The thought of trying to collect and organize student’s assignments via email has discouraged me from accepting class assignments electronically, and certainly from making it a policy to turn all assignments in online. Thus far, my policy has been to only accept and grade hard copy assignments. The downsides of only grading hard copy assignments, though, are:
1. Piles of papers laying around my office
2. Piles of papers I have to cart back and forth to class
3. Class time is used to return the assignments
4. Expends environmental resources
5. Costs money for students/the university to print assignments
6. There is only one record of handwritten comments after grading
While teaching a college healthcare ethics course this past summer, I resolved to have students submit all written assignments (apart from in-class quizzes) online via the course Blackboard website. By the end of the course, I was sold on the practice of students submitting assignments electronically via a course manager such as Blackboard. I now no longer need to deal with stacks of papers, I am able to retain a copy of my comments, no class time is used to return assignments, and fewer environmental and economic resources are expended. In contrast to accepting student assignments via email, the Blackboard system provided an efficient, hassle free way to collect, organize and grade assignments. Especially nice was the ability to directly grade and comment on the electronic assignments within Blackboard. I was even able to utilize an electronic grading rubric alongside the assignment, which could then be shared with students and provided a nice means for feedback.
Take away advice: Give electronic submission of assignments via an online course manager (such as Blackboard) a try.