Autograder for programming assignments via Gradescope

The teaching or assessment challenge

In the rapidly evolving digital era, equipping students with up-to-date skills is paramount for enhancing their employability. At the Department of Economics, we recognize the significance of programming skills to analyse economic datasets, tackle real-world problems, and make informed predictions. To align assessment with these learning outcomes, frequent programming assignments are essential. However, the challenge lies in the time-consuming process of manual marking, particularly in large classes, and providing timely and consistent feedback to students. To address this challenge, we implemented an innovative solution using Gradescope, a web service licensed by the University of Manchester.

The solution

Instead of manual marking of submitted codes, I have implemented an autograding solution via a platform called Gradescope integrated into Blackboard. 

Gradescope allows you to write what is called an “autograder”, which is a code consisting of tests to check the correctness of the submitted work. It is worth noting that writing an autograder for the first time will be challenging, however once implemented it will save you a lot of time and allow for a timely and quality feedback provided to the students.

Gradescope provides a cloud server which runs the student code and checks whether the provided tests have been passed. The feedback provided to the students is therefore immediate (but can be changed to a bespoke release date if that is a better fit for the class). The students can be allowed to resubmit their codes until they pass all the tests, which works great. Whilst all of this is happening automatically and does not require the teaching staff to be involved.

A screenshot of the Gradescope code marker

The outcome

The outcomes of our intervention have been highly positive, evident through student feedback and active engagement with programming assignments. Notable results include:

  1. Positive Student Feedback: Students enjoyed the coding assignments and appreciated the opportunity to practice programming skills relevant to their economics studies.
  2. Skill Mastery: Students acknowledged significant improvement in their coding abilities, enabling them to apply their knowledge to practical economic questions.
  3. Timely Feedback: Gradescope’s instant feedback facilitated the learning process, allowing students to address mistakes promptly and refine their understanding.

Automated programming assessments through Gradescope have proven to be an effective approach in enhancing students’ learning outcomes within the Department of Economics. By implementing this solution, we have efficiently addressed the challenges associated with manual marking, provided timely feedback, and empowered students to master crucial programming skills for their future careers. We encourage educators across disciplines to explore the potential of automated assessment systems to enrich their teaching and students’ learning experiences.

Evaluation / Student Feedback

“Enjoyed the coding assignments”.

“I really master many codes to solve some practical questions in economics.”

“Gradescope helped me get timely feedback on R assignments which was helpful in the learning process.”


The implementation of automated programming assessments via Gradescope offers several advantages:

  • Efficiency of Marking: Manual marking is replaced with automated assessment, saving considerable time and effort for teaching staff.
  • Accuracy of Feedback: Gradescope’s autograder ensures objective and precise evaluations of student code submissions.
  • Consistency of Feedback: The platform guarantees uniform feedback to all students, maintaining fairness and clarity.
Top Tips
  1. Utilize Gradescope Support: Leverage the helpful resources provided by Gradescope, including examples and guides for writing autograders.
  2. Allow Time for Familiarization: Allocate a week for mastering autograder creation and familiarizing yourself with the platform’s features.
  3. Detailed Assignment Instructions: Craft clear and detailed instructions for assignments to minimize confusion and ensure successful outcomes.


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School: Social Sciences

Discipline: Economics

Academic: Ekaterina Kazak

Course: Econometric Methods

Cohort Size: 100

Themes: Assessment

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