Dr Catherine Flick, Senior Lecturer in Computing and Social Responsibility, teaches IMAT2704 Introduction to Research and Ethics. This 15 credit module helps to prepare second year Business Computing students ahead of their final project year.

Previously, the module was taught over the entire second year but this led to students becoming disengaged as the structure of the module, the amount of written work that was required and the group work activities were not conducive to being taught over a whole year. Ahead of the 2014/15 academic year Catherine was asked to consider compressing the module with a view to delivering Introduction to Research and Ethics in semester two only. This, along with Catherine’s Professional Development plans catalysed a review of the assessment approaches on Introduction to Research and Ethics with favourable results.

Project Lead
Dr Catherine Flick
School of Computer Science and Informatics
Faculty of Technology
Objectives and Approach
Catherine, who has recently achieved the PGCertHE with De Montfort University, produced a review of the assessment techniques on Introduction to Research and Ethics as part of her PGCertHE work. Taking inspiration from this she set about making the assessment activities more engaging and meaningful within the newly compressed Introduction to Research and Ethics module.

Prior to the changes, students studying Introduction to Research and Ethics were split into groups for the year. Each group would pick a topic to work with during the tutorials throughout the module. This would culminate in an assessed group presentation toward the end of the year.

Catherine felt that having this group work span the entire year laboured the point a little and wanted the students to focus on working as individuals whilst retaining a collaborative element. The first change that Catherine made was to change the format of the final submission to a short (no longer than 5 minutes) individual video that demonstrates the students understanding of their topic and the application of the module’s learning outcomes in context of their chosen topic.

Catherine then started to think about how the module could be made more engaging and valuable and thinking about the concepts that had been covered as part of the PGCertHE, Catherine started to explore the notion of peer marking with a view to plugging this technique into the module’s assessment activities to provide a collaborative and reflective aspect to the assessment components.

Alongside the final submission, a second assessment component on the module is the production of an annotated bibliography and following a conversation with the ELT Project Officer Catherine set about introducing a peer marking element into both the final video submission and the annotated bibliography components.

A third assessment component (a Literature Review) remains unchanged and still provides an opportunity for students to begin to develop their writing skills without over-burdening them in this area.

Before making the changes to the annotated bibliography and final submission components, Catherine explored the various platforms that might support this new approach and she also consulted with the Programme Leader and Subject Group Leader in order to garner support for the proposed changes.

For the annotated bibliography, Catherine decided to use the TurnItIn PeerMark tool and with some support from the ELT Project Officer Catherine was able to set this up and ensure that the students were versed in using the system in order to achieve the learning outcomes. TurnItIn provided a challenge in that it displays an image of the submitted annotated bibliography for peer marking and therefore students were required to re-type references when checking rather than being able to copy and paste but this was the only technical issue that was experienced.

Video portal screen grab

Video portal screen grab

However, peer marking the 5 minute video submissions provided a new challenge but Catherine, an accomplished programmer, had the answer. After a number of conversations about the potential use of YouTube and other technologies that are available at DMU, Catherine decided to put her programming skills to use by developing an online portal for specific use on Introduction to Research and Ethics. Students were given the option to use a platform of their choice to store/host their videos and once all of the videos were completed, Catherine uploaded them into her own portal ready for peer marking. As the portal was developed by Catherine and for specific use on this module it is tailored to suit the exact needs of the students when peer marking the video submissions.

In practice, Catherine introduced the students to the concept of peer marking in the first week of the module and although some expressed concerns and reservations, after dedicating a whole tutorial to helping the students to understand why peer marking might be valuable, what is expected of them and showing them how to use the TurnItIn system as well as Catherine’s video portal the students agreed that they would embrace this method of assessment.

