Frequently Asked Questions

As we carry out workshops and speak to colleagues across faculties and departments, we are compiling a list of frequently asked questions related to each theme of the assessment lifecycle. If you have any queries that are not listed below, please submit your question via the ‘Contact us’ page and we will respond to you directly.

To read the questions and responses, please click on the headings below.

1 - Specifying

Q) Will I need to revalidate my course because of the changes? What do I do about formative tasks?

A) No, it will not be necessary to re-validate courses purely due to the move to online/electronic management of assessment. If you are planning to re-validate for other reasons it would be good practice to design assessment tasks with ‘online in my mind’ and consider how assessment for learning can be supported by online/electronic methods of assessment.

Similarly, some formative assessment tasks may lend themselves to online/electronic management while others may not.

Q) Are sub-tasks included in the move to online management of assessment?

A) Yes, the long term goal is to incorporate sub tasks into the technical model. We are developing the solution and associated processes to hold sub tasks solely within Blackboard.  There is still some work to consider the implications of this.

2 - Setting

Q) I don’t currently use Blackboard for setting assessments in my modules. How do I get started?

A) Academic staff will have access to a variety of training, guidance and support when using Blackboard for setting assessments. Information and help about using Blackboard for setting assessments is available in TEL Help, but you can also speak with a Faculty TEL Contact.

3 - Supporting

Q) What training and support will be offered on the new technology?
A) Academic staff have access to a variety of training, guidance and support to assist them with the move to electronic methods of feedback and marking. Each faculty has developed its own programme of training for staff making the transition to online management of assessment. For information about training sessions running in your area, or to arrange 1-2-1 support specific to your needs, please contact your TEL team. Assessment Essentials is an online resource created specifically to support assessment design and delivery, and provides access to assessment guidance, resources, technical how-to guides and case studies. We’ve also developed two further resources:
– An interactive resource designed to guide you through the assessment lifecycle Displayed as a continuous loop of activity, the document highlights key tasks and signposts to relevant online assessment guidance, resources, technical how-to guides and case studies found within Assessment Essentials. View the resource online.
– An assessment checklist to ensure you’ve taken the necessary steps for assessment design, setting up online assessment and Grade Centre in Blackboard, and communicating essential guidance to students.  View the checklist online.

Q) How is the University changing it’s Equipment Policy to facilitate mobile and flexible working and to enable staff to adopt more efficient and effective online marking and feedback methods?
The following principles have been agreed for for teaching staff on full academic contracts and for permanent non-academic staff who deliver teaching and assessment within their contracted hours:

  • There is a choice of either a desktop PC and monitor or laptop without the need for a business case.
  • Desktop users will be able to request a second or larger screen

Q) How do I switch from a desktop to a laptop?
Requests for standard equipment should be submitted via IT Help. Laptop users will be provided with a docking station, keyboard, mouse and screen to comply with Display Screen Equipment (DSE) needs and enable use of two screens as required.

Q) How do I request a second or larger screen?
A) Desktop users can now request a second or larger screen via IT Help. The upper size limit is 27 inch. Laptop users will be provided with a docking station and a full size monitor, keyboard and mouse and may request a second or larger screen if required.

Q) I need a non-standard laptop for my area of work. How will this request be handled?
A) Requests for non-standard equipment (Macs and high spec laptops or desktops) will still be subject to a business case. Requests should be submitted via IT Help.

Q) Can I loan a mobile device to support me in the delivery online management of assessment?
A) An iPad loan service is now available for teaching staff on full academic contracts and for permanent non-academic staff who deliver teaching and assessment within their contracted hours. Please note the following guidance for accessing this service:

  • Requests can be submitted to Digital Technology Services (DTS) by using the iPad loan request form
  • The loan equipment is provided specifically to support the delivery of online management of assessment
  • The loan period will align with the period of marking and feedback within each semester – a maximum period of 16 weeks within a semester, after which the equipment will need to be returned to DTS
  • Please allow a minimum of 5 working days for processing (between submitting a request and collection)
  • Once a request has been approved by DTS, a confirmation email will be sent including a date and location for collection

Submitting and Sitting

Q) Will all work have to be submitted online?

