Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Formally Launched: the BLE E-Book on Assessment, Feedback and Technology

Our new Open Access e-book provides valuable insight into the way technology can enhance assessment and feedback. It was launched formally on 26th October by Birkbeck’s Secretary Keith Harrison, with talks from the editors Leo Havemann (Birkbeck, University of London) and Sarah Sherman (BLE Consortium), three case study authors, and event sponsor Panopto.
Havemann, Leo; Sherman, Sarah (2017): Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury. London: Bloomsbury Learning Environment.
View and download from: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5315224.v1

The Book

Book cover page
The book is a result of a two-year project on e-assessment and feedback run by the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE), a collaboration between six institutions on issues around digital technology in Higher Education. It contains three research papers which capture snapshots of current practice, and 21 case studies from the BLE partner institutions and a little beyond.

The three papers focus on
  • the use of technology across the assessment lifecycle,
  • the roles played by administrative staff in assessment processes,
  • technology-supported assessment in distance learning.
The case studies are categorised under the headings:
  • alternative [assessment] tasks and formats,
  • students feeding back,
  • assessing at scale,
  • multimedia approaches, and
  • technical developments.
The 21 case studies report on examples of blogging, group assessment, peer, self and audiovisual feedback, on assessment in distance education, MOOCs and other online contexts, and on developments driven forward by Bloomsbury-based colleagues such as the My Feedback Report plugin for Moodle and the Coursework module.

Why you should read the e-book

BLE E-Book Launch Event
As one of the speakers at the entertaining launch event, I suggested three reasons why everybody involved in Higher Education should read this book, in particular the case studies:
  1. Processes in context:
    The case studies succinctly describe assessment and feedback processes in context, so you can quickly decide whether these processes are transferable to your own situation, and you will get a basic prompt on how implement the assessment/feedback process.
     
  2. Problems are highlighted:
    Some case studies don’t shy away from raising issues and difficulties, so you can judge for yourself whether these difficulties represent risks in your context, and how these risks can be managed.
     
  3. Practical tips:
    All case studies follow the same structure. If you are in a hurry, make sure to read at least the Take Away sections of each case study, which are full of tips and tricks, many of which apply to situations beyond the case study.
Overall, this collection of papers and case studies on assessment and feedback is easily digestible and contributes to an exchange of good practice.

View and Download the Book

The e-book is an Open Access publication freely available below.

For further information, see ble.ac.uk/ebook.html
and view author profiles at ble.ac.uk/ebook_contributors.html


A version of this article appeared on the UCL Digital Education blog.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Assessment, Feedback and Technology: a new open access book from the Bloomsbury Learning Environment

Sarah Sherman, BLE Service Manager, Bloomsbury Learning Environment @BLE1
Leo Havemann, Learning Technologist, Birkbeck, University of London @leohavemann

Assessment lies at the heart of formal learning, and therefore at the heart of our work as educational technology practitioners. For our students in higher education institutions throughout Bloomsbury and the wider sector, undertaking coursework typically involves the use of online services and software to research and produce digital documents which are then submitted via a virtual learning environment (in our case, Moodle). Increasingly, marking and feedback also takes place online. These changes to assessment practices have been brought about through dialogue, collaboration and investment of precious time by academics, administrative staff and learning technologists, and by and large, the results appear to be welcomed by both students and staff. Yet this is not the full story of the role technology already and potentially plays in assessment. Online submission and marking of digital documents represents a digitisation of offline practices, which brings various new affordances (and of course removes others), but is not necessarily transformative.

Student attainment and satisfaction are sector-wide concerns, leading to calls from influential agencies such as the HEA and Jisc to enhance and transform assessment practices. The Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) agreed in 2014 to focus the consortium’s shared activities on the ways in which learning technologies can enhance and support assessment and feedback. We wanted to gain an overview of current practices throughout Bloomsbury, and at the same time uncover and share examples of people making use of learning technologies in ways which go beyond the norm of digitised offline practice. Over the two subsequent academic years, we organised a programme of online and face-to-face events, conducted research, and collected case studies highlighting good practice.

In our experience, teaching staff often do not have much opportunity to find out what their peers are doing. Therefore, we have now published the written outputs of our enhancement theme as a freely available, open access ebook entitled Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury. The ebook contains three research papers, which capture macro-level snapshots of current practice across the BLE partner institutions, as well as a wide range of pedagogic and technical case studies. These chapters have been contributed by academics, learning technologists, administrators and consultants, bringing a variety of perspectives to the topic. In developing this collection, our aim is therefore to offer an overview of current assessment practices, and hopefully some inspiration and ideas for making better use of technology.

