Two major, institution-wide innovations introduced in recent years at the University of Glamorgan are the subject of this project, funded as part of the JISC Assessment and Feedback Programme Strand B.
Arising as a result of a Change academy project running from 2008-10, the use of assessment diaries for scheduling and planning assessment, and GradeMark for online marking, have been adopted across the institution to various extents within different schools and faculties. This new JISC project will examine the reasons for variation in adoption and explore staff and student experiences of these technologies as well as exploring strategies for staff development to encourage wider uptake.
The assessment diary system is a very simple, but very elegant approach to dealing with the issue of assessment bunching, identified by Glamorgan students as a major issue undermining learning and assessment performance. Initially the problem was addressed simply by widely sharing assessment due dates for all courses within staff Outlook calendars, but considerable development work since then has resulted in an MS Access database backend with a web interface in Blackboard. Seamless integration with Blackboard through a building block provides a single point of access to this information which can be fully personalised by both students and staff. This provides a highly visual way of understanding the rhythms of course workload and has been very successful in helping students manage their time and plan their work in relation to assessment deadlines. Staff have also found that the ease of access to detailed information on course timings has facilitated dialogue amongst staff across a range of courses and reflect more effectively on the student learning experience when redesigning or rescheduling modules. Those departments that were early adopters of the diaries have seen significant improvement in their National Student Survey scores for feedback, and the diaries are also believed to have positively impacted on student retention rates.
By contrast, GradeMark is a commercial online marking tool within Turnitin that is gathering increasing adoption in the UK. Adopted across the University of Glamorgan since 2009, it is seen as addressing a number of student dissatisfactions with feedback, including timeliness, level of detail and, importantly, the development and maintenance of a meaningful dialogue between both students and teachers, and amongst teachers themselves. Both students and staff have responded very positively to the tool in an initial evaluation of its impact, and the current project will be able to explore its impact in greater detail.
Project outputs will include a series of video interviews with students and both teaching and administrative staff which will be freely available as OERs on YouTube, together with Panopto recordings of staff development and training sessions for asynchronous viewing. The team is also exploring the use of online avatars for staff development discussions and scenario roleplaying, an exciting approach that has worked very successfully at the University of Hong Kong and which I hope to follow up in a later post.
The project’s blog is well worth a read to see how the team go about their evaluation and some of the issues they encounter on their journey.