On Friday I was granted access to a beta version of a new iPad grading app called Markup. The app, which has yet to be released to the App Store, comes from the makers of ShowMe. It is designed to help teachers transition to a paperless grading system using just their iPad and a stylus. Markup is currently a Kickstarter project, but with 4 days to go, they have already exceeded their target funding goal of $7,500.
I know there has been considerable interest in this app on Twitter and among teachers using iPads, so I am offering this review to give other teachers a taste of what might be in store when this app is released in the App Store. However, please remember that this is the beta version of Markup. It is not the finished article. It was only released for testing purposes and to get feedback on how it performs in its current state.
Markup currently supports PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and plain text documents. Teachers can open student assignments into the app using the “Open in another app” feature that is found in many iOS apps, or by emailing documents to a unique email address that will sync with the app. If you share this email address with students, they can email their assignment directly to the Markup app. I tried emailing Pages and Keynote files to the app, but they never appeared, and Markup does not appear as an option when you try to open Pages or Keynote files in another app.
Documents appear in a file browser area whether they were emailed to you, or you chose to open them into Markup, and notifications can be turned on so that you receive an alert when assignments are emailed to you. New files are tagged with a blue ribbon in the top left hand corner. For me, the thumbnails here are a little large for my liking. If I had 25 assignment to grade, it would be a lot of scrolling to get to the ones at the bottom. There also did not seem to be any way to remove assignment that I have already graded, but I am sure that will change by the final version of the app. Personally, I would prefer some way to organize files into folders. Better still, they could take a page out of Evernote’s book and have emailed assignments automatically filed in a folder according to the subject line of an email.
The interface in this early beta version is very simple, and not too unlike ShowMe. There are five pen colors to choose from, an eraser, and an undo button. There is also a Send button to email the graded paper back to the student. Simply choose the color you want and begin annotating. In the future it might be nice to see a highlighter or a text tool. The ability to zoom in to a document would also be useful for more precise annotations. I’d also like a thumbnail view of the document so that I could quickly navigate to a specific page in longer assignments.
When the assignment is graded you can tap the Send button to automatically attach it to an email, ready to send back to the student. With any luck, future versions of this app will include the “Open In” functionality so that teachers can send it to a shared Dropbox or Drive folder, or even to apps like Edmodo or Showbie.
For me, Notability is the standard that Markup has to live up to. It is a well established app with a huge amount of functionality for just $1.99. Lots of teachers are already using Notability to as their iPad grading app. It already does a lot of what Markup does, and it has useful additional features like the ability to include an audio note as feedback for students. So, it will be interesting to see whether or not Markup can differentiate itself enough to win these teachers over or not.
The latest information I received was that Markup was on track to be released to the App Store in a couple of weeks, so I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished version. There are very few, if any, iPad apps that are created solely to help teachers grade papers electronically. Notability, iAnnotate, PDF Expert, and Remarks are great, but they were not created for educators. Markup has a chance to take the lead in this category, and if they respond to user feedback the same way that they do with ShowMe, then the future is bright for this app.
Do you have a favorite iPad grading app? Will you be buying Markup when it is released to the App Store? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.