HEA Transforming Assessment in Higher Education Symposia Series – call for contributions

The Higher Education Academy’s Transforming Assessment in Higher Education symposia series aims to bring together cutting edge examples of effective efforts of sustainable and manageable change around assessment and feedback. A call is open for case studies outlining discipline-specific innovations and wider institutional initiatives themed around:

  • Assessment literacy (to be held in York on 8 March 2017)
  • Technology-enabled/electronically managed assessment (to be held in York on 12 April 2017)
  • Enhancing student engagement through assessment (to be held in York on 24 May 2017)

This flyer provides full details of the symposia and how to submit a case study against each of the themes, as well as further publication opportunities for those case studies selected for the symposia.


Improving the assessment and feedback experience

Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor, shared his thoughts on the University’s recent National Student Survey on his blog, and within this highlighted that assessment and feedback should be an area of focus for all teaching teams as we continue to strive to improve the student experience.

The move to online management of assessment (OMA) from September 2016, supported by resources generated through the Assessment Journey Programme, provides an opportunity to address some of the issues raised by student feedback, specifically the timeliness of assessment feedback and the quality of feedback.

Here is a summary of the guidance and support that is available to help course teams make improvements around assessment and feedback.

To support the move to OMA, the Assessment Journey Programme will continue to develop the suite of resources and offer training in conjunction with Faculty TEL Teams.

If you have any queries in relation to the above or feel further support is needed, please contact us at ! Assessment Journey Programme.

We’re into the final year of the programme – what has been delivered to date?

As we enter the final year of the programme, it feels an appropriate time to reflect on progress, so here is a round-up of what has been delivered to date:

Informing, preparing and supporting staff:

  • Development, launch and continued promotion of an online resource, Assessment Essentials, to assist staff with the effective design and delivery of assessment for their students
  • Creation of a series of detailed academic case studies to highlight the use of different assessment practices and technologies and share best practice
  • Enhancement of existing Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) guidance and the creation of over 80 new multi-media resources relating to assessment and feedback
  • Identification of staff equipment requirements and changes to the University’s Equipment Policy agreed and published. Implementation processes defined and communicated to all academic staff
  • Design and delivery of a training programme in conjunction with Faculty TEL Teams, encompassing group sessions, drop-ins and bespoke 1-2-1s
  • Development and delivery of a health and safety action plan
  • University-wide staff engagement and communications to inform, prepare and support staff – range of digital communications, university / faculty events, standing meeting updates, working groups and workshops
  • Training and support for all helpdesk teams

Informing, preparing and supporting students:

  • Development and launch of an online resource, Assessment4students, to provide students with guidance and support around assessment
  • Design and delivery of a student communication strategy at the start of 2016/17 to inform students of the change, clarify expectations and provide support through guidance, resources and helpdesks

Governance & process:

  • Definition and implementation of the new Policy for Summative Assessment for 2016/17
  • Definition and communication of the operating models for the management of submission and associated processes in conjunction with faculties
  • Development and communication of a business continuity model in the event of system failure
  • Process improvement work considering seven academic and administrative processes

Technical development:

  • Identification of the detailed technical requirements of the business and engagement with suppliers on development, costs and timeframes
  • Deployment of:
    – a quick enrol functionality to support administrative staff with access to Blackboard module sites
    – an online receipting capability for students submitting  coursework electronically to Blackboard
    – a new tool to enable the bulk upload of feedback file attachments and marks generated electronically outside of Blackboard into Grade Centre for assignments submitted online
  • Development and introduction of a print to mark capability to allow for marking of physical copies of electronically submitted assignments, prior to staff providing electronic feedback online
  • Analysis and initial development work around moving data from Assessment Scheduler to SITS
  • Analysis and options development for  the integration of Blackboard and SITS
  • Pilots and evaluation of the Safe Assign originality checking tool
  • Development and deployment of a new task clustering (bunching) report

We would like to thank everyone involved for their support and valuable contribution.

Department of Natural Built Environment’s Assessment Journey Away Day

On 14 September, the Department of Natural Built Environment held an away day with staff to focus on the task of implementing online management of assessment this academic year.






Luke Desforges, Head of LTA for D&S, and Jon Childs from the Assessment Journey Programme (AJP) Team presented an overview of the Policy for Summative Assessment, outlined the changes to processes and staff practice, showcased the resources available and answered questions from staff around the changes.

This was followed by two practical workshops on online submission and the provision of online feedback, before subject groups met to agree a consistent approach to online feedback. Printed resources were available for staff to take away and feedback is being used to define the support offered by the Faculty TEL Team.

Ann Franks, Head of Academic Development for the Department, said: “This was a great way to start the new academic year. Colleagues had the opportunity to learn about the changes and solutions available, and share their experiences. I would recommend this approach to other departments within the University.”