The research presented in the first three chapters of the book include specific examples of practice at the BLE partner institutions from which broad recommendations have been drawn to help inform wider practice. These papers focus on:
1.  The use of technology across the assessment lifecycle
2.  The roles played by administrative staff in assessment processes
3.  Technology-supported assessment in distance learning

The first chapter introduces the assessment lifecycle model, developed by Manchester Metropolitan University and Jisc, which helps to contextualise the Bloomsbury landscape. The chapter was prompted by a wide-ranging survey conducted at each partner member to gauge how assessment practices were delivered and supported with technology. The second chapter offers administrative perspectives of the processes involved in assessment, and the research provides insight into how course administrators manage their responsibility in the workflow. We explore their pain points and consider improvements. Finally, the third chapter describes the assessment and feedback practices in the Bloomsbury programmes which offer distance learning (DL). Although it specifically considered DL, the findings and recommendations in this chapter are applicable for all teaching models.

The subsequent chapters are case studies of digital assessment and feedback practices, which operate at the micro-level of specific modules, offering an understanding of the pedagogy underlying the adoption of particular tools, and the associated benefits and challenges. The practice described does not simply replicate standard offline practices in a digital way, but extends the role of assessment and feedback. The case studies are categorised into five themes:
  • Alternative Tasks and Formats
  • Students Feeding Back
  • Assessing at Scale
  • Multimedia Approaches
  • Technical Developments

The final section contains three case studies of technical developments, which have been undertaken locally to support or enhance aspects of practice. The book acknowledges the inspiring work of our colleagues but also contributes to the wider discussion in the education community regarding improvements to assessment and feedback. Most of all, we hope this collection will be of interest to academics throughout Bloomsbury and beyond who are curious to learn about and develop new assessment approaches.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

ALT-C 2017, Building #CMALT Community – Empowerment in Learning Technology

With thanks to Susan Greig from the University of Edinburgh for this guest post

Last month I was privileged to attend the 24th Annual Conference of the Association for Learning Technology (#ALTC) from the 5 – 7 September 2017 at the University of Liverpool. The conference title was “Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al)” and I was particularly keen to go when I realised there was a theme on:
“Empowerment in Learning Technology: supporting students through staff/student partnerships, students as influencers, developing skills and supporting staff at all levels.”
As I’m currently running a scheme at the University of Edinburgh to support staff through their Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) I was particularly excited about this theme and was keen to connect with others involved in professional development for staff involved with learning technology.
I’m a slow burner when it comes to reflection, it takes me a while to assimilate an experience and make connections with my existing practice – (I’ve not yet mastered pithy live tweeting) – instead producing an essay a month after the event! But in my defense, ALT C does takes some time to process, it is a very large conference, with 450 participants and multiple streams of activity and it takes place over three packed days. Last year I attended the conference virtually, and blogged about this afterwards. This year I feel lucky that I can compare this to the experience of attending in person.

Planning – a peak behind the scenes

In hindsight my ALT C 17 had actually begun back in Nov 16, as I volunteered to be part of the conference committee. I’d highly recommend volunteering for this role, it didn’t take up too much time and I really enjoyed watching the conference come together through the online planning meetings, promoting the conference, reviewing submissions and chairing a session at the conference. It’s a great way to meet people, and knowing a few more people (even virtually) before you arrive, does make 450 sound a little less daunting! Maren Deepwell wrote a great post recently about putting together the conference, which is the largest event that ALT run each year, and about how she and her team works with the ALT community to make it happen.

Collaborating

In March 2017, I submitted a proposal, with my co-presenter Sarah Sherman, for a talk entitled The CMALT “Zumba Class”: managing a cohort scheme for CMALT applicants to build institutional capacity for learning technology.Sarah had advised me when I was planning the University of Edinburgh CMALT scheme that I run, which is now in its second year. She kindly answered all my questions about how her scheme was set up and shared her planning documents with me. I asked if she had already presented about the scheme anywhere and when Sarah said she hadn’t, we decided to present together when a suitable opportunity came up. When we saw the themes for ALT 17, we both emailed each other saying this looked like the right place. We made good use of google tools to collaborate – meeting in hangouts using docs to write the proposal together (and were very pleased when this was accepted) and later putting a presentation together in Slides.

