"Scanning" documents for online assessments

Note: Some of your online assessments may require you to submit ‘scans’ of various pieces of work (e.g. handwritten solutions to mathematical questions, sketches of curves, etc).

By scanning we mean creating a high-quality image of your handwritten work, e.g. by using the photo app on a smartphone or tablet or laptop and saving them in or as part of a recommended format, most likely PDF. A particularly simple to use option is Microsoft’s Office Lens, which is supported on iOS, Android and Windows platforms (follow the embedded links for instructions on how to download and use the application on each platform).

If you do not have access to such a device please get in touch with your department in advance of the assessment.

This guidance outlines some of the practical considerations you should take into account when needing to take/ scan images and submit them as part of your assignment.  It should be considered as supplementary to other assessment guidance you will have received from your department.

Hardware and software requirements

Check if your department or course has specific requirements for scanning applications or acceptable file formats for uploading. If you are free to choose your own application, make sure it can produce the desired output file format (which will typically be either PDF or Microsoft Word document).

A note on Microsoft Office Lens: This not only offers some useful tools for cleaning and cropping images, but can create multi-page documents in several formats (including PDF and Word).  However, it does have some constraints (for example, PDFs have a page number cap of 30 on iOS and Android, and just 10 on Windows).

Preparing for your assessment

In the days before your assessment, and well before you sit down to take it, make sure you have:

  • Ensured you have enough paper and writing materials to complete the assessment. In general, a good choice of paper would be:

    • A4, Letter or similar size format

    • Feint-ruled (preferably wide) with margins

    • White (or minimally coloured)

    • Non-reflective

  • Read and understand any restrictions placed by the assessment on upload file format; for example:

    • PDF or DOCX?

    • Is a single file required or separate files for each question/part?

    • Should the title include candidate number and/or course?

  • Familiarised yourself with the scanning technology and process. You are advised to perform several practice scans of multi-page documents in the weeks leading up to the assessment period.

    • Do you have sufficient network access where you intend to download and upload your assessment documents? Your scans may result in files of large sizes, and a strong connection will reduce the time needed to upload documents.

    • While Moodle allows you to upload up to 100MB, which should be enough for most, if not all, assessments, this might exceed any caps imposed on metered connections (e.g. mobile phone data).

    • Ensure you have all relevant School contact details in case of technical problems with your online assessment.

During your assessment

It is important that your work be clear and legible, particularly if you are required to scan it for uploading to Moodle.

  • Use only dark ink (preferably black or blue), and write on white or lightly coloured paper for high contrast.

  • Keep left and right margins clear to help examiners mark your work.

  • At the top of each page, write a distinct page number and, where relevant, a specific question number. This will help you order and scan your work quickly, and thus help examiners mark your work.

“Scanning” your work

Try to find an uncluttered and well-lit space to make your files most legible.

Allow for enough time to do this without missing your assessment submission deadlines (your previous practice should give you an indication of how much time you need).

Each page of your scanned document should correspond to only one (side of a) physical page.  (For example, do not scan two or more pages at once in an attempt to save time or to produce smaller files).

Review your scan and check that pages are:

  • Scanned in the correct order.

  • Oriented properly.

  • Legible (e.g. scans are not blurry and all fine detail can be sufficiently magnified for reading).

  • Complete (e.g. relevant work has not been accidentally cropped out).

Do not use any Optical Character Recognition (OCR) functionality offered by your scanning application when producing your scans.

Creating a single PDF document from multiple PDF documents

Each of your assessments may have very different requirements when it comes to the number and content of upload files: some assessments may require a single PDF upload, while others may, for example, require one file per question.

 PDF documents can be easily merged into a single PDF file, or split into several PDF files, using the open-source programme PDFsam which is freely available for Windows, OS X and Linux platforms. Full documentation is available on the PDFsam website, but you should find the programme intuitive to use without recourse to it.

Note: Depending on the size of your scans, you may need to consider its PDF compression setting.  Details on how to enable this advanced setting can be found on the PDFsam website. If you do perform any compression on your PDF documents, you must verify that this has not reduced the legibility of any of the scans you are submitting for marking. It is therefore advisable to only enable this setting if the total size of your files is greater than 100MB.

Uploading your scans

Further guidance on how to upload your scanned document (submit/upload your assessment on Moodle) is available in the Online Learning Guides for Students.

Please always save your work to cloud based storages (e.g. OneDrive) as a backup.