Digital Education team blog
  • We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance education at UCL.

    Here you'll find updates on institutional developments, projects we're involved in, updates on educational technology, events, case studies and personal experiences (or views!).

  • Subscribe to the Digital Education blog

  • Meta

  • Tags

  • A A A

    Archive for the 'e-Assessment' Category

    UCL 2034: Improving the ‘Student Experience’ with Digital Exams

    By Karen A M Shackleford-Cesare, on 6 April 2017

    Rationale

    One may argue that UCL students are over-assessed. But, regardless of your take on this, it stands to reason that where examinations are used to assess learning, it is worth investing in delivery systems that give students the best possible experience and outcomes. These systems could conceivably have the following aims, to:

    1. Improve the functionality, usability and accessibility of the questions on the exam
    2. Offer greater flexibility in terms of the time, place and resources needed to host an exam
    3. Improve the support given to both students sitting exams and the staff facilitating and/or grading them
    4. Potentially reduce the time between sitting some exams and obtaining results/feedback
    5. Potentially increase transparency in marking and confidence in the grades awarded
    6. Reduce potential for errors in marking and from transcribing/transferring marks
    7. Reduce the workloads of both academic and administrative staff
    8. Reduce costs around printing, transporting, securing and storing paper

    Acknowledging that assessment and feedback are ongoing areas of student concern, and that the Education Strategy commits us to addressing and resolving persistent challenges in this area (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/education-strategy), Brunel University’s approach to digitising some examinations is interesting.

    E-Assessment Management at Brunel

    Whereas UCL uses the quiz tool in Moodle for online exams, Brunel University has subscribed to a cloud-based digital exam platform called WISEflow for theirs. Like Turnitin this subscribed service can be linked to various VLEs including Moodle. In the case of Brunel, this happens to be Blackboard. Tutors create their quizzes/exams, which can be accessed indirectly via a link on a course page in their VLE or directly by logging into the secure WISEflow website.

    WISEflow-Select Login

    WISEflow provides tutors with 50 varied question types with quite sophisticated features allowing for different media to be embedded and for example, virtual tools, such as a ruler and a protractor to be used to measure the lines and angles of diagrams in questions. It also supports essay questions that allow a student to respond with a 1,000 to 3,000 word essay. This advantageous for exams in subjects such as law, history and literature, etc. WISEflow also has a number of features to ensure that student’s responses aren’t lost whilst being written.

    According to Niels Berg Conradsen of UNIwise,

    “WISEflow features a very robust lockdown browser module. It carries a text editor in the lockdown browser that also serves as a word processor. The students can structure their essay with headlines and even embed pictures from their webcam. Moreover, the student has a revision tool at their disposal, so they can revert the essay to former editions if they so desire”.

    This platform is sufficiently secure to support bring-your-own-device (BYOD) examinations. At a 1-day event at Brunel on March 17, 2017 attendees, (myself included), had an opportunity to hear positive feedback from Brunel’s staff and students about their experience using WISEflow, and to use it ourselves on our own devices.

    WISEflow enables tutors to create and manage digital exams, which they can assign to specific students. They can then mark the materials that the students submit in WISEflow. The marking tools are similar to those in the Moodle and Turnitin assignments. WISEflow can also be used for the submission of coursework.

    Benefits of digital exams generally for various stakeholders are listed below and may be also achieved with Moodle quizzes, (although in Moodle’s case additional software would be needed to lock the browser).

    Advantages for students:

    • It’s feasible for students to take exams remotely
    • No need to write long hand for hours (increasingly students may have little sustained handwriting practice)
    • It’s much easier to correct mistakes and make changes to responses on online exam scripts than on paper
    • It’s feasible for students to get feedback beyond just a grade on exams taken
    • Students may be able to get their results faster
    • It’s feasible to take the exam on a familiar device, their own laptop
    • Accessibility features easier to incorporate

    Advantages for tutors, administrators, invigilators:

    • Exam papers don’t have to be printed, packaged, secured and distributed to exam centres
    • No challenging handwriting to decipher
    • No paper scripts to collect, secure or transport
    • No scripts to store for the short to long term
    • Scripts can be printed as required
    • Tools exist for invigilators to monitor students’ progress through a paper they’re sitting
    • Tools exist for tutors to analyse students’ responses to each question
    • Easy to facilitate access to scripts by moderators, second markers and external examiners
    • The cost of a streamlined infrastructure for online exams may not exceed that of the current paper based examination system in place.

