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.

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.

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.

Inline Marking Pilot a great success for the Politics Subject Group

Inline marking and feedback pilot a success

Following the introduction of online submission, marking and feedback, the Politics Subject Group has seen a significant increase in both assessment and feedback NSS scores and overall satisfaction scores.

In January 2014, the subject group introduced Crocodoc, inline grading software provided by Blackboard, as a way to improve and standardise the quality of the feedback experience for students and the marking experience for staff.   Dr Andy Price, Head of Politics, told us that “Crocodoc has made it easier to access, mark and moderate scripts and has allowed good quality, targeted feedback for students through annotations”.

Andy went on to say “The success of the Politics online pilot is clear.  2015 NSS results show the scores for feedback and assessment have jumped from 67% to 88% and overall satisfaction scores for the subject group have increased from 79% to 96% in the same time period”.  Andy puts this down to “close collaboration, team effort and good planning in the use of Crocodoc, a software that makes it much easier to produce meaningful, tailored feedback”.

 BAHons Pol overall


Other significant increases in student satisfaction for the subject group include:

  BAHons Pol Q5

BAHons Pol Q7

BAHons Pol Q9

Students have also commented on the new online approach saying,  “more extensive feedback such as annotations are really helpful because students can see exactly which parts of the assignment are strong and what needs a bit of work.”

A case study outlining how the subject group put Crocodoc into practice is available on the Assessment Journey Blog along with a range of other informative case studies.

Read the full Inline Marking case study.

AJP at the Assessment Exchange September 2015

Come and join us at the Assessment Journey Programme information sessions being held as part of the Assessment Exchange on 15 September

We will be in Howard 5426 throughout the day.


Colleagues will be sharing their academic practice and technical know-how around online tools for managing assessment.   Have a go at Speech recognition software; Inline marking; Feedback rubrics, Screencasting and lots more in our show and tell drop-in sessions throughout the day. We will also be displaying our progress with the development of the Assessment Design and Delivery Framework web resource that will provide a ‘one stop shop’ for academics on assessment guidance, resources and policy from November 2015. We look forward to seeing you there!

1 2

For more information and to subscribe to the Assessment Journey Programme newsletter, please visit the intranet pages at

You can also follow us on Twitter @SHU_AJP

or contact us by email at ! Assessment Journey Programme

‘Show and tell’ sessions at the Learning & Teaching Conference

We were delighted to see so many people at our AJP drop in session at the Learning & Teaching Conference last week.  We had 50+ visitors and some very useful discussions around the various technologies on display.


Academics and TEL leads led the ‘show and tell’ sessions covering inline marking, audio feedback, voice recognition software, feedback rubrics and screencasting (these five case studies are attached for your reference).  We will be posting more case studies over the next few weeks.

Audio Feedback – Michelle Blackburn

Feedback Rubrics – Jayne Revill

Inline Marking – Andy Price

Screencasting – John Metcalf

Speech Recognition – Colin Beard

B00A3798B00A3819B00A3792Many of you liked our Powerpoint presentation and asked if we could share it with you, so here’s a link: AJP – LT Conf June 15 PPT

Our next ‘public appearance’ will be at the Staff Conference on 6th July and the HWB LTA event on 9th July. So come and say hello!

Come and see us at #SHULT15. Drop in and have a go!

As part of the Learning & Teaching Conference on 25 June, The Assessment Journey Programme will be hosting an information session in Room Owen 222 (just off Heartspace) over the lunch break.

Come and meet colleagues sharing their academic practice and technical know-how through ‘show and tell’ drop-in sessions throughout the lunchtime. Have a go at Voice recognition software; Inline marking; Audio feedback; Feedback rubrics, Screencasting and lots more.

See the attached floor plan for the layout of the session – just follow the footprints!


 For more information and to subscribe to the Assessment Journey Programme newsletter, please visit the intranet pages at

You can also follow us on Twitter @SHU_AJP

or contact us by email at ! Assessment Journey Programme