Mike Nelson, Senior Lecturer, said: “I feel much more confident about adopting online feedback after the session.”

Liane Duxbury, Senior Lecturer, said: “It was a very useful and positive experience. I felt it brought the staff team together in terms of discussing and agreeing the delivery of a much needed ‘standardised’ approach to marking and feedback.”

Need help organising something similar in your area? Please contact ! Assessment Journey Programme


Practice-based assessment case studies from across the sector

cover_issue_46_en_USWe would like to bring to your attention the new Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal. This international peer-reviewed journal supports the work of RAISE (Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement).  The first edition contains a special section on assessment and student engagement, including a collection of practice-based case studies from across the sector. These include articles on an extension to TESTA (Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment) methodology, innovative assessment practices, e-portfolios, problem-based learning and audio feedback, which we feel may be of interest.

To access these articles and more, see the first edition’s table of contents 


Changes to equipment provision to support online management of assessment

The findings from our recent consultation have informed the development of a new University-wide equipment strategy to meet academic staff needs in a sustainable way, supporting the implementation of the new Policy for Summative Assessment and the work of the Assessment Journey Programme.

What you told us:

  • Academic staff place a high value on the ability to work flexibly when managing assessments and technologies that allow mobility and facilitate flexible working practices would be extremely beneficial.
  • Some academic staff are concerned about the use of display equipment for longer periods of time as they move to managing assessment online.

How are we responding?
The University is changing its 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 now been agreed for all teaching staff on full academic contracts:

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

In addition to this, a second strand of work will commence shortly to develop a loan service for mobile devices including iPads and other tablets.

What are the timescales for the changes?
Staff needs will start to be fulfilled at the start of academic year 2016/17 and the roll-out is expected to be complete by May 2018. Further details about sequencing and prioritisation will be made available in advance of September. Timescales for the roll-out of a loan service for mobile devices is still to be confirmed and again, further information will be published in due course.

What other support is available?
Please remember that other support is currently in place, including:

Print to Mark –  this service offered by the Print Shop will continue to be available to support staff making the transition to online management of assessment. Please read the guidance on how to use this service for full instructions.

DSE Assessments – these should be completed so that any mitigating actions can be put in place. Read about the University’s DSE Policy and training here.

How will this be financed?
Laptop and screen requests will be paid for in the IS&T budget over the next two years. The loan service for mobile devices will be made up of existing stock within the University.

How do I access further information?
If you have a question about this, please contact the Assessment Journey Programme Team in the first instance ! Assessment Journey Programme.

Map My Programme in practice

Further to the Map My Programme Master class led by Simon Walker (one of the developers of the tool) from Greenwich University’s Educational Development Unit, we have compiled a case study to show the tool in practice.


The tool allows you to look at courses and programmes in a holistic way, and:

  • plot the types of assessment and weightings of assessment against the relevant academic weeks
  • spot clashing deadlines and make changes
  • explore whether you’re adequately preparing students for the range of assessment types presented
  • see if assessment is too heavily skewed to a particular type and even consider redesigning assessment to alleviate points of stress (for both students and the staff managing marking workloads)


Anna Hall, Course Leader for two separate courses within the Food Subject Group, used the Map My Programme tool to produce a visual documentation of each course showing: assessment bunching via assignment hand-in date analysis; the diet of assessment types used; estimate marking loads and effort; and links between formative and summative tasks and feedback.

Read the case study to find out how Anna got on using the Map My Programme tool.

This is the third assessment design case study that AJP has developed with academics. To view all three case studies, please see Assessment Essentials. See ‘Assessment Design Case Studies’ on the right hand side, under ‘Supporting Information’.

The screencast – a viable alternative to the essay?

Please find below a blog from Roberta E Taylor in the Institute of Education who has introduced screencasts as a viable alternative to the essay.  At the bottom of the blog there are several screencasts showing this type of assessment in practice – they are amazing!

Please contact us is you have any innovative practice you would like to share through our blog.

How can the screencast be a viable academic alternative to the assessed essay? or

Some of the things you never knew about screencasts and didn’t like to ask.

Education in the Digital Age is a new module on the BA Hons Education Studies which has run for the first time this year for third year students. On this degree course we pride ourselves on a varied range of assessment types from presentations to vivas to portfolios as well as more traditional 4,000 word essays. It seemed essential on this module that not only the content (New Literacies, connectivism and complexity (Chaos)  theory applied to education, the latest research into digital literacies, the social semiotic theory of communication, and multimodality and multiliteracies) but the teaching style and assessment type reflected the 21st century, forward- looking perspective. I co-supervise a PhD student, Geir Laingen, whose research is investigating the use of screencasts as an assessment tool in Creative Media (Animation, Game Design and Digital Media Production) undergraduate courses and so I was aware of some of the potential and the possible drawbacks of deciding upon such an assessment task. In common with most undergraduates, Education Studies students have varying degrees of confidence in using ICT beyond their own social media lives. And yet the SHU graduate employability profile requires graduates to demonstrate digital literacy and that includes being ”effective at communicating through a range of media.”

