Assessment lies at the heart of the learning experience: how learners are assessed shapes their understanding of the curriculum and determines their ability to progress.
Jisc, effective assessment in a digital age
Assessment is an integral part of education and more than ever is being intertwined with technology. Jisc has spent over a decade examining improving student assessment, focusing on the drivers and issues that individuals, departments and institutions face and culminating in the recent publication of the research and outcomes within the full lifecycle of electronic management of assessment.
What and why
The primary people concerned with formative and summative assessment are teachers who need to assess their students and students who need to demonstrate their ability to the teacher.
Traditional methods of assessment are based around written work:
- Essay questions
- Short answer questions
- Multiple-choice questions
- Practical work
The above examples can offer satisfactory results but are restricted to what you are able to convey in written form and this can be limiting with little opportunity to add detailed context to the assessment activity.
"...effective assessment will reflect truthfully some combination of an individual’s abilities, achievement, skills and potential.”
Handbook of teaching and learning in higher education, Fry, Ketteridge and Marshall
The National Students Survey is one of the key indicators used to see how institutions are scoring against a range of key issues. One of the sections asks explicitly about ‘assessment and feedback’. The questions are shown below:
- Feedback on my work has been prompt
- I have received detailed comments on my work
- Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand
The average score for each of the above questions in 2014 was 72%, which shows no change from 2013 across the United Kingdom (see the survey for country by country breakdown) and indicates that there is still room for improvement for teaching staff to improve feedback and assessment methods.
Andrew Middleton, at Sheffield Hallam University describes the benefits of using audio for assessment in ‘Audio feedback timely media interventions’ as:
- Offering timeliness
- Contextual feedback
- Easy to do
- Easy to give to students and reusable (including student e-portfolios)
It should be clear to see that using digital media could be one potential tool to help address the current issues around assessment and the student experience. If digital media can help to improve student support then this could have a positive effect on their experience and thus improve future survey results.
A teacher may decide that the assessment activity instructions could be clearer, with the use of a guided on-screen tour made by using screencast techniques. A screencast can record audio descriptions and visualise any examples or detailed contextual instructions, to set clear expectations for the student. As a result, this should help to ensure that the students’ submissions meet the expected aims of the activity, as there were a clear set of guidelines for what was required of them.
Uses during assessment
Assessment activity can be broadly split into the following order, notwithstanding any digital media that is used to provide teaching and learning context ahead of an activity as part of flipped or blended learning:
- Setting an assessment task - The task may have digital media at its focus eg 'watch the provided video clip and provide a critique of the production values' or used for setting of the actual task itself to demonstrate what is expected of the student with use of a contextual video instruction. There are now a number of tools available to provide assessment directly within an online video. EduCanon, Edpuzzle and Ted-Ed allow for the insertion of questions at points within online videos from sites such as YouTube, TED, and Vimeo and then allowing for teachers to review student answers and provide feedback
- Submitting an assessment - The student may be asked to provide one or more digital media submissions such as a video of them performing the set activity e.g. a screencast with the student working through a math’s challenge with narration
- Providing feedback to student - The teacher uses audio or video to provide feedback to individual students and/or a group
Using digital media to provide feedback
There are a number of ways that the teacher may choose to provide feedback. The choice of technique will be based on considerations such as the type of feedback required and the way the feedback will be delivered to the student. MELSIG, which is a collective of self-organised academics and support staff, has been investigating the use of digital media for assessment since 2006 with funding from Jisc. The Media‐Enhanced Feedback case studies and methods document (pdf) by members of MELSIG provides a great overview of the perceived benefits, challenges and findings from several years of exploration.
Overall the projects report positive findings for both students and staff. VLE providers have also acknowledged the use of audio and video feedback by providing tools directly embedded within their platforms to enable academic staff to very simply record this feedback and share it with their students. Instructure Canvas is one such example and this news item highlights this media enhanced feedback
"Audio feedback can be defined as formative messages, recorded and distributed as digital audio given to individual students or student groups in response to both ongoing and submitted work, allowing each student to develop their knowledge and the way they learn".
Andrew Middleton, MELSIG member
The Jisc-funded Sounds Good: Quicker, better assessment using audio feedback project used audio feedback to deliver digital sound files containing feedback to students via a virtual learning environment, email and mobile devices such as widely-available MP3 players. The project had the involvement of 38 lecturers from four institutions who supplied audio feedback to at least 1,201 students at all educational levels, from foundation degree and first- year undergraduate to doctoral. The original project proved positive with students and staff from the four institutions still actively using audio feedback five years later.
The visual nature of video means that its use can be valuable for providing additional cues that add further context to audio feedback. The Jisc funded ASSET Project explored using video for video feedback provision and found it had a positive impact on students and teaching staff.
The final project report used focus groups and questionnaires to evaluate the use of video and states that 80% of students were happy for the lecturer to continue using video for feedback. The findings also demonstrated that the use of video changed how both students and staff thought about the planning and use of feedback.
“Through an institutional approach to project engagement we have been able to secure a positive response from a wide range of staff and students to the use of video for feedback provision. For example, staff have indicated that using video has made them think more, and in some cases differently, about the ways in which they deliver feedback to students to make it more useful and engaging”
Asset project report