A) Online submission will be the norm across the University from academic year 2016/17 for levels 3, 4 and 7 and for all other levels from 2017/18. The vast majority of coursework prepared in an electronic form will be suitable for submission online.

However, it is recognised that there may be some specialist coursework or assessment types which cannot be submitted online, for example:

  • presentations/exhibitions/installations
  • in-class submissions including lab tests/phase tests
  • physical artefacts

Further information around the submission of coursework online and other ways of submitting coursework can be found in Theme 4 submission of Work of Assessment Essentials.

Several case studies are included in the resources section which covers online submission in practice.

Q) Will using Turnitin be mandatory? What if a student doesn’t submit their work through Turnitin?

A) It is recommended that all text-based submissions undergo originality checking through Turnitin.

The main value of Turnitin lies in its use as a formative educational tool to help raise awareness and educate students about plagiarism, and to provide a source of formative feedback on their writing. Turnitin is a text-matching service integrated with Blackboard and provides feedback about the originality of student work. Originality reports show the percentage of a submission that matches other sources, including the internet, a range of electronic journals and its database of existing student papers from subscribing UK institutions. Use of originality checking can maximise the potential for students to improve their academic writing and referencing skills whilst enabling academics to objectively assess the proportion of a student’s work that is original and identify possible plagiarism and collusion.  For more details view the Implementation Principles and Procedures for Summative Assessment section 7.10.

Q) What do we do for types of assessment work that cannot be submitted online?

A) Online submission will be the norm across the University from academic year 2016/17 for levels 3, 4 and 7 and for all other levels from 2017/18. The vast majority of coursework prepared in an electronic form will be suitable for submission online.

However, it is recognised that there may be some specialist coursework or assessment types which cannot be submitted online, for example:

  • presentations/exhibitions/installations
  • in-class submissions including lab tests/phase tests
  • physical artefacts

Further information around the submission of coursework online and other ways of submitting coursework can be found in Theme 4 submission of Work of Assessment Essentials.

Several case studies are included in the resources section which covers online submission in practice.

Q) Are UG/PG dissertations/final year projects to be submitted online?

A) UG and PG students should be given the opportunity to submit their text based dissertations/final year projects to Turnitin for formative purposes and a final summative submission to Turnitin. If there is a requirement to submit a bound copy of the final summative submission, course teams will decide if an online final submission is also required to be submitted to Blackboard.

5 - Marking Feedback

Q) Will this increase the time it takes to complete marking and provide feedback?

A) This will vary depending on the type of assessment and how the marker wishes to mark the work. We acknowledge that the move to a new process may initially result in it taking more time to complete marking and provide feedback. However, once the process is embedded there is evidence to suggest this can be quicker. There may also be other areas of the marking process that are quicker, for example the work will be immediately accessible online for the marker and likewise the mark and feedback published instantly for the student.

You can read about the benefits the Politics Subject Group enjoyed through moving to inline marking and feedback, including the positive impact it had on NSS scores, in one of our blog entries.

Q) Does the programme intend to support anonymous marking?

A) Currently, the University operates anonymous marking for examinations only. Anonymity applies to the marking process only.

At this stage, the policy has not extended to coursework but a tool is available within Blackboard to assist academics with anonymous marking (within certain constraints). Currently anonymous marking is an option for module leaders but clarity around the approach taken to marking must be published to students at the start of a module.

Q) I use audio feedback tools and don’t have access to a quiet space to complete my feedback and marking in the office, what is the programme doing about this?

A number of the most widely used electronic marking and feedback options can be supported in the office. It is recognised that some methods of assessment feedback would benefit from a more private space, specifically those where audio is used within the feedback approach e.g. screen casting, audio feedback or voice recognition software.

