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Tutor’s experience of using UCL Reflect with students

Karen A MShackleford-Cesare12 February 2020

About Reflect and its User Group

Reflect, UCL’s educational blogging platform, has now had its first birthday and the Digital Education team are delighted that staff from across UCL have enthusiastically taken up the challenge of asking their students to blog, or produce other kinds of online assessment on Reflect.

Digital Education initiated the Reflect User Group (RUG) with its first face-to-face event on Thu December 12th, 2019 from 2-4PM. It was an informal ‘show ‘n tell’ opportunity for staff users of Reflect to compare and contrast their experience of using this tool in their teaching practice. Curious non-users were also welcome as we sought to expand its use to enhance teaching and learning.

We had intended to have the first RUG event in the Spring term, but Reflect user and Russian tutor in SSEES, Maria Sibiryakova asked us to step on the gas (accelerator) to make it happen sooner rather than later. She was very keen to meet fellow Reflect users, exchange ideas and learn of/from their experience and practice.

The tutor experiences showcased

The event showcased the experience of four teaching colleagues who used Reflect in the following ways (click on the bar for more):

  • “Reflect as a portfolio tool” –

    Ros Walford, Lecturer and Maria HadjisoterisSenior Teaching Fellow, IoE

    Reasons for use

    • For students to develop a reflective e-portfolio of their practice whilst on placement
    • To facilitate more "back and forth" between teacher and student than was possible with the paper-based portfolio because it can be accessed online at any time.
    • To eliminate the administrative overhead that managing paper binders incurred.

    Outcomes

    • A template was designed that had all the required sections and included guidance to students on adding content. Hence, each student received the same portfolio structure.
    • Self-instructional video was created to get students up and running with their portfolio, which was effective and reduced the need for face-to-face sessions.

  • "Portfolio assessment using the Reflect platform" –

    Hilary McQueen, Lecturer, IoE

    Reasons for use

    • For students to develop a reflective e-portfolio of their practice whilst on placement
    • To facilitate more "back and forth" between teacher/mentor and student than was possible with the paper-based portfolio because it can be accessed online at any time.
    • To eliminate the administrative overhead that managing paper binders incurred.

    Outcomes

    • A template was designed that had all the required sections and included guidance to students on adding content. Hence, each student received the same portfolio structure.
    • The portfolio template has tabs that usefully break down the requirements for students.
    • It was possible to facilitate access to students e-portfolios by non-UCL staff mentors in the schools where UCL students were doing their placements.

    Wish list

    • A way to check progress – some kind of automatic system that shows what has been done and what is new, and ideally what has been checked as we have to keep separate records, which is very time consuming.

    What I would do differently

    • I would create a table for the observation form and insert ready for use.
    • We would book a computer room and go through how to use Reflect.
    • I would introduce Reflect (now I know how to use it) and ensure that other staff members were there, too.
    • Have a test blog that everyone could add something to (say), just to practice.
  • “Reflect for science blog assessments and showcase portfolios” –

    Nephtali Marina-Gonzalez, Principal Teaching Fellow, Medical Sciences 

    Reasons for use

    • The Department wanted to replace of traditional assessment methods with coursework activities designed to engage students in the research carried out in the Division of Medicine inline with the aims of the Connected Curriculum.
    • To give Year 1 students an opportunity to create a public-facing output that showcased the research done at UCL and their understanding of it in terms suited for a lay audience. 

    Outcomes

    • Students found this activity more engaging that last year’s traditional single answer question (SAQ) exam and general feedback from the students was very positive.
    • There was a significant increase in marks for their blogs across the board relative to past exam grades, (namely, 71.4 +/- 6.1 blogs vs 56.1 +/-15 SAQ). 
    • Students were able to appreciate the importance of broad public engagement to their learning process. One student said:
    “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it”.

    For Neph's 5 top tips more about his experience with Reflect peruse his case study and interview

    Wish list

    • Better marking tools that were integrated with Moodle.

