Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Best Grading App for Teachers - ZipGrade

Students are sometimes taken back when I tell them that they can use pen on their bubble sheets. Many of them insist on using a #2 pencil because they still don’t trust me. It’s exciting to see the students in the room who light up over the “rule” they get to break.

Those same kids who get excited about the #2 pencil rule being broken are often the same kids who wondered why teachers made them use a pencil in the first place. The answer I always got in my 1980’s education was that the bubble sheet reader could only scan a #2 pencil, not blue or black ink. I’ve never even heard of a #1 or #3 pencil. Enlighten me in the comments below if you have.


Grading apps are about $10-$15 for a good one. The convenience of printing your own sheets and scanning them in your classroom or at home beats having to visit the machine. Too often these machines are in closets with no windows, and I can’t help but think that the door will shut and lock me in the one place in the building without cell phone reception.

That’s the real reason I like ZipGrade. Maybe you have different reasons. Tell us about it in the comments below. I’d love to learn more about how you benefit or struggle from using technology. It’s the best way for me to learn how I can help.

Bottom Line: What’s Really Wrong With Scantrons?

With today’s technology, Scantrons are done. Okay … not really. Teachers who have been doing things a certain way for 25 years don’t necessarily want to change. They don’t have to, but, as a department leader, I don’t have to fix the machine when a less expensive alternative is available.

Not only is there a less expensive alternative, it provides more access to the data. Grading apps like ZipGrade store the results of the assessments, provide breakdowns of the question results, and allow users to organize classes for pennies on the dollar.


Aside from the extreme cost of Scantron sheets, the expense of the machine, the cost of fixing the machine, the time on the phone with technicians because you ran out of money for the repair service, and time waiting to use the machine while the new teacher unjams the machine before finishing the 120 scans, there’s nothing wrong with Scantrons. I’m for ‘em -- just take care of the laundry list of nonsense I just mentioned.

The Tutorial



1. Install the App

Before you install the app, it’s a good idea to make an account on the ZipGrade website. The website is easy to navigate and provides all of the information you need to use the app.

Go to the App Store for iOS users or Google Play for Android (click here and scroll down for the link). You can scan 100 quizzes per month under the free plan. For $6.99 per year, you scan unlimited papers. I paid about $14 four years ago for a lifetime of unlimited scans, but, to my knowledge, this offer is no longer available.

If you are purchasing apps for multiple users, perhaps for a department or school, you can buy codes that users can input into their apps to gain unlimited scans each year.


2. Make a Class

Classes can be made on a full browser (laptop / desktop) or on a mobile device. I recommend setting up classes and adding students on the full browser because you can upload a CSV (spreadsheet). If you don’t have an online gradebook or don’t use Google Classroom, make a Google form to collect student email addresses for uploading to ZipGrade.

Open the side navigation by selecting the three horizontal lines in the upper left of your mobile device screen. This opens the menu with classes and students, among other tabs.

Select “New” in the upper right. This opens a page that allows you to add the class information. You’ll also see any quizzes that you have assigned to the class. For new classes, there shouldn’t be anything here, of course.

The benefit of adding students is the code that you can provide them to protect their identity. Also, the data will be easier to analyze with your students added. You can edit your student list by selecting “Students” in the side navigation. Like I said above, I don’t recommend using the app to add all of your students -- it can get tedious.


3. Make a Quiz

Quizzes are easily made on the app. If you are not already on the quiz dashboard, touch the quiz icon at the bottom right of your screen. Once you are on the quiz dashboard, touch “New” in the upper right of your screen. This opens the quiz information settings where you can add a title, among other options.

It’s important to notice the “Select Form” option. This allows you to choose which size answer sheet you will need for the quiz. See the next step for more info on answer sheets.

Once the quiz is made, you can edit the answer key. Touch “Edit Key” to open the bubble sheet on your screen. Select the correct response bubbles for each question. This saves automatically. Touch “Quiz Menu” to return to the quiz.

If you want to enter some advanced settings, like changing the amount of points awarded for a correct response, you have two options in the “Edit Key” screen. The first option is to select the settings icon in the upper right. This screen shows options that apply to all of the questions. The other option is to select the information icon on the far right of each question in the “Edit Key” screen. This allows you to change the options for an individual question. 


4. Print the Answer Sheet Online

Answer sheets can be printed from the full browser site or they can be emailed to you through the app. They come in PDF format, so there are few to no issues viewing or printing from your inbox.

The answer sheets are available in 20-, 50-, and 100-question sheets. I use the the 20-question answer sheet most often, so I made a Google doc with four 20-question sheets on it. I keep a stack of copies ready to go on a moment’s notice.

Click here for a copy of my 20-question template. This link will open a copy screen. Click the “Make a copy” button in the lower middle of the screen to have your own copy. If you don’t have Google Drive and need help, ask us in the comments below.

For more templates from Zahner History, click this link for 15 FREE Google docs templates.


5. Scan the Answer Sheets

Students can use anything to make their selections on the bubble sheet. The app will even pick up messy marks in the bubbles. I don’t tell the students that because it's still easier for the teacher if the bubbles are darkened neatly.

Touch “Scan Papers” on the “Quiz Menu” screen, and hold your device over the bubble sheet. Line up the solid boxes on the answer sheet with the boxes on the app screen. The paper will scan automatically. 


The scan takes a picture of the student name, so you will be reading their name to determine the owner of the answer sheet. You can access the scanned papers by touching “Review Papers” in the “Quiz Menu” screen.

7. Analyze the Data

The “Item Analysis” will show you the breakdown of each question on the quiz represented. It includes raw data, percentages, and graphs. The data can be downloaded from the website as a PDF or CSV for records or sharing.

When you initially open the analysis screen for a quiz, the data shows all of the questions in a list. Touch one of the questions to isolate the data for that question. For a list of students who chose a certain option on a question, touch the option and a dropdown of the student handwritten names will appear. 

8. Export the Data - PDF or CSV

The data can be exported from the website. Click or touch on quizzes, and select the quiz from the list. This opens an analysis dashboard that is easy to view and find whatever you are likely to need. 


Final Thoughts

I could never afford to go back to Scantron. The fact that the data is keep on my device (without taking up much space) is reason enough. It does the item analysis I’m look for and provides options to have full control over the process of each student, quiz, or item. I still use Google Forms for a lot of multiple choice quizzes, but not every assessment is, or should be, paperless.

The balance of technology use will persistence because many students require paper for the material connection and alternative experience, so I’m sticking with ZipGrade for paper-based selected-response assessment.

Please leave any thoughts, helpfuls, questions, or concerns in the comments below. Thanks for reading. If this article helped you, help us by sharing it with someone who may also benefit from it.