Falmouth University's 'Assessment Principles' policy details processes of assessment, submission, feedback, entry of marks and retention of work for students. Educational technology can support each stage of the process to ensure that assessment is inclusive, feedback is timely and the experience is enhanced.
At assessment level, our Moodle VLE offers a range of formative activities; it is designed around a constructivist pedagogy; quizzes forums, feedback and tutorial management can help students by "building on their strengths and targeting weaknesses that require closer attention". For summative assessment we use a combination of Moodle Assignment and Turn It In (TII). TII is primarily used for written submissions such as dissertations and through originality checks it helps support referencing, but within creative education there is an increasing need to support large media files. As such, our Moodle installation can support submissions up to 300Mb in size, above this and we suggest using a cloud service such as Youtube or Google Drive.
Also within the assessment section the policy states that"Students shall have opportunities to experience peer assessment and self-reflective learning during their studies". We have recently introduced the Moodle Workshop activity to facilitate peer reflection and an instance of WebPA which I am piloting with our games courses as it enables individuals to reflect on their group work. We have also introduced a blogging platform to facilitate reflective practice, this enables students to publish their own blogs/sites and contribute to class/module blogs.
The policy states that "Assessments may be submitted online via the VLE; in hard copy via the offices of the Student Programmes & Achievement Team; at the place of delivery (e.g. exhibitions, performance or seminar presentations); or via other approved method." I work closely with our SPA team to ensure that where appropriate, submission can be via the VLE and also guide academic staff and students in how to set the assignment and submit. Where student submission is at the place of delivery, I guide staff in useful ways to document the process via film and audio.
The policy goes on to say that students will have the opportunity to submit electronically , which supports a more inclusive approach to assessment and that details of format be made available to students. I assist academics in choosing appropriate file formats to aid accessibility and that work with our infrastructure. Many students include images in their submissions, which can increase file sizes dramatically, so I often suggest using tools such as smallpdf.com to compress file sizes to make them more manageable.
Falmouth policy asks for a "timely" 3 week turnaround on feedback and that students should expect it in a variety of forms. Many courses at Falmouth now make use of Moodle's timed feedback release and bulk uploading of feedback features to ensure all students receive feedback at the same time and have one place to go and look for it. I have also been working with our BA (Hons) Fine Art Course to support feedback within dissertation tutorials. Previously, feedback was documented in Word and then emailed to the students and the tutor felt this hard to organise, as multiple copies of files existed and were updated by both parties. To streamline this process, we started using the Scheduler activity within Moodle to book in tutorial slots and this is synced with both student and staff timetables. In the scheduler activity, one can add notes for particular students and so we pasted a link to a Google Doc for each student that can be updated by both parties. This again means that there is one point of reference for feedback.
Retention of work
Falmouth policy requires student work to be retained for 3 years for quality assessment purposes and auditing. As such, we take a snapshot of the VLE at a certain point each year and archive this at a new URL in order to provide this retention of work. These archives are not available to staff and students by default, but those staff wishing to reference previous assignments can request access for themselves and external examiners/auditors. To do this, I switch off directory access to the archive and re-enable manual accounts as required.
Support article on timed release of feedback
A support video I created on setting an assignment
Falmouth in Focus blog post on synchronous feedback using Moodle and Google Docs within the dissertation module for BA (Hons) Fine Art
Much of my work in this area stems from conversations I've had with individuals that have come from 'How can I do this?' questions. The timed release of feedback arose from an academic member of staff in the music team showing me how they had built their own system for bulk feedback, but that it was becoming unsustainable. I searched for similar functionality and found it in Moodle and worked with the wider music team on implementing it. In some cases it hasn't worked as well and that is where staff have decided to wholesale switch to electronic assessment and feedback without trialing the tool. This resulted in a lot of confusion for staff who were learning the tool at the same time as students submitting. In future, I would recommend to them that they stage a move over to eAssessment and work with their students and associated professional services teams to make sure that it's as fluid as possible. I also introduced them to the Music team, who were already using the tool successfully.
I have also worked closely with the Music team on large file submissions. Whilst these are possible within Moodle, our current IT infrastructure cannot support it. Within the team, we have been looking at file submission requirements across the university and I spoke with other institutions that use Moodle and reviewed a range of 3rd party services that might support this going forward.
This led to some demonstrations of tools like Mahara, Kaltura and Google Classroom and thinking about assessment workflows, such as does the work need to be uploaded or as with Mahara and Classroom, could it be submitted as a 'point in time' submission. A lot of this work has been written up, but sits on the team's Google Drive, so it would be great if we can join the dots a bit more and talk with colleagues across our quality assurance, student achievement and IT teams. Particularly in an Arts University, this could be a positive project for many of our service users.
The Falmouth policy allows the submission to be set electronically or physically as is preferential to the academic. I believe the emphasis should be more on supporting the students. A digital first approach would state that electronic submission would be the default position unless circumstances such as place or content dictate that it should be physical. As Falmouth is a split campus university, students have to cover travel and printing costs to hand in work. I think the cost should be covered by academic departments if staff wish to have paper copies of the work. Many courses are looking at ways in which to develop online/blended elements to their courses and I have worked with our MA Creative Education to ensure that this year, the dissertation hand-in is wholly online, thus reducing the time and cost of printing the work.
Technology presents a wealth of opportunities for feedback and feedforward and working with arts based courses has taught me that students and staff appreciate a variety of formats being supported. I've worked with courses who use sketching tools as part of tutorial feedback and email these to the students. The incorporation of Google Docs into the process for Fine Art supports the academic, but students are yet to feedback on this new process. As with the Slack communities, I mentioned earlier in this portfolio, this new process for Fine Art has been running for three years and has led to moving more written assessment and feedback on line.
Snapshoting the VLE is a timely process that involves work from our IT team and at present can take 2 months to complete. Modern file/code management tools might better support this in future; gitbucket/gitlab can be self hosted and present alternatives to institutional tools like Sharepoint. Having said this, by creating a yearly archive process I have been able to help people avoid duplication of work and of file resources, as academic staff used to download all the files to USB stick, which presents ethical and data security risks around student work.
Through our Delivery and Innovation Group, I have been able to show some of these tools to a wider audience, in the hope that over time our IT teams might look at processes and cultures in addition to systems.
Continuing advances in mobile and communication technologies are presenting new opportunities for assessment and feedback and Learning Technologists can help advise and support these. I would enjoy being more involved in this conversation, as the current policy has been written without talking to stakeholders such as students, academics, IT and Learning Technology teams. I think a more holistic and fluid approach could be gained if the assessment process is reviewed with this input.