In 2014-15, Claire Leer in the Business School, approached the Learning Technology team to meet a need she had around grading her group projects in Events Management to reflect individual contributions. While there seemed to be software available already that would enable students to grade or comment on their peers assessment submissions, Claire’s need was different.

From concerns about ‘free-riders’ receiving the same grade as other group members without having done an equal share of the work, to students who want to get high grades having to put in considerably more work in order to get the grades they want, it is clear that group projects and assessments are prone to a number of criticisms from students. On the other side however, they are also good opportunities for students to learn about the different roles and requirements of successful group and team projects and develop skills of collaboration – essential graduate attributes.

After exploring a number of different options, Claire chose SPARKPlus as the software to meet her need. Crucially, it met the following requirements:

  •    Tutors can select their own grading criteria
  •  Students peer assess contributions to group projects, rather than grade papers
  • Individual grades for group tasks reflect individual contributions as assessed by their peers
  • Good technological support was provide
  • That students are able to provide anonymous written feedback to their peers.

Key Findings

·         Students would like to use SPARKPlus formatively in addition to summatively - commenting that they would have changed their behaviour had they understood how their actions were being perceived by group members and had an opportunity to improve prior to receiving their final grade.

·         Software picks up instances of collaboration between students when providing the feedback

·         Recommended to use it formatively only in first year

How can you get involved?

In 2015-16, a number of staff across the disciplines responded to a call for participants in a wider pilot study. There are a number of licences still available so if you have a group project and want to get involved, please email

Video resources on understanding how SPARKPlus deals with free-riders, saboteurs, over-raters and non-contributors are also available.