Although the programme isn’t able to make any fundamental changes to office space or the estates strategy it will work with faculty leads to feed in requirements and support any local solutions that can be found.

Q) What sort of electronic marking and feedback will be considered acceptable?

A) Please refer to Theme 5 Feedback on Assessment for a range of support and guidance around online feedback methods together with an interactive PowerPoint presentation in the Resources section (Electronic Feedback Guide) which takes you through the various electronic feedback methods and tools you can use to facilitate your online feedback.

Several case studies are included in the resources section which covers online feedback in practice.

Please refer to the Design with on-line in mind guidance document and Framework for Feedback on Assessment for further reference.

Q) Will I be required to provide online feedback for student presentations?

A) Online feedback will be provided to levels 3, 4 and 7 students across the University from academic year 2016/17 and for all other levels from 2017/18. This includes all coursework irrespective of which method of submission/presentation has been used.

An electronic record of feedback provides improved clarity, addressing legibility of handwritten feedback. Consistency as well as the security and convenience of the medium also provide benefits to students in addition to having access to all feedback for a course online and in one place.

An electronic record of feedback should be uploaded to Blackboard Grade Centre. Various methods and tools can be used to facilitate electronic feedback and guidance on these can be found in Assessment Essentials. This electronic feedback may be supplemented by face-to-face meetings with students and return of annotated scripts where appropriate to the discipline.

Appropriate electronic methods of recording feedback include:
◾Uploaded word document to Grade Centre
◾Text-based feedback
◾Media-based (audio files, screencasts, videos)
◾Marking grids (user-generated, Blackboard Rubrics)
◾Assessment feedback pro-forma coversheet
◾Wikis and blogs (in Blackboard) provide options for grading in the application (i.e. commenting directly against the work)

Q) Will I be provided with additional equipment, e.g. dual screens for marking?

A) The Assessment Journey Programme is working closely with colleagues in IS&T to feed in the requirements for staff linked to different marking and feedback approaches.

This overview of marking and feedback equipment options can help you find the most suitable IT equipment for your marking and feedback preferences.

The staff briefing for equipment requirements is attached for your reference.

Q) I normally mark at home. How will the programme support me to work from home?

A) The University provides every member of staff with the appropriate IT equipment to enable them to fulfil their role at the University. However, if a member of staff chooses to work at home it is their responsibility to ensure they have the correct equipment and work to good DSE principles. H&S provide guidance on home working from a health and safety perspective.

The main tools to complete marking and feedback are accessible to staff remotely either via remote desk top or alternatively staff can log in to Blackboard directly via SHUspace.

The guidance on working from home for academic staff is outlined below;
‘Academic staff are not normally required to attend the University when they are not scheduled for teaching, meetings or other University based activities. Academic staff may choose to work elsewhere, including at home, on these occasions but the same rules of liability apply as in section 2.1’

Further detail can be found within the HR Managers’ Guidance on Home-working.

Q) What is being done about the impact to extra hours working in front of a screen?

A) The Assessment Journey Programme is working with colleagues in Health and Safety to ensure all aspects of Health and Safety are taken into account. This will include eye tests in line with HR policy, Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment and access to guidance documentation.

Q) Who has decided that most work will be marked online?

A) The Assessment Journey Programme is sponsored by Prof Liz Barnes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Liz Winders, Secretary and Registrar, and has two business leads, Dr Neil McKay, Dean of Students and Joe Rennie, Deputy Registrar. Other academic and professional services colleagues are also supporting the work of the programme. After consultation it has been agreed that the University should move to a position where online submission and feedback (for summative tasks) will be the norm.  Online marking is certainly an area that is being promoted, but at this stage there hasn’t been a decision around making this mandatory. This may however be considered at a later stage.

