The Marking Scheme and Feedback Assistant software provides support for structured marking of student coursework. It enables detailed feedback to be created for assignments and overall marks to be produced for both assignments and exams.


The MFA is a tool; for it to produce good feedback the marking criteria must be given some thought, and a marking scheme produced. Making the best use of MFA requires some user strategies, for example to allow feedback to be reusable, it is better to give shorter comments that address an individual issue than longer comments that are probably unique to a single student. It is also better to think about the marking criteria, and at least produce an outline template, when an assignment is being set. Please follow the effective use strategies link for more specific details on producing meaningful feedback with the tool. The main aim of the MFA is to produce consistent, useful feedback directly emailed to the student, with secondary benefits of marking efficiency (especially for large cohorts), and 'free' production of the necessary module summary spreadsheets.

Obtaining the software

The latest version MSG software is available as a Java archive '.jar' file below and requires JRE 11 (or later). It is written to be platform independent (so don't expect platform specific niceties). On most systems simply double clicking on the 'marking.jar' file will launch the program. Alternatively type java -jar marking.jar at the command prompt. You can add the filename of an .mfax to open as a command line parameter if required.

Download version.
(Right click and 'save as' 'marking.jar')
MFA 0.97b

Mac version as a compressed app

This version requires at least Java11.

Mac 'corrupted file'? allow Gatekeeper to run it.
24 Aug 2020
New features:

Gradecenter columns can now be imported as a single task within an existing assignment/exam.

A new results sheet "ResultsPercent" has been added to the exported workbook. This sheet summarises each assessments marks as a rounded percentage with non submissions as 0 - as they will be in the GC export (for mapping to Astra).

A few other improvements regarding the search, file chooser operation and removal of some work arounds that are no longer needed in Java 11. Version b fixes a glitch with importing grades from Grade Center where students in GC are not in the MFA student list but have marks assigned (ie. unusual resit situations).

For more details look in the Change History
MFA 0.96b

Mac version as a compressed app
This version still requires Java1.8 (sorry!).

Mac 'corrupted file'? allow Gatekeeper to run it.
07 Jan 2020
New features:

All component (ie. mfa assessment) marks are now rounded to integer values (ie. x.4999 -> x, x.5 -> x+1). The reason for the change is that Blackboard uses integer marks for module components and we want the result produced by Blackboard (Astra) for the module to be the same as the MFA spreadsheets and student feedback.
MFA 0.95b

Mac version as a compressed app

This version requires Java1.8.

If you have a Mac and get a 'corrupted file' message then you need to allow Gatekeeper to run it.
18 Apr 2018
New features:

There is an additional tab to allow Component marks transfer (Assignemnts/exams etc.) to Blackboard (hence Astra) (screenshot) Download of marks into MFA also is now supported (to collect marks into the spreadsheet from other places if required).

I have made a 10 min Video. This shows both the new MFA functionalty (5 min) and also how to set up BB to be able to export marks to Astra for a module (5 min).

0.95b resolves a problem that was causing spreadsheet generation to fail. It also solves an issue with importing sets of marks from Blackboard when a 'previewuser' exists in the class.
MFA 0.94

Mac version as a compressed app
If you have a post Maverics Mac and get a 'corrupted file' message then you need to allow Gatekeeper to run it.
13 Jan 2016
Recent improvement highlights:

Marks distribution histograms (screenshot) are now automatically generated in the spreadsheets. These appear on the first sheet 'GraphTemplate' in the WorkBook.

Note that older versions of Excel and Excel 2011 on the Mac require a little prod to display the graphs properly due to an Excel bug in the recalculation of named ranges between sheets. Refer to the Change History for a simple fix if the graphs show all bars of height 1 (or alternatively open the file on a recent Windows version of office).

MFA 0.93f

Mac version as a compressed app
01 June 2015
Recent improvement highlights:

Ability to have marked up pdf files attached to the feedback emails. Ability to merge .mfax files (see merging mfax files. As you type spell checking for English. GUI improvements to the `optional feedback' popup windows. Grade can be generated by selecting optional feedback elements. From 0.917f, the .mfax file extension replaces .xml for saved marking schemes (of course the tool loads the old files).
For more details look in the Change History

The MSG certainly works under recent versions of Mac OSX (Snow Leopard, Lion), and appears to work under Windows XP, Vista. Not essential, but if you are running MS Windows grab this 'MSGProperties.txt' file and put it in the same directory as the '.jar' file - it tweeks the GUI appearance to better suit the windows look and feel. Some people have used various of the Linux variants, and all seems to work OK.

The MacOSX version provides a dockable\desktop clickable application icon, and double click opening of the data files etc. The it should automatically uncompress in your Downloads folder, so then drag the '' file into your 'Applications' folder to install. The app is unsigned so you may need to persuade 'Gatekeeper' security to allow you to run it on the latest versions of MacOS. The App icon should run (needs Java 8) if double clicked and all .mfax files should get the green 'M' icon and open in the application when double clicked. If nothing appears to happen when you double click the application then make sure you have the latest version of Java (8) installed.

Example marking scheme template

CS66610_2012-2013.mfax (save as CS66610_2012-2013.mfax) is an example marking scheme with (fictional) students. Simply load in into the tool to get an idea of what each of the parts of the tool is for. Another example marking scheme without students and my list of fictious example students (and here as an .xlsx spreadsheet) that can be used with it as an example. Right click the links and 'save as' making sure the marking scheme has the file extension '.mfa' since this sometimes seems to get lost in the download...

The spreadsheets generated from the MSG are '.xlsx' format and work with recent versions of MS Office on Mac OSX or MS Windows. Some of the office clones are missing various features, for example iWork does not support drop down menus on cells so is quite useless for grade based marking onto the generated sheets, but is fine for reviewing results sheets when grades are entered directly under the MSG 'results' tab. At least one of the other MS Office clones does not appear to calculate cell sizes correctly for text wrapping (etc) causing a fully functional but 'not very pretty' sheet.

Overpowering Gatekeeper on Macos

From MacOS Lion onwards you cannot by default open unsigned applications by doubleclicking. Some versions of MacOS just give a warning (unidentified developer), but the most recent versions give a very misleading error message that says the file is corrupted -it is not- it is meerly unsigned. There are two solutions possible, the quickest is to use the command line and the second is to change the Secuity Preferences GUI.

First soultion - on the command line:

  • Open a terminal and type the following assuming you have put in to the Applications folder. Type the following two commands:
  • xattr -dr /Applications/

The second - allow Gatekeeper to run an unsigned App:

  • Open the system preferences (gear wheels icon)
  • Click in the Security and Privacy button (house shaped icon)
  • Click on the General tab.
  • in the "Allow apps downloaded from" area select "Anywhere". The dafault is Mac App Store
  • You may need to click the padlock icon to be able to make changed and may also be challenged to enter your password at various points.
  • Once the app has been launched once, it will then be allowed and you can change the security back if you wish.
  • You might try control right click on the app icon and selecting open, which works on some versions of MacOS, but didn't allow me to open it on ElCapitan.

If you get a message about not having (the right version of) Java installed, then go to Oracle and download the latest JDK, and try again. I did not package Java with the app because most people already have it.