Presenting the CMALT “Zumba Class”

I was really excited to be presenting at ALT C for the first time, not least because my institution looks much more favourably on applications to attend conferences that you are presenting at, and I was really pleased that I was approved to attend. It altered my experience attending the conference as a presenter, I found it much less abstract watching other people present when you know you’ll be up there doing the same thing at some point during the conference! Regardless of my nerves, I really enjoyed giving the presentation and I think despite having not met until the day before, that Sarah & I did a great double act. It was valuable to devote time to really thinking about a piece of work that I was very close to, drawing out the key things I had learned and working with Sarah to distil them into an engaging 20 minute presentation. Sarah was also very organised and wrote this great blog about our presentation before we gave it. The audience was great, most of them were already involved in supporting CMALT or planning similar schemes and they asked excellent questions. Sarah and I started lots of interesting conversations which I am still following up. How often do you get the chance to tell a room full of people about a piece of work you are really excited about and that they are also really excited about too?
Susan GreigSarah Sherman

Beyond islands – meeting my people

Attending the conference in person was really valuable, I finally got to meet people whose work I had read and several people I’d worked with on the CMALT project, but never met in person, such as the wonderfully efficient Thomas Palmer of ALT who I have so many correspondences with over email. After so much online communication, it was a pleasure to finally meet my co-presenter Sarah Sherman and Julie Voce who runs a CMALT scheme at City University of London and who also advised me when I was getting started.
A surprising extra insight for me was the experience of staying in student halls, these were clean with good facilities and not unlike a hotel, though I found navigating round the various parts of the building (and the University Campus) somewhat disorienting. The conference took place the week before the start of semester so I found myself wondering what the next year would be like for the students soon to be resident in these rooms, many from the other side of the world as Liverpool like the University of Edinburgh has a high number of International students. As a member of professional services staff, I am somewhat removed from our students, and anything that gives me a little more insight into ‘the student experience’ can only be a good thing!
When attending a large conference, you need to be selective and decide in advance what areas of interest you are planning on following up. This was where being part of the conference committee was a good influence, because it encouraged me to read the programme in advance, so I could decide which session to volunteer to chair, and as the same time I also planned out my own days of activity. I had meant to be gentle with myself and plan in some down time, but found myself running from session to session as there were so many interesting and relevant sessions, and the three days suddenly felt too short. Across the conference I attended 18 sessions and one Special Interest Group (SIG) – ALT Scotland, co-presented one paper, chaired a session and attended the awards ceremony (always inspiring) and very enjoyable conference meal. I arrived back at work with a copious collection of notes, bundle of leaflets and fist full of business cards. A head buzzing with ideas for our CMALT cohort and a fresh burst of energy for my work.
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Written by Susan Greig
I run the University of Edinburgh scheme to support staff to become Certified Members of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT). I advise on Social Media tools for Learning and Teaching and support the excellent open course 23 Things for Digital Knowledge. I’m interested in Open Educational Resources (OERs).

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

BLE contributes to sector-wide conversation on technology in assessment

Educators will now have a valuable insight into the way technology can enhance assessment and feedback thanks to a new e-book from the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE).

Sarah Sherman of the BLE Consortium and Leo Havemann of Birkbeck, University of London, have co-edited the e-book which explores the findings of a wide ranging two-year research and dissemination project. The project focused on the ways in which technology improves the assessment and feedback process, feeding into the education sector’s widening conversation about the use of technology.

The e-book contains three research papers which capture snapshots of current practice and include specific examples of practice at the BLE partner institutions from which broad recommendations have been drawn to help inform wider practice. These papers focus on:
  • The use of technology across the assessment lifecycle
  • The roles played by administrative staff in assessment processes
  • Technology-supported assessment in distance learning

The e-book also contains 21 case studies of digital assessment and feedback practices from across the consortium to give insight into the adoption of particular tools, and the associated benefits and challenges. These are complimented by three further case studies outlining technical development, which have been undertaken locally to support or enhance aspects of practice.

Sarah Sherman, BLE Service Manager, said: “We are delighted to have published the results of this excellent joint research project conducted between the BLE and its partners. We believe this research will provide extensive insight into how new technologies can help to build upon current practices of assessment and feedback.”

The e-book will be formally launched at a special event on Thursday 26th October, but is now available for download from www.ble.ac.uk/ebook. Further information about the project can be found on www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/assessment

Saturday, 9 September 2017

BLE Digital Student Survey 2017

Over the summer – in collaboration with Moira Wright, UCL’s Digital Capabilities Officer – we pulled together a detailed report summarising the findings from the BLE Digital Student Survey. The survey, which feeds into Jisc’s national student tracker research, was conducted in March and asked students about their experiences using and accessing digital tools and materials to support their learning. The findings will be of particular interest to colleagues in TEL/e-learning, learning support, IT Services, Library and Careers services.

The report can be downloaded from the BLE website, here: http://www.ble.ac.uk/projects