Using Tablets for Assessment
Lending a hand with distance learning
Project lead(s)
The use of graphics tablets for marking and moderation aims to provide a mechanism for marking student work that has been submitted electronically whilst maintaining a link to traditional, hand-written marking and moderation techniques.
The need for this project was identified through students learning at a distance submitting work via Blackboard for marking and there not being an efficient mechanism in place for collaborating between tutor and moderator without the parties involved feeling that their tried and tested marking techniques were being ignored.
Jenny Carter, David Elizondo
Department of Informatics
Faculty of Technology
Objectives and Approach
The objectives of the project were:
• to provide timely and meaningful electronic feedback to the students submitting work electronically,
• to be sensitive to the academic staff’s feelings about introducing technology and change into their working lives whilst ensuring that the student experience was enhanced,
• to ensure that the quality of feedback and assessment was not compromised, and
• to make sure that any staff development needs were addressed so that staff feel confident and empowered when using the technology.
The approach taken was one that built on the existing methods of assessment and moderation and introduced technologies to replicate this for distance learners.
The existing process involved the tutor hand-writing comments on paper assignments, passing this to a colleague to moderate and make further comments and the tutor and moderator talking face to face if needed to resolve any conflicts.
The paper would then be handed back to the student with the comments so that the student could see how the feedback was arrived at.
The key elements of the existing process that needed to remain were:
• the hand-written aspect;
• the ability to talk face to face; and
• the student being able to see how the feedback was generated as this ensures the feedback links directly to their work and makes sure that the feedback is meaningful.
Technology was identified that would allow tutors and moderators to ‘write’ on the submitted work – this was a graphics tablet, used in conjunction with Adobe Acrobat pro’. Software that would facilitate the communication between tutor and moderator was sought – Skype was identified as being appropriate software.
The main outcome of the project is that distance learners now receive meaningful and timely electronic feedback that has been produced and moderated by writing electronically on their work using graphics tablets. In the event that the tutor and moderator need to discuss the work, they use Skype to talk face to face in order to resolve any differences when not in the office.
The main barriers to overcome were;
• engaging staff in using technology and ensuring they understood that the new process mirrors the old process but at a distance;
• identifying robust and easy to use technologies that would support the new processes; and
• ensuring that all parties involved have access and the skills required to use the new technologies with regards to installation and staff development.
The project was enabled by the project leader and one of the module leaders (David Elizondo) recognising that hand-writing on an electronic document provides the same feel as marking on paper. It is this realisation that has allowed the adoption of using tablets as the academic staff see this as ‘doing what they always did’ but using a different medium (tablet rather than paper).
The project was also enabled by the research that the project leader carried out in identifying the main success factors as defined by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education in the UK when considering feedback and assessment as outlined in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education
Future Developments
Looking ahead, there is scope to adopt the process of marking and moderating using the graphics tablets for modules outside of this curriculum area.
The project lead has already used this method of feedback with face to face learners and a small student survey (both distance and face to face students) has shown a positive response to feeding back in this way.
Although the distance learning aspect highlighted the need for this change, the benefits associated with generating less printed material, communicating electronically so that feedback can be received instantly and staff being enthused about a technology that enhances their current practice are all positive aspects that could easily be transferred into assessment and moderation of many courses.
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DMU Staff
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This case study was prepared by:
ELT Project Officer – Faculty of Technology