Current generations of students are now arriving on campus with the expectation that their technologies will seamlessly interconnect with university services and support a flexible and personalised learning experience – engaging them in collaborative knowledge creation activities and developing their learning as producers of ‘content’ (Generation ‘C’). To what extent though does this reflect reality in terms of the way they are encouraged to learn? Indeed, how far has assessment design evolved to encourage students to employ technologies in a creative way to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and aptitudes?
Drawing on case studies from our respective institutions (Universities of York and Coventry), Martin Jenkins and I have contributed a chapter (Walker & Jenkins, 2019) to a new handbook on innovative assessment in higher education (Bryan & Clegg, 2019). This considers how we may use technology mediated approaches to provide learning opportunities for students in assessment activities – an ‘assessment as learning’ design approach. This places an emphasis on the development of students’ problem solving and self-regulation skills and capabilities for future learning through the performance of authentic tasks, with the learning component as important as the end product – i.e. the measurement of students’ learning.
The case studies that we reference look at the ways in which technology-enabled tasks have been successfully employed within the taught curriculum and range from individual to collaborative ‘assessment as learning’ activities, which seek to develop students’ creative capacities and digital skills through the demonstration of their learning. This includes design approaches for individual tasks, which have embedded social media and blogging skills development into the curriculum, providing students with hands-on ‘real world’ experience of digital communication to public and professional audiences. There are a number of good examples of this genre at the University of York – notably Global Literatures – a first-year undergraduate core English module – which introduced a public blogging exercise, requiring each student to make at least one blog post over the term using WordPress, demonstrating their understanding of critical terminology from the course materials. The Personal and Professional Practitioner core module for the MSc in Music Technology (Electronic Engineering) has similarly incorporated aspects of authentic / real world learning in its assessment design, requiring students to develop a public website with an active weekly blog to reflect on their learning and to create a LinkedIn profile to showcase their work and interests, which they used for professional networking and job finding.
Heritage Practice (Archaeology) at the University of York has taken the demonstration and dissemination of learning to a public audience a stage further – developing storytelling and creative media skills as part of an integrated group-based assessment design for a first-year undergraduate archaeology module in heritage practice. This has resulted in a diverse range of media outputs being developed by students, ranging from short films about a Mesolithic excavation site (Star Carr) to prototype mobile apps (Breary Banks) and a video game about the Roman site of Malton.
In the chapter we discuss the challenges of implementing these types of assessment activities, addressing the importance of the technology match to the desired use case (i.e. the task in hand), as well as the support that module leaders may need to introduce innovations to their existing assessment practices. With this context in mind we present planning tools that are intended to help module leaders with the identification of the target assessment mode and supporting technologies that will ably support an integrated ‘assessment as learning’ design.
Walker, R. & Jenkins, M. (2019): Designing engaging assessment through the use of social media and collaborative technologies. In C. Bryan K. Clegg (Eds.) Innovative Assessment in Higher Education: A Handbook for Academic Practitioners. (Link here