    Importantly, Brunel also benefited from the involvement and support of their Registry and Examinations Office in the launch of this project.

    What WISEflow can do for you…

    There are other Providers of Digital Examination Systems that may also be considered.

    Some Cons of Acquiring Another App

    This piece has highlighted many of the pros of acquiring specialist, purpose-built kit. However, some of the problems that would need to be addressed include:

    • Providing students with a “one-stop shop” for accessing their results and feedback. UCL has part sponsored the development of the MyFeedback tool in Moodle for this purpose but could it retrieve this data from a third party product?
    • Additional training and support needed
    • The integration of a new app with Moodle
    • Identifying and equipping enough rooms with adequate WiFi and power points to support BYOD
    • Adequate provision of suitable computer suites
    • Cost

    Cost Differentials

    It would be informative to compare the estimated cost of running paper-based exams with that of online exams. Instinctively, one may focus on the costs associated with the actually staging of an exam. By so doing, the paper option may seem much cheaper, if only because computing paraphernalia isn’t required. However, costs may start to even out when preparatory printing, storing and distribution expenses, (not to mention the man-hours needed), are taken into account. Plus, cost associated with moving, securing and storing hard-copy exam scripts.

    Where the computing infrastructure is exists for other purposes and would be present even if no online exams to use it, then one could argue in favour of discounting the cost it may otherwise present.

    Observations by Attendees

    See what others had to say:


    You said, we did

    By Jessica Gramp, on 22 March 2017

    A number of recommendations emerged from the E-Learning Reports developed in 2013 across the Bartlett, Engineering and Maths and Physical Sciences (BEAMS) departments. Here’s what you asked for and what the Digital Education Advisor for the faculty arranged in response, in collaboration with staff from across the Information Services Division.

     

    quoteYou wanted to import module timetable information from the Common Timetable into Moodle.
    We developed a Common Timetable iCal feed to import module timetables for displaying in the Moodle calendar.

     

    quoteYou wanted a simplified quiz creation process with guidelines and checklists for importing questions.
    We purchased the Moodle Word Table format plugin to help staff quickly develop quizzes with simple question types (not calculated or drag and drop) in Word, including those with images and LaTeX.

     

    quoteYou wanted us to run staff workshops and demos to increase knowledge of e-learning tools & their potential use.
    We ran workshops across the faculties and in individual departments catered to the needs of the departments.

     

    quoteYou wanted to simplify the process for exporting grades out of Moodle and into Portico.
    We imported the UCL student number into Moodle and added this column to the Moodle Gradebook export, simplifying the uploading of grades from Moodle into Portico. A video explaining how to move grades from Moodle to Portico is now available on the UCL E-Learning Wiki – a space for staff to share their e-learning practice:

     

    Bug in duplicated Moodle assignments

    By Rod Digges, on 8 December 2016

    We’ve recently come across a bug in Moodle (not Turnitin) assignments. The bug shows up when a blind marking/anonymous Moodle assignment that has been used and student identities revealed is then copied for re-use. The copy of the assignment will look from its settings like a blind marking/anonymous assignment but it will behave as if the ‘Reveal student identities’ link had been clicked and student names will be visible in both the grading interface and the course gradebook. The quickest way to check if a ‘blind marking/anonymous’ assignment is truly in an anonymous state is to click on its link and look for the presence of the ‘Reveal student identities’ link in the assignment’s settings block, if the link is there the assignment is anonymous.

    For the moment we advise that Moodle assignments are not created by duplication of old assignments but are created as completely new assignments.

    screenshot - assignment settings block

    Comparing Moodle Assignment and Turnitin for assessment criteria and feedback

    By Mira Vogel, on 8 November 2016

    Elodie Douarin (Lecturer in Economics, UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies) and I have been comparing how assessment criteria can be presented to engage a large cohort of students with feedback in Moodle Assignment and Turnitin Assignment (report now available). We took a mixed methods approach using questionnaire, focus group and student screencasts as they accessed their feedback and responded to our question prompts. Here are some our key findings.

