On the 21st April, Simon Davis and I attended the latest White Rose Learning Technologists’ Forum hosted by the Technology Enhanced Learning Team at York St John. This latest of the regular White Rose Forum meetings was all about the Jisc project on the Electronic Management of Assessment and Lisa Gray, the project lead, facilitated a workshop on the themes that have arisen from a landscape review of over 70 UK HE and FE institutions that took place in 2014. We were split into small groups of three or four people and asked to think about what we felt were the key challenges in relation to the Electronic Management of Assessment in our respective institutions. I worked with two learning technologists from the University of Sheffield and it wasn’t surprising to note that a lot of the challenges were shared among our institutions, such as:
- the lack of integration between different electronic systems;
- a need for more creativity in designing and setting assignments suitable for electronic submission and management;
- managing efficient workflows in terms of submission, marking and return of feedback across different departmental contexts;
- thinking about how to manage situations outside of the standard process, such as external markers, mitigating circumstances etc.
After we had considered some of the main challenges, Lisa outlined the four key priorities that have been chosen for the second phase of the project:
- An EMA Requirements Map
- Feedback Hub
- EMA systems integration web resource
- Assessment & Feedback Toolkit
We were split into three bigger groups to discuss the EMA Requirements Map, Feedback Hub and the Assessment & Feedback Toolkit. Simon and I were in the group tasked with discussing the Feedback Hub. The idea behind this is to explore the potential of a Jisc-funded tool that would allow an aggregated view of feedback and marks for the entirety of a student’s journey throughout college or university. The way Virtual Learning Environments such as Yorkshare or student record systems such as E-Vision currently operate mean that feedback and marks are usually kept at a modular or yearly level and are rarely considered in an overall, aggregated way – with much emphasis being placed on individual marks rather than qualitative feedback gathered over longer periods of time at the programme level. It was interesting to hear from those working in other institutions about how a Feedback Hub could be used. A member of staff from the medical school in Leeds highlighted how a tool like this could be very useful for her staff and students, as most students spend their time working in hospitals and their feedback is gathered via iPads, with medical practitioners assessing students in the field. If there was one tool where all of this feedback was stored, alongside marks and feedback from summative assessments, it would mean that assessment information could be accessed from one place by staff and would enable students to consider their own progress over time. The group all agreed that this aspect of a Feedback Hub would benefit most institutions and have a positive impact on assessment and feedback practices.
We also considered some of the drawbacks of a Feedback Hub, one of the main issues being that it would be another electronic system that staff and students would have to access independently of existing institutional systems. Another consideration was whether the assessments themselves would be uploaded/stored or even submitted via the feedback hub, otherwise a lot of the context of the feedback could be lost if it was not presented alongside the original assessment. I can personally see the benefits of such a tool allowing students and staff to be able to track progress at a programme level throughout their university life, and can see how it would allow for greater emphasis on feedback itself as opposed to numerical marks and feedback that is not necessarily constructive. I am certainly going to keep an eye on developments with this project, as it would be interesting to map those developments alongside existing practice here at York.
Further resources and information
Roisin, Dan and Phil from the TEL Team at York St John helpfully spread themselves across the three groups in the second part of the workshop, and have summarised their insights on the other two key priorities in their blog post. Their post includes the slides Lisa Gray used as part of her presentation, but you can also download them via the link below. There are also links to the EMA project website and blog, as well as the Effective Assessment in a Digital Age report by Jisc if you want to find out more about the project.
- Jisc EMA Slides presented by Lisa Gray
- Jisc EMA project website
- Jisc EMA blog
- Effective Assessment in a Digital Age