Pushing at the boundaries
Tomorrow is the deadline for submission of assignments on one of my first year modules for trainee teachers specialising in ICT. So what? Well, this is the first module I have ever run in which there is absolutely no paper involved. I have in recent years gradually reduced the amount of handouts I have given out in lessons, so that almost all the courses I run are now delivered by a combination of lessons, discussions and digital spaces. I use wikis as a bulletin board and repository of key resources, and the discussion groups and collaborative spaces to conduct learning activities. Until recently, the university has always insisted on paper based assignments. But that is all changing. As from tomorrow, several modules will now be all online submission.
The advantages of this are clear. Students don't need to travel in to campus to submit their assignments. Using SCOLAR (our new in house developed online submission system), students will simply go online wherever they are, and send their assignment documents direct to a university server. They will receive a time and date stamped acknowledgement, and I will receive a notification that the assignments are ready for marking. They can update and revise their submission right up to the deadline if they wish. Wherever I am in the world, I then simply go online, mark the assignment, annotate and grade it, and my job is done. The students are subsequently notified that their grade and feedback are waiting for them, and they access these online in a similar fashion. We will see how well this works, and what benefits (and problems) it accrues as we pilot this system.
But in the meantime, an article from last month's Guardian Online Newspaper caught my eye. Entitled A Whole New World of Studying, the article showcases the work of one British academic, Russell Stannard, who videos the marking of his students' work. The Guardian says: '....he turns on his computer, records himself marking the work on-screen, then emails his students the video. When students open the video, they can hear Stannard's voice commentary as well as watch him going through the process of marking. The resulting feedback is more comprehensive than the more conventional notes scrawled in the margin, and Stannard, who works at the University of Westminster, now believes it has the potential to revolutionise distance learning.'
Stannard thinks video marking is perfect for distance learners, saying it brings them much closer to the teacher. 'They can listen, see and understand how the teacher is marking their piece, why specific comments have been made, and so on.' he says.
Whilst I am not as far down the road as Dr Stannard, I admire his vision and the edginess of his approach, and am considering using a similar approach next year, to push at the boundaries of my own practices.