Assessing Video and Audio – simple, fair and effective submission approaches

While interest in online assignment submission continues to grow, we are also seeing a steady increase in formative and summative assessment of student produced audio and video. What’s the best way to submit? Although in some cases submission of these files can be supported through the standard anonymous and non-anonymous assignment submission tools in the VLE, there are some strong reasons why we might want to, or indeed need to, look for other solutions to allow students to submit audio and video files for assessment.

What makes video and audio different?

On the one hand we could see audio and video files as just like any other file type when it comes to submission, however there are some particular issues we should consider when dealing with assessments that require students to create and submit media;

  • File size: media files, in particular video files, tend to be very large when compared to typical word, pdf or other files. In addition to the added time it may take students to upload their files, many standard assignment submission tools are not designed to cope with very large files. The anonymous assignment tool has a fixed file size limit of 30MB meaning it is unsuitable for many video projects. While there is no statutory file size limit on uploads to the VLE’s non-anonymous assignment tool, we do know from bitter experience that very large video files can be irretrievable by an instructor once uploaded by a student. In addition to this, the VLE is not designed for a large cohort of students uploading large files simultaneously, so while an individual file may not be large enough to cause a problem on its own, a whole cohort rushing to submit large files could cause the system to slow down or even grind to a halt.
    • Provide students with clear guidance on preparing their files for online submission, including compression techniques that will help them to get their files down to the required size and warn them in advance that they will need to allow additional time for the submission process. There are lots of free compressions tools available. We have some generic guidance for students but do speak to us if you are unsure whether the VLE’s tools are suitable for your submission requirements or want to develop some bespoke student facing guides.
  • File types: video, audio and other media can come in lots of shapes and sizes with an array of file formats, compression and other variables. You need to make sure that you can watch or listen to whatever has been submitted without the need for specialist software.
    • If students can upload files then ensure you provide clear guidance to students on the acceptable formats and how to create them or consider submission approaches that will restrict the files that can be submitted or convert videos to a pre-determined format such as Google Drive for video or YouTube.
  • Online or downloadable: When sharing media files users will often be able to choose between sending a link to a downloadable file or something that can be viewed online (or sometimes both). While online viewing can sometimes be the simpler choice, think carefully about whether you will need an archive of downloaded student submissions.
  • Simplifying the recording and submission process: Creating video and audio content can be complex. While this can be a useful way to develop valuable transferable skills for students, it may be possible to simplify the content creation process and combine it with the required method for submitting work.
    • It may be possible for students to use their own devices and the VLE’s mobile app or even their University YouTube accounts to record audio and / or video content and upload their work in one process. If this is not possible or desirable then ensure you provide guidance for students on what is required and how to achieve it.
  • Privacy and confidentiality: While this should be an issue for any form of assessment, it can be even more important for video and audio files where students can easily be identified and may be particularly concerned about content finding its way into the public domain or being seen outside of the context for which it was created.
    • While video sharing platforms such as YouTube can make it very simple for students to share videos online they do not make it easy to do so completely securely. Consider using Google Drive which uses the YouTube facilities for delivering video but gives far more fine-grained access control over who can see your video. Be wary of third party services that may seem to offer useful functionality for creating or sharing media without close inspection of their terms and conditions, particularly with regards to the security of student’s personal data. See our guidance on using supported vs. unsupported tools for more information.
  • Anonymity: A big concern for much summative work is preserving the anonymity of students throughout the marking process “except where unfeasible” (Guide to assessment and Feedback, p.49). Clearly where students are appearing in videos or audio files preserving anonymity could be said to be unfeasible.
  • Equity and accessibility: Ensure that all students are given access to any training, guidance, equipment, software and online platforms that they may need to be able to complete your assessment.
    • The E-learning Development Team may be able to help with delivering guidance and training. While the overwhelming majority students will have access to simple video and audio recorders through their mobile devices or laptops, ensure you provide contingencies for those that don’t (either through department owned kit or equipment that can be borrowed from IT services). Using University owned / supported systems such as University Google drive or YouTube, or the VLE and it’s supported toolset will help to ensure that all students will be able to meet the assessment requirements.

Workflows for submission

The “best” way to submit video and audio content will often depend on the context of the assessment itself, the technical abilities of the learners, the needs of the markers to be able to assess the work (eg do they need a really high quality recording or will something created on a mobile phone do) as well as a combination of the factors outlined above.

Successful examples at the University of York for online submission of media for formative and summative assessment, include:

Summative assessment: Google drive and VLE assignment submission

Department of Environment; Biodiversity and Society, student created videos

Requirements: Secure, fine grained access control for privacy, simple viewing by markers, download option for archive, effective date stamping of submissions

Submission workflow: Students upload completed video to University Google drive and provide access permissions to markers. Google converted video to a common format, allowing it to be viewed online by markers and downloaded for archival purposes . A link to this video is then submitted to the VLE through the standard assignment submission tool, allowing submissions to be effectively timestamped and supplementary files to be included.

Training and support provided: Students received training and support in video production techniques and received guidance on the technical aspects of the submission process. Submitting your video project to the VLE – guidance document

Formative assessment: Flexible student defined approaches including mobile app and / or manual upload to private journals

Languages for All, French / Japanese, student created audio files

Requirements: Flexible, private between student and tutor, simple and quick

Submission workflow(s): Students were provided with flexible options to either record audio on their mobile devices and upload through the Mobile app to a private journal in the VLE or record on a standard PC and upload the completed audio file in a separate process.

Training and support provided: students were provided with a comprehensive guidance document allowing them to choose their preferred option.

Additonal information:

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