Our ‘print to mark’ blog post describes how the Assessment Journey Programme has been working with the Print Shop to develop a ‘print to mark’ service. This ‘print to mark’ service is available for any academic staff who are supporting online submission via Blackboard this year and want a printed copy for marking purposes.  A record of the feedback though would still be expected electronically.

Q) When was the decision to move to online marking made and who was involved/consulted?

A) In terms of consultation and engagement, the programme has been speaking to colleagues in SHU about changes to assessment since October 2013.  The programme has also sought feedback from students and the wider sector to help shape the programme approach.

Dialogue around how we move to online submission, marking and feedback has been led by faculty leads who have cascaded this information through relevant communication channels to request feedback on several key areas of work including online submission and feedback.  Further dialogue with Departments is taking place to help inform the final positon on a number of key areas including any subject specific, pedagogic and practical considerations that may mean exceptions need to be agreed to the norm.

Q) If marks and feedback are both provided online, won’t students have less ‘face time’ with tutors who currently provide feedback at tutorials?

A)  An electronic record of feedback should be uploaded to Blackboard Grade Centre. Various methods and tools can be used to facilitate electronic feedback and guidance on these can be found in Assessment Essentials. This electronic feedback may be supplemented by face-to-face meetings with students and return of annotated scripts where appropriate to the discipline.

Q) Does SHU have a license for screencast-o-matic?

A) SHU has provision for 1000 licenses a month.  You can use a free version online although this is limited to 15 minutes recording time.

Q) I currently mark coursework by: 1) downloading the students’ work from Turnitin, 2) producing a word processed feedback form, 3) emailing the form to individual students.  Will I still be able to do this for semester one submission this year (2015/16)?

A) You can still download from Turnitin but the preferred method is to use the assignment feature in Blackboard for all summative submissions.  Turnitin can also be used alongside this for text matching or originality checking for both formative and summative submissions.

Word processed feedback forms can still be used.  Using the assignment feature in Blackboard can give you additional functionality for providing feedback such as marking inline or using rubrics.

Feedback should be attached to the grade centre column in Blackboard together with the mark, rather than separately emailing students.  This keeps all feedback in a single place for the students, so they can refer to the feedback at a later date.

Q) How long will the ‘print to mark’ service be available? (12/01/16)

A) The University is working towards a position in which students will, where possible, submit work electronically and then receive their feedback electronically. It is acknowledged that this will be a change in practice for some academic members of staff. To support this  a ‘print to mark’ service is being offered to allow for marking of physical assignments, prior to staff providing electronic feedback online.

The Assessment Journey Programme has been working with the Print Shop to develop this ‘print to mark’ service which has been available from 3rd November  2015 for any academic staff who are supporting online submission via Blackboard and want a printed copy for marking purposes.

This service is intended to support staff with the transition to online marking and feedback. The availability of the ‘print to mark’ service will be reviewed towards the end of the programme in 2017.

6 - Recording Marks

Q) How will mark entry differ in the future?

A) The Assessment Journey Programme is currently working with system suppliers, Tribal (SITS) and Blackboard to investigate a solution to single mark entry, ie., marks that are entered in Blackboard are automatically transferred to SITS.

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Q) Will returning marks and feedback online increase the time it takes to complete marking and provide feedback?

A) This will vary depending on the type of assessment and how the marker wishes to mark the work. We acknowledge that the move to a new process may initially result in it taking more time to complete marking and provide feedback. However, once the process is embedded there is evidence to suggest this can be quicker. There may also be other areas of the marking process that are quicker, for example the work will be immediately accessible online for the marker and likewise the mark and feedback published instantly for the student.

You can read about the benefits the Politics Subject Group enjoyed through moving to inline marking and feedback, including the positive impact it had on NSS scores, in one of our blog entries.

Q) Are electronic exams in scope of the programme?

A) Management and delivery of exams is not within the scope of the Assessment Journey Programme.

