Quick & easy copy 'n' paste "comment bank"?
September 22, 2019 3:03 PM   Subscribe

How do I set up the most efficient system for selecting a few items from a text list, then pasting them into individual pages on my university's grading software?

I grade papers. Lots of papers. And I grade them all on Canvas, a fairly supple online grading platform/course management system. All of my students' submissions are digital - no hard copies anymore.

I find myself writing the same comments again and again and again and again, because I see the same errors again and again and again. Mostly terrible writing advice from high school teachers, as far as I can tell. (Apparently, they don't teach about paragraphs anymore.)

Writing and rewriting these identical comments is very time-consuming, and I cannot afford to waste time on this task. So I would like to keep a list of my Most Frequent Comments, so I could copy and paste them into the comments field. But it is almost as time-consuming as writing fresh copy to scroll through that list, highlight the relevant comment(s), copy them, and paste them into the comments field.

Is there a more efficient way - either native to Canvas or third-party - for me to select and input certain comments from a "comment bank"? Maybe via macros (are those still a thing?), or some sort of drag-and-drop interface, or, hell, I don't know what. Jerry-rigged ideas (like cutting and pasting from a sticky note) are fine, so long as the process is fast and easy, by which I mean, "can be accomplished with a few keystrokes." Minimal mouse/trackpad usage is better.

Grading is brutally tedious for me, in part, surely, because I write altogether too MUCH for each paper. Each of those individual comments in my notional comment bank is thoughtful and respectful. Many of these students REALLY need the help, and it is, after all, my job. But, still, I need to make grading more efficient for myself.

I have seen this comment, and it is partly relevant to my situation. But it is also outdated, and seems like a lot of work.

This is the kind of thing that's hard to Google for.
posted by Dr. Wu to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In the Speedgrader on Canvas there is the option to save comments for re-use. This seems to be exactly what you need? I think you need to create a rubric to do it. Some help here: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-12895-4152724102
posted by cushie at 3:18 PM on September 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

This sounds like text expander
posted by mce at 3:18 PM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I use a clipboard utility called ArsClip for exactly this purpose.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:23 PM on September 22, 2019

Teacher here: text expander is what you want.

It means that you are able to type a natural comment, but type a few keys to expand a phrase or even a whole sentence.
posted by freethefeet at 3:43 PM on September 22, 2019

"Keyboard shortcuts" might give you some good search results. I use AutoHotkey and find it works for me. One tip is to make the shortcuts on keys you don't use very often.
posted by soelo at 5:44 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks, all. Some good options for me to investigate. Many thanks!
And keep 'em coming, if anyone has further ideas!
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:50 PM on September 22, 2019

When I was grading in a hobby class I taught, I typed out my top 15 critiques into a word doc. Each critique was about 5 sentences long.

Each student got:

a unique 2 sentence opener with an overview of their progress and praising their strengths (which I mostly wrote to a template but I subbed in specific adjectives and details to customize),

“Here are some areas for improvement,” followed by

2-3 pasted critique comments that outlined their major areas for improvement, listed as bullet points

A unique 2 sentence closer about their participation and professionalism.

This way the mix of comments, with unique header and footer, felt detailed and specific to each student, but they saved me time.

My students responded really well to this type of grading. I think it worked because the short parts were still valuable as they felt personal, and the copypasta parts were still valuable as they were very detailed and clear.

I also saved myself time by putting detail into discussing the main issues most students had, rather than every possible comment. My students were fine working on their main basic challenges, I didn’t need to deep dive with hundreds of comments. Is your comment bank perhaps too rich? What if you only had about 10-20 comments in the bank? Much easier to drag and drop, or memorize keyboard shortcuts.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:58 PM on September 22, 2019

I suspect something like textexpander is probably closer to what you want, but if you're on Windows, I use a clipboard manager called Ditto that can be used more-or-less as you describe. It has a popup with the last N things you've copied (where N is a configurable number) that you access with a keyboard shortcut, and you can configure separate keyboard shortcuts for the last 10 slots if you want to bypass the popup entirely.
posted by Aleyn at 10:15 PM on September 22, 2019

Instead of clipboard you can also use autohotkey. It's basically macros. You make your comments and assign shortcuts (which can be alt shift etc or a combo of letters that it replaces like noparagraph1) and then it types in your comment.
posted by chasles at 4:17 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ditto. It would do what you want easily.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:12 AM on September 23, 2019

I've looked at all the suggestions here, and some of them (ArsClip, Ditto, and Autohotkey) are Windows-only. I didn't specify that I'm on a Mac, but obviously should have. D'oh!

The "reuse comments" feature on Canvas's SpeedGrader is too cumbersome, I think. For one, I don't tend to use rubrics; for another, it's all trackpad and pull-down menus, which means slooooow.

Text Expander looks like the obvious choice, but I'm not keen to lay out for a monthly membership on my own dime. (And there's no way I can convince my school to foot the bill.)

So, I guess, is there a free, Mac-specific thingy that does what Text Expander does (or ArsClip, etc.) does? If anyone's still reading?
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:15 PM on September 23, 2019

Not on a mac, so I can't vouch for any of these options, but this list of alternatives to Ditto looks promising.
posted by Aleyn at 10:57 PM on September 26, 2019

Wow, that does look promising, Aleyn! Thank you! I didn't even know about the existence of "clipboard managers"!
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:07 AM on September 28, 2019

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