#ocTEL wek four, TEL One: e-assessment

  • Why did/would you choose a particular type of e-assessment? Describe why you think it is effective and how it can help deepen knowledge and understanding.
  • In your experience, what type of approach creates an environment conducive to self-directed learning, peer support and collaborative learning? How might technology help?
  • What opportunities and challenges does this approach present to tutors?

In a large (350+ students) first-year class, we traditionally used in-class oral presentations as one of the assignments. Students presented individually, in their 25-student tutorials, for about 5 minutes each. They were assessed in class by their tutor. Teaching staff went through the assessment criteria in detail with the students before the assignment. The ideal was that students would develop their presentation skills, and that students would learn from each other by listening to each others’ presentations. It also aligned with an institutional policy which stipulates that markers can only be paid to mark two assessment items outside of class time: using an oral presentation marked in class means that a 12-week unit can comprise three, rather than only two, assessment items. A challenge for tutors and coordinators was that because presentations were live, there was no way to return to them to discuss them with the students for feedback or in the event of a contested grade. The reality, as opposed to the earlier ideal stated, was that students felt little motivation to improve their presentation skills because the audience for their presentations was small, and because that audience had no bearing on the mark. The other reality was that students did not learn from each other because they became quickly bored with sitting there listening to presentation after presentation on the same topics; many students did not attend tutorial unless they were presenting in it.

To buy back tutorial time (getting through 25 student presentations in one-hour tutorials usually took at least two tutorials), to increase students’ motivation to produce quality presentations, to teach the students valuable digital literacy skills, and to create an accessible archive of presentations, I changed the format of the presentations from in-class oral to YouTube videos. Assignment instructions were the same as for the original assignment, and students were clearly informed that they would not be assessed on their videography skills. Videos were to be head-to-cam only, with no incorporation of visuals, text, or effects. This was so that students maintained their focus on the assignment content and on their own presentation of the material. The video presentations were essentially the same as the in-class presentations in format. An additional learning session was added to the unit in which students were taught how to make and upload a YouTube video; surprisingly few students knew how to do this. For privacy reasons, students did not have to use their real names when they uploaded videos; they used their students numbers and the unit code as the video title and tag. They submitted the assignment by submitting the YouTube URL through Blackboard.

The shift to video was designed to build students’ digital literacy, to increase their motivation to present well by making their presentations more public, and to build an achive of presentations for reuse as exemplars. The shift also allowed markers to return to individual assignments to discuss them with students. It achieved these results.

However, I don’t think the shift to video presentations adequately deepened students’ learning, peer support, or collaboration. Feedback remained very much “the sole responsibility of the practitioner [tutor].” To further improve the assignment, I’ll build in an activity in class in which students work together to assess existing videos using the assessment criteria. I could also set up a discussion forum in the week before the assignment is due in which students can post their draft videos for peer feedback; students who provide quality feedback will earn extra marks on the assignment. The latter activity will mean more work in marking for the tutors, who will have to go through the forums to mark comments posted there, as well as marking each student’s final video.

Suggestions on how to make this peer commenting activity/process efficient and effective?