    What I'd do differently

    • Give the students several examples of what is expected of them.
    • Invite UCL's Copyright officer to give a lecture to on copyright issues.
    • Utilise the Open tool kit for students that Digital Education's Leo Havemann and Samantha Ahern are developing.
    • Students found communicating scientific concepts in lay terms particularly challenging so the target audience of the blogs will be adjusted according to the level of expertise of the students.
    • Build on our use of Reflect to have our students use it to create a 'showcase portfolio' that will trace their progress and achievement throughout their degree.
  • “The Use of Blogs in Developing Writing Skills in Russian” –

    Maria Sibiryakova, Senior Teaching Fellow, SSEES

    Reasons for use

    • For students to create a language portfolio, which serves as an ipsative form of assessment. They contribute to it regularly and can get feedback from peers and externals as well as their tutor that feeds forwards into their next post.
    • To motivate students  to write more in Russian by:
      • Providing an external audience for their work, not just their tutor
      • Enabling them to see and comment on each other's work – peer review
    • To prompt students to take responsibility for what they write both the:
      • Content they create
      • Language they use

    Outcomes

    • Students were less likely to submit a draft
    • This new form of assessment was as effective as traditional methods, e.g. exams
    • Students developed transferrable digital skills through their use of WordPress

    Wish list

    • Ability for students to see the number of views their posts have had
    • Would like Reflect to have more support for marking
    • To eliminate the need for Turnitin, Plagiarism as a trust issue

    What I'd do differently

    • Incorporate training on academic integrity
    • Include a copyright statement and seek guidance/support from the UCL library.

    For more view Maria's presentation slides.

     

Reflect user support

Krystyna Huszcza, Senior IT Trainer, Digital Education, ISD 

Runs a hands-on workshop at basic/introductory level at least twice per term that is open to all staff and students. No prerequisites are required beyond an assumed comfort level with using word processors and browsers. The course description is presented below and you can find and book a place on the next workshop on the Digital Skills Development at IOE – Course Bookings page.

[Note: Staff wanting to arrange demonstrations or hand-on training for their students (and/or colleagues) at specific times should email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk].

Blogging/WordPress: Blogging with Reflect (WordPress-based)

UCL Reflect is UCL’s new educational blogging service allowing students and staff to use blogging for teaching and learning. It is in fact a WordPress platform called CampusPress which offers access to many WordPress themes and plug-ins. See: UCL Blogging Service for more information about the Reflect service.

Individual blogs can be requested by staff or students. Teachers can request a Class blog to use with their students in teaching or for assessment. To request a Reflect blog please use the online form available from our wiki page: Requesting a blog

This introductory session will focus on the basics of working with an individual blog and aims to build your confidence for posting blogs and managing your account. It assumes you have very little or no previous WordPress experience. The session will cover many of the basics skills, introduce you to one or two advanced tools/features and point you in the right direction for further training and resources. Topics covered will include:

  • Navigating Reflect
  • Creating posts
  • Formatting text
  • Working with images
  • Scheduling a time to publish posts and reverting to draft status
  • Versions
  • Categories and Tags
  • Themes
  • Widgets in sidebar
  • Pages and Menus
  • What are plugins?
  • Privacy
  • Useful settings and customisations

EARLY BOOKINGS REQUIRED: Please note that bookings for this course are only open until 4 days prior to the course to allow for time for a UCL Reflect blog to be created for you to use in the training session.

If you wish to create a Reflect blog well in advance of the session you may request one by completing the online form found on UCL's Reflect wiki page: Requesting a blog.

One of the things we had hoped to have time for at the meeting was to discuss how the RUG can be most useful to members. Although due to lively Q&A, we didn’t end up getting to that topic, we still want to hear your views on this. Hence, please let us know via our online form. All in all, we think the format of this meeting worked well and we intend to repeat it in the next few months.

Looking forward to the next User Group meeting, we are hoping once again to hear from staff with a range of use-cases for Reflect. Issues which we know people are working on include assessment criteria for Reflect blogs and sites, doing group work on Reflect, and comparing Reflect with MyPortfolio. Of course, if you would like to speak, or hear about particular things please complete this online form, we’ll be notified and get in touch.

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

Karen A MShackleford-Cesare6 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:


Introducing Karen Shackleford-Cesare of Digital Education Services

Karen A MShackleford-Cesare13 January 2017

Karen headshot 11-JUN-16Karen is a member the Digital Education Services team. She joined UCL in December 2016 from the University of Roehampton. She, along with other members of her current team, supports and advises on the use of a range of technologies including the University’s core learning and teaching applications namely, Moodle, Turnitin and MyPortfolio. From February 2017 she will act as service lead for the latter two.

Her professional interests include student motivation and engagement, e-assessment, (including peer and ipsative assessment and feedback data analysis). Also, improving the usability of, and productivity gains from learning technologies.

Karen is a Fellow of the HEA and also has experience of being an academic having been a lecturer in Management Information Systems at the University of the West Indies, teaching undergraduates in both face-to-face and distance modes. Although, she acknowledges that learning technologies may not be able to compete with the “pulling power” of an academics’ infectious enthusiasm for their subject to motivate students, she is confident that used strategically they can disrupt and transform both learning and teaching in HE. Hence, Karen is keen to work with UCL academics and colleagues to prove it.