Q) Will I be required to provide feedback on exams?

A) The University wishes to ensure that students receive adequate preparation for examinations including resits.

Module Leaders are responsible for facilitating one-to-one feedback to students on their request. It should be noted that exam scripts cannot be retained by students, but the content of the script and tutor feedback comments can be used to facilitate feedback.

Students are responsible for contacting their Module Leader to request exam feedback (normally within 3 months of sitting the exam).

From 2016/17 onwards, in addition to the above, module/course teams will also provide one additional type of examination feedback, as appropriate, to fit with teaching practice. This may be one of the following:

  • electronic generic feedback (via VLE) to a cohort on strengths and weakness of individual questions or the exam in general
  • drop-in post exam session for feed-forward at the end of a semester or at the start of next semester
  • individual electronic feedback – assessment grid for all students
  • individual electronic feedback – written to all students
  • model answers, where applicable/appropriate

Examination marks are normally given within 3 working weeks (excluding student vacation periods, i.e. Christmas, Easter and summer breaks).

Examination marks should be added to Blackboard grade centre to provide a complete record of attainment for students.

For final year students in their final semester, only one-to-one feedback will be given on request, with priority being given to those students undertaking resits.

For further information around feedback on exams please refer to Theme 5 Feedback on Assessment (see Feedback on Exams) within Assessment Essentials.

8 - Boards

There are no questions at present

9 - Reviewing and Reflecting

Q) What will this section help me to do?

A) Within Theme 9 Reflecting and Reviewing you will find guidance around how staff can reflect on and review the assessment experience and delivery through the annual review process which operates at module and course level.

The resources within this theme provide clear guidance to staff around how feedback from various sources can be used to inform future design and delivery of assessment.

10 - Other

Q) Who is leading the programme?

A) The programme is sponsored by Prof. Roger Eccleston, Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Liz Winders, Secretary and Registrar and has two business leads, Neil McKay, Dean of Students and Joe Rennie, Deputy Registrar. Other academic and professional services colleagues are also supporting the work of the programme.

Q) Are formative assessments included in the Assessment Journey Programme?

A) Yes, formative assessment will be part of the technical model. However, the primary focus of the integration between SITS and Blackboard is on summative assessment.  Inclusion of formative assessment will be looked at later in the programme of work.

Q) How are students’ views being included in this work?

A) A number of focus groups were held as part of initial work, and student feedback fed into the design of the programme. Further focus groups will be held to obtain student views on the ongoing work of the Assessment Journey Programme. We are also working closely with the Student’s Union.

Q) Blackboard and Grade Centre are sometimes really slow. Will this be addressed?

A) Any concerns or issues in regards to the key systems are being raised with IS&T. Work is underway within IS&T to load test these key systems to ensure that we have stable platforms to manage more assessment online.

Q) What if the university’s IT systems go down?

A) In the event of electronic systems becoming unavailable, business contingency plans are in place to address the management of online submissions and online feedback. A Business Contingency document is to follow.

Q) Has full Health and Safety risk assessment been carried out on this proposal?

A) Yes, the programme has worked closely with Human Resources and the Health and Safety team.  To support academic staff with the transition to online marking and feedback and to ensure there is no detrimental effect on staff members’ well-being, a risk assessment has been completed with support from colleagues in Human Resources and the Health and Safety Service. This has helped shape an action plan that will be delivered in each faculty.  Display screen equipment assessments are coordinated by Lead Assessors in Faculties. In addition, a training and support programme is being developed within the faculty to support staff in the use of online marking and feedback tools and techniques.

Q) Do Blackboard sites, marks and feedback remain visible for a period of time? (Submitted 03/11/15)

A) All Blackboard module sites remain active while there are students enrolled on the site. Once there are no students enrolled on the module site, the site is automatically archived for a minimum period of 24 months and then manually deleted. During that time a ticket can be submitted via IT Help for the module site to be made available again.