    Spoiler – we didn’t get a clear steer over which technology is (currently) better – they have different advantages. Students said Moodle seemed “better-made” (which I take to relate to theming issues rather than software architecture ones) while the tutor appreciated the expanded range of feedback available in Moodle 3.1.

    Assessment criteria

    • Students need an opportunity to discuss, and ideally practice with, the criteria in advance, so that they and the assessors can reach a shared view of the standards by which their work will be assessed.
    • Students need to know that criteria exist and be supported to use them. Moodle Assignment is good for making rubrics salient, whereas Turnitin requires students to know to click an icon.
    • Students need support to benchmark their own work to the criteria. Moodle or Turnitin rubrics allow assessors to indicate which levels students have achieved. Moreover, Moodle allows a summary comment for each criterion.
    • Since students doubt that assessors refer to the criteria during marking, it is important to make the educational case for criteria (i.e. beyond grading) as a way of reaching a shared understanding about standards, for giving and receiving feedback, and for self/peer assessment.

    Feedback

    • The feedback comments most valued by students explain the issue, make links with the assessment criteria, and include advice about what students should do next.
    • Giving feedback digitally is legible and easily accessible from any web connected device.
    • Every mode of feedback should be conspicuously communicated to students and suggestions on how to cross-reference these different modes should be provided. Some thoughts should be given to ways to facilitate access to and interpretation of all the elements of feedback provided.
    • Students need to know that digital feedback exists and how to access it. A slideshow of screenshots would allow tutors to hide and unhide slides depending on which feedback aspects they are using.

    Effort

    • The more feedback is dispersed between different modes, the more effortful it is for students to relate it to their own work and thinking. Where more than one mode is used, there is a need to distinguish between the purpose and content of each kind of feedback, signpost their relationships, and communicate this to students. Turnitin offers some support for cross referencing between bubble comments and criteria.
    • It would be possible to ask students to indicate on their work which mode (out of a choice of possibilities) they would like assessors to use.
    • The submission of formative assessment produced with minimal effort may impose a disproportionate burden on markers, who are likely to be commenting on mistakes that students could have corrected easily by themselves. Shorter formative assessment, group works, clearer statements of the benefits of submitting formative work may all help limiting the incidence of low-effort submissions.
    • If individual summary comments have a lot in common, consider releasing them as general feedback for the cohort, spending the saved time on more student-specific comments instead. However, this needs to be signposted clearly to help students cross-reference with their individual feedback.
    • As a group, teaching teams can organise a hands-on session with Digital Education to explore Moodle Assignment and Turnitin from the perspectives of students, markers and administrators. This exposure will help immeasurably with designing efficient, considerate processes and workflows.
    • The kind of ‘community work’ referred to by Bloxham and colleagues (2015) would be an opportunity to reach shared understandings of the roles of students and markers with respect to criteria and feedback, which would in turn help to build confidence in the assessment process.

     

    Bloxham, S., den-Outer, B., Hudson, J., Price, M., 2015. Let’s stop the pretence of consistent marking: exploring the multiple limitations of assessment criteria. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 1–16. doi:10.1080/02602938.2015.1024607

     

    MyFeedback is now available to all UCL staff and students

    By Jessica Gramp, on 17 October 2016

    The MyFeedback dashboard is now available to all UCL students and staff.

    MyFeedback is a new tool in UCL Moodle allowing students to view grades and feedback for any assessed work across all their Moodle courses, in one place. Personal Tutors can view the dashboard for each student to allow them to track progress and to help to inform discussions in personal tutorials.

    Watch the video on how students can use the MyFeedback report:

    The report helps students (supported by their personal tutors) to better understand the variety of feedback they receive, draw ties between different assessments and modules, and allow them to reflect on their feedback to see how they can improve in future assessments. It also allows module tutors and assessors and departmental administrators to see how their students are progressing within the modules they teach and support.

    MyFeedback Feedback Comments tab

    ^ Click the image to view a larger version of the Feedback Comments page.

    MyFeedback is available to students, personal tutors, course tutors and departmental administrators.