Graduate Attributes

There was the issue of parity of assessment types. I knew from previous modules that a viva (oral exam) is expected to be about 20 minutes and that on an English module, a 10 minute monologue and 10 minute viva were considered equal to an essay. The screencast however is a very dense document and 5 minutes can convey not just about 1,000 words of spoken discourse but nuanced and/ or critical multimodal meanings through the visual aspects. It was agreed and approved that a 10 minute presentation of a screencast, to include a 5 minute screencast and 5 minutes of oral reflection on that text and its production, would be equitable with a 4,000 word essay. In addition the screencast voiceover transcript and the reflective commentary were to be submitted in written format online.

So how did it work out? Well, first of all the students were completely in the dark about screencasts. Despite the fact I made a point of including at least one in every lecture, they claimed not to know what they were and, moreover, to be terrified of them. I made the decision to front load the content of the module so that in the first 3 weeks 6 lectures covered half the taught content. This was so that when the students started working on their screencasts in Week 6 of the semester they had already covered ¾ of the module’s taught content regarding theory and research in this area. Manny Madriaga was a module tutor bringing expertise from the field and gave one of the lectures on ICT education policy and two SHU PhD students researching in the area of digital literacies, Geir Laingen and Chris Bailey also gave lectures on their current research.  Peter Charlish ran a 2 hour session introducing the students to screencastomatic and screencastify, two programmes the University uses. I showed the students my colleague Jenny Slater’s Powtoon for her ESRC funded project, Around the Toilet, and in a collegial and constructive manner so appropriate to the module, another student introduced Video-scribe, You Tube’s own tool. In the end, a range of programmes were used but Powtoon and Videoscribe were the most popular.

The students then had three further 2 hour sessions booked into ICT rooms so that they could work on their screencasts with at-elbow support from myself and Manny.

In terms of the screencasts I was amazed at the work my students produced in terms of the creativity and academic rigour. They had taken on Geir’s advice regarding the use of images as either illustrative, engaging embellishment (usually) or critique (rarely). They developed the technical skills required to synchronise sound, image and text. They got their messages across in engaging and informative ways. The most striking aspect to it was the academic depth they were able to achieve.

This assessment is not about academic writing per se. It is about multimodal text creation. The act of designing and ‘writing’ the screencast is in itself an act of learning which demonstrates research and design skills. There were some glitches in terms of variable sound quality (quiet one minute, booming the next) or editing (frames cut short), but overall the standard was high. The module feedback reflected the uncertainties of using media new to them, but the students were overwhelmingly appreciative of the challenge and recognised its importance to them in their future careers. The general feeling was ‘it was daunting at first but now I’m so glad I’ve done it’.  More importantly, they enjoyed being creative.

If you are still wondering whether a screencast is a viable alternative to the essay, then please take a look below at some of the work students presented.

I am convinced. Not that we shouldn’t set a 4,000 word essay, but that we should also be asking our undergraduates to create the kind of texts it is more than likely will be required of them in the workplace.

Roberta E Taylor – Sheffield Institute of Education (Development & Society)

Matthew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZDm3xIGz-k

Liam  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A58m5A72kc

Ellie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvNynlD4z6I

Catherine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2WCWmvd8-M

Students shape their own assessment resource at second workshop

student workshop 2

It was great to see so many course representatives at our second assessment workshop last week. The session was very productive with lots of engagement with the new website which will be a one-stop shop for assessment guidance, advice and support, solely for students.

Attendees were asked to provide feedback on the design, content and name of the site before we embark on the next stage of development. We look forward to sharing a prototype with students for further feedback in April.






Sharing innovative assessment design

The AJP team continues to develop a comprehensive library of online case studies for academics.  We are now developing a series of case studies to share innovative assessment practice across faculties.  We’ll be promoting the case studies to staff via our blog and Assessment Essentials on a regular basis.

The first assessment design case study we’re sharing focuses on TESTA (Transforming the Experience of Students Through Assessment) and how it has helped to redesign assessment across the Academy of Sport and Physical Activity in HWB.


Written by Eddie Mighten and Diane Burkinshaw, the case study focuses on the use of Formative Assessment (Assessment for Learning) that is a feature of everyday teaching.  It is an essential part of the learning and teaching strategy which is scheduled, designed and required in a module. It helps students learn and generates feedback which helps shape understanding.  On some of the Academy’s 3 year courses, there has been a reduction from 36 to 16 summative tasks, being replaced by ‘true’ formative assessment tasks.

Please contact us if you have any innovative assessment design practice that we could share via a case study.