Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: Edword

Some comments on “The future of assessment”

The Curriculum Framework Specification document, which provides detailed precepts and guidance for the design, development and review of all new courses at the University, contains UoP’s policy on assessment. The policy’s authors made a conscious choice to call it an Assessment For Learning Policy: the policy advocates assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning. As the policy states, assessment for learning enables a culture in which: 

  • students receive feedback from academics and peers that helps them to improve their work prior to final/summative assessments; 
  • students understand what successful work looks like for each task they are doing; 
  • students become more independent in their learning, taking part in peer and self-assessment; 
  • formative assessment is, where possible, aligned to the module summative assessment, in order to facilitate cyclical feedback opportunities which will clarify expectations and standards for the summative assignment (e.g. the student’s exam or portfolio submission).

As the University considers how to implement its new five-year strategy, however, and how to meet its ambitious vision for 2030, might we need to rethink assessment? Not rethink the approach of assessing for learning, but look again at some of the details of how we assess?

The changing nature of assessment over the coming five-year period happens to be the subject of a recent publication from JISC: The Future of Assessment: Five Principles, Five Targets for 2025. This report, the output of a day-long meeting held in 2019, identifies five key aspects of assessment and the role that technology can play. The report argues that assessment should be (in alphabetical order, not order of importance):

  • Accessible – taking an inclusive approach to assessment is the ethical thing to do, of course, but we now have a legal requirement to meet certain accessibility standards. Digital technology can certainly help with accessibility. Contact DCQE if you would like further advice in this area. 
  • Appropriately automated – it hardly needs to be said that marking and feedback, although crucial elements of the assessment process, is time consuming. Technology can help here, too. Technology can be used to automate the process and, if the assessment has been properly designed, students get the benefit of immediate feedback. Technology might also be used to improve the quality of feedback: in this regard TEL is currently exploring the Edword platform.   
  • Authentic – this is, I believe, a key area for the University to develop. How does it benefit students to make them sit down for three hours and hand write an essay under exam conditions? This doesn’t prepare them for the world beyond university. Surely it’s better to assess students’ ability to work in teams; display their knowledge in a realistic setting; use the digital skills they will undoubtedly need in the workplace?  
  • Continuous – in order to be successful in their chosen careers, our students will need to keep up with changes wrought by technology. So perhaps the most important skill we can teach our students is how to be independent, self-directed learners. An over-reliance on high-stakes, summative exams does not help. Of particular interest to me, in the JISC report, was the mention of using AI to personalise learning and assessment: the technology is not there yet, but it might come in the next few years. 
  • Secure – if we are going to assess a student then we need to know we are assessing the right student! For a long time the focus in HE has been on detecting and deterring plagiarism. Nowadays, though, we also face the threat of essay mills and contract cheating. Once again technology can play a role: data forensics, stylistic analysis tools and online proctoring platforms can help tackle the problem. Such tools are best used, however, in a culture that promotes academic integrity: we should use technology to help promote a sense of academic community rather than to “catch the bad guys”.

The five principles identified by the JISC working group seem to me to be realistic and practical. They are also, if I’m being honest, slightly unambitious. I think mixed-reality technology, for example, opens up many opportunities to develop assessment for learning. But perhaps that is more for a 2030 vision than a 2025 strategy.   

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Engaging students with online assessment feedback

An Exploration Project

Technology Enhanced Learning and Academic Development are leading an exploration project centered around engaging students with online assessment feedback. We’re specifically exploring an assessment platform called Edword.

It’s worth mentioning that we’re taking a more scientific approach to this project, you could almost imagine it as an education lab experiment. 

Academics and educational technologists within our team have evaluated the functionality and advanced workflows that Edword offers. We think that it offers some real tangible benefits to students and staff. The platform has been designed based on some pedagogically sound principles, that’s really what’s most exciting about it. I’ll demonstrate some examples of these in action later in this post.

It’s not enough that we’re excited about a new assessment tool though. We need to explore and test whether our students and staff actually do experience a benefit from using Edword when compared to one of our existing assessment platforms such as Turnitin or the Moodle assignment.

In order for me to explain what Edword allows us to do, I need to explain what’s missing from our existing assessment systems. 

Current feedback workflow

Turnitin / Moodle assignment

Assessment graded, student sees grade, end of workflow

When an online assignment is handed back to a student via Moodle or Turnitin students see their grade immediately, before they’ve had a chance to read any inline or summary  feedback added by their lecturer. The grade is often seen by students as the end point within their assessment, their grade is a students entry point to the next stage of their course. What we actually want students to engage with is the meaningful and constructive feedback their academics have produced for them. This will help students improve their next piece of work. Unfortunately many students don’t read their assessment feedback and miss out on the benefits to them.

Edword has a ‘lock grade’ feature which means students can’t see their grade until after they’ve read their feedback and potentially also submitted a reflection on how they will put their feedback into practise. In this way, Edword supports the feed forward model of good academic practise.

The Edword workflow looks more like this:

Edword workflow

Assignment is graded, student reads feedback, student writes reflection on feedback, student sees grade, student improves on next assignment

We also hope the feedback provided within Edword will be more engaging. Academics can enrich inline feedback with learning objects such as videos or H5P interactive learning objects. Rather than the flat text based feedback comments within Turnitin and Moodle, feedback in Edword helps students understand the mistakes they are making along with an immediate way to re-test their knowledge. The platform supports assessment for learning concepts.


A h5p learning activity embedded into assessment feedback for a student

A H5P interactive learning object within feedback in Edword

Edword records how long a student spends engaging with their feedback and allows students to rate the usefulness of the feedback they receive. These metrics are presented to staff as a way to evaluate how engaged students are and which feedback comments could be improved from a student perspective. 

We will make Edword available to staff and students during teaching block two with an on-boarding event for staff happening in early February. If you would like to take part in the project or ask some questions, please get in contact:

Mike Wilson

Ext. 3194

A video introduction to Edword can be found here

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