    • Students can view feedback and grades from their assessments across all their UCL Moodle course. They can also add self-reflective notes and copy & paste feedback from Turnitin into their report.
    • Personal tutors can see their tutees’ full MyFeedback reports across all the modules their students are studying. Note: personal tutors will not be able to link through to assessments on courses they do not have tutor access to.
    • Module tutors can see MyFeedback reports for their students containing assessment information for any modules they teach. They will not see any assessments for modules they do not teach (unless they have been granted tutor access to those Moodle courses).
    • Departmental administrators can see MyFeedback reports for all the Moodle courses within categories where they have been assigned departmental administrator access in Moodle. Categories in Moodle will either be for the entire  department, or might be broken down further into undergraduate and postgraduate modules. Staff requiring this access will need to ask their department’s current category level course administrator to assign them this role.

    Sign up to the Arena Exchange MyFeedback workshop on 28th November 2016 to learn how to use this tool with your students.

    You can navigate to your own MyFeedback reports via the MyFeedback block on the UCL Moodle home page.

    Other institutions can download the plugin from Moodle.org.

    Find out more about MyFeedback…

     

    Understanding the essence(s) of portfolio-based learning

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 15 June 2016

    Last week saw the first ever joint AAEEBL and CRA conference, hosted in Edinburgh between 6th – 8th June 2016 whioch was titled, ‘Understanding the essence(s) of portfolio-based learning’. For those who don’t  know AAEEBL is a US based global portfolio organisation, it stands for the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence Based Learning. CRA is a very similar UK based organisation, with it’s name standing for the Centre for Recording Achievement. So, as you can imagine this was a portfolio conference.

    There were 3 key themes that emerged from the conference. These themes kept popping up in presentations and discussion :

    Scaffolding
    Process not product
    Cultural shift/ change

    Let’s look briefly at these themes below, but if you would like a more detailed look them please see the AAEEBL/ CRA Conference 2016 on my personal blog.

    The first theme,  scaffolding, refers to the importance of having structure around portfolio activities. This predominately broke down into conversations about templates and frameworks for guiding staff and students without restricting them. Templates can be useful for giving students a little bit of direction without restricting their creative freedom (depending on the content and detail of the template). They are also useful because, anecdotally, students can find it overwhelming to simply be given a blank space to do with as they please. A template gives students a starting place. In relation to frameworks this was mostly a discussion about their usefulness for staff, to help give them some scaffolding from which to build a portfolio activity into their module or course, either as a single assessment or as an on-going activity to support learning via reflective practice. It was thought that this framework should be fairly high level, meaning it was not too prescriptive and not software dependant.

    This actually leads quite nicely into the next theme, process not product. There was a strong emphasis on focusing on the process and pedagogy of portfolios and not the product (either meaning the final output or the technological product used to facilitate them). It is easy to become distracted by debating whether you are using the best online portfolio system. At the moment UCL use MyPortfolio, which is based on the Mahara platform. As good practice we will be reviewing the use of this platform in the near future, however whether we use Mahara, WordPress or Office 365 the process of running a successful portfolio is the same and the buttons are not as important as strong pedagogy.

    The final theme is perhaps the one that has the biggest impact for portfolio, especially online portfolio adoption at institutions, and that is the need for a cultural shift/ change. This is perhaps best summarised by an analogy that was used by Trent Batson (President/CEO of AAEEBL) at the conference. He was talking about the American automobile and how it took 35 years to become fully part of US culture. First they invented the automobile and it opened up a lot of possibilities, such as people being able to commute more easily for work. But even after this it still took time to build all the roads, parking spaces and petrol stations needed. The idea was proven but it took a lot longer for the infrastructure to become part of daily culture. It is fairly easy to see how this relates to portfolios. There are a number of case studies out there to prove their potential, however the infrastructure to support them is not fully part of the culture of universities. Portfolios tend to expose the learning process which can be an intimidating prospect for both students and staff a like. However, portfolios can offer a very useful reflective space where you can use journals to do written reflections, and also reflect whilst curating examples of work you have produced that you are going to include in your portfolio. Reflection gives us the ability to stop and think about our thinking, and to understand how we can do better moving forward.