The first peer marking exercise involved the annotated bibliography, students were required to peer mark two of their colleague’s submissions and also reflect on their own work following the peer marking activity. TurnItIn was set up to allow two anonymous reviews of each submission and students were asked to review two of their colleague’s submissions. The actual peer marking began as part of a timetabled tutorial when the students were all due to be on campus rather than whilst away from DMU – this approach enabled Catherine to deal with any questions as the peer marking activity was taking place and worked well. Students were then able to complete the peer marking outside the class if they needed more time, with Catherine available via email support.

Students who didn’t engage with the peer marking at all were not awarded any marks for this component. Catherine reviewed the comments made by the students who did engage along with their reflective statements and graded the peer marking comments as well as providing feedback.

The students then moved to the production of their video for final submission. As mentioned, this replaced a group presentation component but not only did Catherine want to change the format she also built the peer marking approach into this component too.

As with the annotated bibliography, Catherine gave support and advice to the students and this included a small number of technical questions but the students engaged with the video production positively and they were very creative in the mixture of approaches taken. Some students made a traditional video using a camera whereas others used online animation tools such as PowToon.

Catherine ensured that each of the students had been set up with an account on her new video portal and the students were invited to log in and peer mark each other’s videos along with making a reflective statement within the confines of the new video portal.

Once all of the videos were submitted, peer marked and all of the reflective statements had been produced; Catherine followed the process of reviewing the peer marking comments and awarding grades based on the peer marking and reflective statements.

Following the changes that were made to IMAT2704 Introduction to Research and Ethics for 2014/15 Catherine has ensured that the work done has been evaluated and a large part of this evaluation involved gathering feedback from the students.

With regard to the changes, students have been very positive and comments such as the following are commonplace when reviewing the feedback.

In response to the module feedback question “What have you most liked about this module?”

This has been a fantastic module to learn, I have learnt so much in a very short amount of time. The new forms of teaching and the idea of marking was incredible and helped me get a better understanding of my work.

The aspect I liked about this module was how we did an annotated bibliography before the literature review to gather appropriate and good quality sources. From doing this it helps the literature review better.

I really liked making the video, it allowed me to express myself creatively in a way that I have never done before.

I liked being able to peer mark all of the videos as it was interesting to see the different ideas people came up with to present their ideas.

When asked what might enhance this module, students responded.

I think giving students the option of doing a presentation instead of or as well as a video would be useful.

More creativity like the video instead of the literature review.

The module is really good as it is, I can’t think of any way in which I would enhance it.

In the free text comments, students commented.

Even though my group was (kind of) the guinea pigs for peer marking it actually worked out well once we all understood what was required. It was very interesting to see other students work and see how it compares to my own.

I have really enjoyed this module from start to finish and it has provided me with a set of skills that will not only be useful in the final year, but also in employment after university.

Future Developments
Catherine is now intending to continue with the peer marking activities and the video submission on Introduction to Research and Ethics. She will be using exemplar videos from 2014/15 to ensure that the next cohort of students is clear regarding the expectations and the peer marking approach.

On reflection, Catherine will be taking on board the student comments and it has been clear in 2014/15 how important the support that Catherine has provided is in making this approach work for the students.

In summary, although Catherine has invested a lot of time in to setting up the video portal and supporting the students; this has been rewarded through higher achievement on the module, positive feedback from the students and positive feedback from the External Examiner.

[The External Examiner] commended Dr Catherine Flick’s use of peer marking as good practice, noting that it led to good student engagement and results. Excerpt from the Assessment Board minutes.

Thank you to Dr Catherine Flick, Senior Lecturer in Computing and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University for enabling this online case study and to all of the students involved in IMAT2704 Introduction to Research and Ethics in 2014/15.

Dr Catherine Flick will be giving a presentation about this practice at the upcoming DMU Learning and Teaching Conference on September 17th 2015.


Ian Pettit and Catherine Flick

CELT Case Studies
If you would like to have your ELT practices captured and disseminated in a similar case study, please contact your Faculty ELT Project Officer

This case study was prepared by:
Ian Pettit (CELT)

Date of publication: July 2015