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.

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Anonymous said…
Very interesting to hear about Russell Stannard's video feedback. At the recent Podcasting for Pedagogical Purpose event in Glasgow there was a lot of talk about audio feedback. Students at the event were pretty positive about getting audio feedback from their tutors on their assignments, they found it much more personal. As face to face students audio feedback worked well for them but I can see that video feedback could be very effective for distance learners.
All the best with your new online assignment submission system.
Anonymous said…
I've bookmarked this blog entry Steve - as 'evidence'. This is just in case I'm in a spot of trouble for my way of teaching my students. The 'evidence' I need is that higher education is moving away from traditional delivery and assessment - so why shouldn't I?

I had to complete a departmental monitoring form today. It required answers to questions like: Do you check students’ folders and work regularly, what evidence do you have that adequate marking is taking place? Somewhat difficult for me to answer really, because all my course notes and other resources are on a blog or a wiki, and students only print off copies if they wish. They don't. So, do I check their folders? No, because they don't keep one, they use my blog as a content and learning resource. Do I check their folders to ensure that homework, tests and other pieces of work like essays are filed? Again, no, because they don't have one. They either email work to me, or send them via Google docs. I mark them in digital format and return them without printing off. So, their work sits corrected in a digital folder, either in their local area or in the cloud.

Access to these, by them, myself or SLT is easy - and easy to assess as well, whether the marking is sufficient or not. Whether that will suffice is yet to be seen - after my monitoring form has been read. But I'm still keeping this piece as 'evidence' that I think what I'm doing is okay. Better still, the students prefer it, as their work has never been more organised nor more easily reviewed.

Audio feedback will definitely be something I try next.
Steve Wheeler said…
The times, they are a changing. The universities and external examiners must get with the programme and stop insisting on 'the right way to do things'. There are many ways now to assess, keep records, etc., and many of them are paperless. It will be a slow and painful process no doubt, but we will get there. Here's to a digital revolution!
Anne Marie said…
I had a great chat with @msars and @cathellis about online marking on Sunday afternoon. Cath uses the Gradebook part of Turnitin to give feedback to students and has developed rubrics to help. She promises to blog more about this soon!

I have about 20 people marking 300 pieces of work of 3500 words. They're all doctors and many have poor handwriting so most have been convinced to type feedback into an excel spreadsheet but we still have a few who resist this or find they are just doing it at the last minute.

In final year my colleagues have started using eportfolios which have full electronic submission and feedback.
There are of course a few hiccups. This system is outside of Blackboard and there are plans to tweak it and roll it out further in the course.

Inspired by @lindseyjordan (http://twitter.com/lindsayjordan/status/1827808429), this year I am going to set up a Turnitin assignment to get feedback from the students on their feedback. I moderate all marking so try to do this myself at the moment but I think direct feedback from students will be really useful and will help us to help them.

I'm not so sure about the audio and video feedback. A step to far at the moment perhaps but maybe in the future.

Good luck!
Anne Marie
Paul Richardson said…
This article caught my eye too. It's a really interesting approach, and definitely worth trying. I am thinking of approaching this step-wise, by introducing an audio element first, bearing in mind the hints and guidelines which have emerged from the JISC's SoundsGood project.

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