Refined business contingency process now in place to support assessment

Over the past few months, the Assessment Journey Programme team has been working with a number of key stakeholders across the University to define and test a business contingency process that will be implemented in the event of system downtime.

The agreed process will ensure that there is a consistent approach should Blackboard be unavailable for the submission of student work or the marking or provision of feedback by academic staff.

Details on the agreed process can be found in Assessment Essentials.

Frequently asked questions:

  1. What will happen if a submission point is unavailable at the time of submission?
    A. An extension from the time the system is restored is to be provided to all affected students. Digital Technology Services will place a standard message on Blackboard and Faculty Student Services teams will contact students with further details. Module Leaders do not need to take any action.
  2. What will happen if Blackboard is unavailable at the time of, or becomes unavailable during, a Blackboard test?
    A. The Module Leader should liaise with the affected student(s) to arrange an alternative date and update Blackboard accordingly.
  3. What will happen if system unavailability prevents access to work for marking?
    A. An extended period of time equivalent to the duration of system unavailability (up to 48 hours) will be allowed to complete the marking and provide feedback to students. Module Leaders should advise students by email if there is to be a delay in providing feedback due to system unavailability; either at the time of marking or the time of releasing feedback. If staff can still meet the original turnaround times this is encouraged.

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.

iPad loan service now available

The University recently announced changes to its Equipment Policy to facilitate mobile and flexible working, and support the move to online management of assessment in the University.

In addition to the roll out of laptops (as required), it was agreed that a central loan service would be developed to provide academic staff with temporary access to mobile equipment during assessment periods.

We are pleased to confirm that an iPad loan service is now available to all academic teaching staff.

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

New Marks and Feedback Tool to enable the bulk upload of feedback files and marks to Blackboard

New Marks and Feedback Tool to enable the bulk upload of feedback files and marks to Blackboard

We are delighted to announce the launch of a tool to help staff manage assessment online. The tool enables the bulk download of student work and the upload of feedback file attachments and marks generated electronically outside of Blackboard into Grade Centre for an assignment submitted online.

The following instructions provide guidance on the 6-stage process:
Stage 1 – downloading
Stage 2 – unzipping files
Stage 3 – creating feedback
Stage 4 – zipping files
Stage 5 – uploading feedback
Stage 6 – accessing Grade Centre to check that the upload has worked correctly

The instructions also include considerations associated with its use and screencasts for a visual how-to guide.

In case of queries, please contact your local TEL Team for assistance.

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.

New assessment resource for students

We are pleased to announce that a new resource ‘Assessment4Students’ is now available to provide students with guidance and support around assessment.

Over the last year, we’ve been consulting Hallam students through a series of workshops to ascertain student needs and requirements to improve understanding of the assessment process, and design preferences.

Students can now access the following content throughout the academic year:
– frequently asked questions about assessment
– how to develop their academic skills
– guidance on submitting work and sitting exams
– how to access marks and use feedback effectively
– how to provide feedback about your course
– University assessment regulations
– and much more

The resource will be widely promoted to students at the start of the academic year through direct email, Course Leader inductions, Blackboard, shuspace, helpdesk material, TV screens, desktop screensavers and social media.

We’d value your feedback – please contact us at ! Assessment Journey Programme

External event report: Fifth International Assessment in Higher Education Conference

Stuart Hepplestone, Senior Lecturer in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), shares feedback on a recent conference on Assessment in Higher Education: 

In June, Helen Parkin, Senior Lecturer in Research and Evaluation, and I attended the Fifth International Assessment in Higher Education Conference to present research findings around connections that students make between feedback and their future learning.  It was a useful opportunity to network with the wider HE sector around assessment and feedback initiatives and share the ongoing work of the Assessment Journey Programme. 200 delegates attended from 17 countries.  There are two key areas of discussion that I thought would be useful to share with SHU colleagues.

Increasing student engagement with and learning from feedback, or satisfying student demand?
Papers and posters reported on the interventions that both individuals and institutions are trialling and implementing to enhance the assessment and feedback experience for staff and students. There was an ‘err on the side of caution’ among delegates as to whether these initiatives are increasing student engagement with, and learning from, feedback.  Or, are they simply satisfying student demands for quicker and more detailed forms of feedback. There was also a change of focus in research from looking at specific feedback or interventions, to investigating individual student attitudes and behaviours as a factor influencing their engagement with feedback.

What do other institutions make of e-marking, and what do students think of screencast feedback?
I have written a report sharing information from the sessions I attended during the conference. There are a couple of sessions that might be of particular interest. A colleague from the University of Nottingham reported on an investigation at a previous institution around the staff perspective of e-marking. The focus was on the transformative approach of the marker, and provided a recommended transformational model to the adoption of e-marking. A colleague from Manchester Metropolitan University reported on a comparison of screencast and written feedback to establish undergraduate student preferences. Over 75 per cent of students indicated a strong preference for screencast feedback, feeling it provided more detailed and helpful feedback as opposed to written feedback. However, there was a question over their engagement as they didn’t want to spend the length of the recording (20 mins) watching and listening to the feedback.

Tried and tested – voice recognition feedback

First case studyWe’ve been meeting with academic teaching staff in all four faculties who are leading the way with their approaches to online management of assessment. We’re capturing their positive experiences in the form of case studies to share with you.  These case studies will be promoted at the forthcoming Learning & Teaching Conference on 25 June and will be embedded within the Assessment Design and Delivery Framework due for launch in September 2015.

The case studies cover a range of online technologies including

  • voice recognition software
  • audio feedback
  • screencasts
  • feedback rubrics
  • online marking
  • video feedback, and lots more.

The first case study to be published focuses on Professor Colin Beard in the Sheffield Business School who uses voice recognition software to provide effective feedback to students whilst saving time for himself!

Key benefits of this approach:

    • Provides more personal feedback, which is more akin to audio feedback
    • Allows control of the computer through your voice
    • Staff can create written feedback for students verbally
    • Feedback is edited by listening to a computer voice reading back the text
    • Can be used by all staff
    • No internet connection required during the creation of feedback

Read Colin Beard’s full case study and watch his video on this time saving feedback tool.