In eLearn, we have just reached the end of the exam period with our faculties intact (excuse the pun) and with very little drama (which is not normally the case). The sight of nervous students queuing up outside of Spinnaker for an exam inside a gym hall bought all those memories of dread I had experienced nearly 20 years ago flooding back.
When I think about how much has changed in the teaching landscape in terms of the integration of technology into teaching, as well as the diverse ways in which people attend university, I can’t help but feel this method of summative assessment is rather antiquated.
This could very easily turn into a blog about the nature of summative assessment, which I wrote far too many assignments about in 2004 as part of my teaching degree. I don’t want this to turn into a virtual trip down memory lane for myself but a means to highlight what is different and future possibilities.
The wonder of Turnitin
With my teacher hat firmly still on my head, I can’t be more positive about this technology when it comes to marking, having lived the late nights devoted to marking never ending piles of papers. True, it has its faults and the late nights may have merely been transferred from pen and paper to in front of a screen but it has so many facets designed to make the experience easier for both marker and student. You can’t help but feel its implementation has been a large forward step in the progression of assessment. Being able to customise and apply quickmarks across assignments prevents the numerous occasions “RTQ” would have to be written. The possibility of copy and pasting comments or highlighting text to directly link to aspects of a rubric are all seemingly small things that actually take hours when going through the work of 90 students and that is before you give personalised feedback that moves learning on.
The student gets a rich visual experience that can be accessed on any device and feedback is so easily obtainable/downloadable that it could only promote reflective practise. The hand-in process has changed dramatically with the long line outside of the faculty admin office with bound assignment in hand is a thing of the past and it can now be submitted in bed with a cuppa. Don’t get me wrong, you will still get students who will leave it till the last minute and those who perhaps have been a little too influenced by other sources within their writing but nevertheless a snapshot of this process in 2019 vastly differs from 2009 and is a world away from 1999. The same of which can’t be said for the end of year exam.
Quizzes – More than just for daytime tv
Perhaps it is slightly unfair to portray examinations at university to be solely desk based due to the increase in exams being carried out online using Moodle Quiz. The Quiz tool is far more powerful and robust than perhaps people realise. Yes you can use it to create multiple choice “pop quizzes” for the end of topic or to elicit prior conceptions at the start of something new but it can also be used to make 100 questioned essay-based behemoths which include a variety of different question types. Safe Exam Browser allows for it to be taken under true exam restrictions and the ease in which times and restrictions can be customised makes them far more accessible than its paper-based counterpart. Claro Reader software can be used to overlay colours and intuitively applies text-to-speech (dependant on how the exam has been written of course!). The possibility of including image or video within an exam assessment not only opens up a wealth of ways to question but leads me on to my next point.
The Audiovisual Essay
I was very fortunate to have witnessed a presentation from the inspiring Dr Catherine Grant who spoke about the concept The Audiovisual Essay in Film & Moving Image Studies. I would certainly recommend visiting the website, which explores the concept in great detail. There are some amazing examples and relevant research that has been undertaken about the subject. For those who are unfamiliar with this form it is essentially the expression of critical, analytical and theoretical work using the resources of audiovisuality (images/sound/video in montage) I begrudge trying to pigeon hole the genre further but it truly flies in the wind against sitting in a hall for 3 hours writing an English Literature exam. While it lends itself to creative, historical, visually rich courses and cannot be applied across the board, the premise of it being a “different” way to demonstrate understanding is valid.
This brings us back to assessment types and again perhaps explains the shift towards the greater emphasis on coursework-based assessment models. That in my eyes is a different debate, this blog is exploring whether sitting in hall to carry out an end of year assessment still has a place in modern university life. You have to question over their time in Higher Education, how many opportunities students get to sit at a desk for a considerable time and demonstrate their understanding in that way. Are we providing students with a rather unnatural medium by which to demonstrate their understanding? Does that in turn affect their ability to reach their true potential? Particularly as the end of year summative assessment the culmination of the blood, sweat and tears of their learning journey, do we not owe it to the learner to reassess the way we make this final assessment. The flip side of this is to give students more exam practice and opportunities but is this a direction where we want to go? To me that seems to be a practice that would be looking in the rear view mirror where I would argue we should have our eyes on the road ahead.