me a bit of time flipping through test papers but it was not as efficient as an automated Scantron.

Fast forward to 2015, I came across ZipGrade and GradeCam. They both  function as an automated test checker but there was a big difference in terms of subscription fees. What I liked about GradeCam is that it scans paper quickly. You don’t need to align anything, just flash it in front of your webcam or phone cam and you’re good to go. However, their $15 monthly fee was a tad too expensive for me.

So I tried ZipGrade. At $6.99 per year, I felt that this was the more affordable alternative.  At first, I had a hard time trying to align the guide boxes and I had to make sure the papers lie flat before the app recognized it. But after grading 100 test papers, I eventually got the hang of it. I then came up with a work around using a tripod and phone mount.

I also timed myself and it took me about 15-20 seconds to align, scan and flip to the next answer sheet. It  takes longer to grade because it saves the photos it takes for record purposes. But that’s a good thing. It lets you keep a record of the test papers as graded.

During the preliminary exams, I made the mistake of altering the ZipGrade ID grid: I removed some of the boxes since I only needed 3 digits for my student’s ID numbers. The app couldn’t recognize their ID numbers and so I had to manually assign the graded answer sheets to each student. Lesson learned. So here’s my work around: I reverted to the old format and just pre-shaded some of the ID bubbles. Kids still forget their ZipGrade ID so maybe next quarter I’ll just use their School ID number. There is an option to print individual test sheets per student with the ZipGrade ID pre-assigned but it’s just not economically sound for my school as we only use Deskjet printers and rely heavily on our photocopier.

Back to the App, I experienced a cloud sync issue a few weeks after I used it for the Prelims. It wouldn’t sync the last batch of tests and I couldn’t see them on my iPad or web account. So I contacted ZipGrade and was happy with their response time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually conversing with the app’s founder John Viebach and he was able to narrow down the issues and uploaded a beta update. Within a couple of days, my ZipGrade app was back to normal, synching wirelessly over the cloud.

Overall, works as advertised and at a price that I could afford. I love the item analysis feature and the statistics per quiz. It really helps me visualize how effective my assessments are. I like that the Apple version identifies which student’s papers  I haven’t scanned yet. I wish they could do this with the Android version too.

ZipGrade is such a boon for my teaching practice that I can’t imagine not using it from now on. I look back and I imagine all those hours I lost grading 100-item test! Now if I could only find a affordable app to grade oral reading fluency. Hehehe.

{Please note that I am not paid to talk about this app. This is just my personal experience with ZipGrade and I found it really helpful in managing my time as a teacher and homemaker.}