Electronic Management of Assessment

What is EMA?

The term electronic management of assessment (EMA) refers to the way that technology can be used 'across the assessment lifecycle to support the electronic submission of assignments as well as marking and feedback'. (JISC EMA Guide ). The terms e-submission and e-marking are also commonly used.

e-submission is the process by which a student submits work online for storage and retrieval by academic, administrative or other staff for marking, feedback or review. This can also include originality checking to help identify plagiarism using Turnitin.

e-marking is the process by which staff provide marks and feedback to students online, which can include online annotations eg using Blackboard inline grading, annotated files eg using comments in Microsoft Word, audio, video, or the use of online forms. 

Benefits of EMA

EMA offers a range of benefits for students and staff which have been summarised in JISC's EMA guide.  In Autumn 2017 the DEO, in partnership with BILT, interviewed staff who have adopted online marking and feedback, and gathered feedback from students who have experienced it. The benefits they identified were grouped into three main areas: convenience, clarity and consistency. 

Listen to extracts from the interviews and find out more.

Staff - how to start using EMA

First find out if your School already uses EMA. Contact your School admin team who should be able to advise on the workflow that the School has adopted and what support and guidance is available.  Generic guidance is available in the e-submission and e-marking guide (PDF, 715 kB), but please be aware that processes may vary in your School.  If you have any further questions please contact the DEO.

Tools and approaches for online marking and feedback

There is currently no single tool which supports all EMA requirements, so workflows are available using Blackboard and Turnitin Feedback Studio.  Each of these tools has pros and cons depending on requirements. This comparison highlights some key differences.  If you are considering using online marking please contact the DEO  who will be able to provide advice on the most appropriate tool.

Approaches for providing feedback online include:

  • Provide digital feedback files e.g. standard feedback forms in Word format
  • Annotate work, for example using comments in Word or Adobe Reader. Upload annotated assignments back into Blackboard
  • Fill in an online feedback form (rubric), available in both Blackboard and Turnitin. 
  • Create audio or video/screencast feedback, and make this available to students via Blackboard. See our case study on audio and video feedback 
  • Annotate work directly in Blackboard or Turnitin

10 steps to introducing EMA

The DEO has developed a 10 steps model for introducing EMA in a School.

    1. Initial contact between School and Digital Education Office (DEO)
    2. Scoping meeting to establish overall aims, key people, roles and responsibilities and timescales
    3. Review of current practice: to make sure DEO has a clear understanding of what happens at the moment, what is essential and what could be improved or changed
    4. Create workflow: check requirements, map these to a workflow, create a prototype for staff to try out, adjust if necessary, and finalise
    5. Training and production of support materials
    6. Set-up (with ongoing support from DEO)
    7. First submission date (with ongoing support from DEO)
    8. Marking and moderation (with ongoing support from DEO)
    9. Evaluation: what went well, what could be improved next time
    10. Adjustment of workflow: liaison between School and DEO to implement changes for next iteration if required


EMA Project

The Digital Education Office (DEO) has been supporting the use of technology to manage submission, marking and feedback for a number of years. To support the institutional focus on assessment for learning and to help staff optimise their delivery of high quality assessment and feedback, from 2017-18 the Digital Education Office will offer all Schools dedicated support to move to EMA.  The deployment of EMA workflows across the institution will be undertaken over three years, from 2017 to 2020.   More information can be found on the EMA project page.


The DEO can offer training for administrative staff and markers.  Contact the DEO to discuss your requirements.


Useful links

Note: some of the documents on this page are in PDF format. In order to view a PDF you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader