Variation in approach across the institution
Research from our 2014 EMA landscape review1 showed that responsibility for assessment and feedback policy and procedure is often devolved to local level within institutions. This means that large institutions rarely have a single, institution-wide, business process for a given function.
Different faculties, schools, departments and programmes each have their own way of doing things.
But this variation can prevent you from achieving the efficiencies and benefits possible through EMA technology. Your organisation is likely to need a series of time-consuming and cumbersome workarounds to adapt your information systems to many different ways of carrying out the same activity.
Technology 'bolted on'
Participants in our research frequently commented on the extent to which new technologies are 'bolted on' to old processes without people really taking the time to stand back and consider what the process is really intended to achieve.
In some cases poor process design is due to lack of time and appropriate skills. During our assessment and feedback programme, academic staff voiced a concern that they often find themselves on a ‘treadmill’ due to poorly designed processes. Their workload is such that they can’t pause to think about doing things differently.
Academic staff also recognise that they don’t have the skills to undertake process review and redesign without more specialist support, yet they know that they can’t improve their pedagogy without better designed processes.
In other cases a significant part of the problem is the persistence of organisational myths surrounding policy and process. The tendency to do things the way they have always been done is perpetuated by a belief that this is somehow enshrined in policy.
But academics are often surprised to find that many characteristics of the process are matters of historic choice rather than regulatory issues. They are often surprised at how few regulations there actually are or how easy it is to make changes to perceived barriers in the regulatory frameworks.
Variation in how staff apply assessment policy across an institution is often down to such myths about what actually constitutes the policy in the first place.
Impact on student experience
Different approaches to carrying out the same task impact not only staff workload but also the student experience. For example one institution with capacity to accept e-submission of all written assignments noted the following variations:
- One faculty accepted e-submission for postgraduates only but then printed out the assignments for marking
- Some course teams were happy to accept and mark submissions electronically, but students were still required to submit a paper copy to meet the requirements of the coursework receipting system
- One department required students to hand in a hard copy for marking and also an electronic copy to be submitted through the plagiarism detection system
- 1 Ferrell, G. (2014) Electronic Management of Assessment: a landscape review - http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/5599/1/EMA_REPORT.pdf