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.
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.
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.
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.
A new solution has been integrated with Blackboard which will allow students and staff to upload media files (currently up to 2GB in size), such as video assignments and video or audio feedback, safe in the knowledge that the files are stored securely.
Other benefits include:
files are uploaded to a central publishing point and delivered back as streamlining media
content is automated transcoded to work across all devices from with Blackboard
submitted work is accessed via the Grade Centre, enabling staff to view or listen to student video or audio assignments and provide feedback without leaving Blackboard
This will mean a change to the process for staff and students when submitting media files, so guidance including screencasts is now available in the Submitting Work Online section of Assessment Essentials. Students can access video guidance in the Submitting Work Online section of Assessment4Students.
Your local Faculty TEL Team have been trained on this solution and are on hand to support colleagues.
Refreshed guidance for mark transfer now available for Module Leaders
Work has progressed looking at the processes of mark transfer to identify any improvements that could be made. This was required in order to reduce the impact of not pursuing a technical solution to transferring marks between Blackboard and SITS – the Assessment Journey Programme Change Team, and subsequently the University Projects Board, agreed that the development carried too much risk to progress at this point in time.
This work has culminated in refreshed guidance being created to enable Module Leaders to download, format and send task marks from Blackboard Grade Centre to Student Administration in a consistent and efficient way. This work was developed with input from academic and professional service staff, and draws upon academic best practice and board secretary requirements.
Adopting a more consistent, streamlined process across the University will bring a number of benefits for both academic and professional services colleagues.
What are the benefits?
Marks are supplied in a consistent way from the Grade Centre which will reduce the need for dialogue with Student Administration around data queries
Student Administration will be able to process marks quickly and release timely reports
Marks supplied to boards through the use of one data source (Grade Centre)
Greater clarity around what information is required when sending marks through to Student Administration, what to do in the event of missing marks and how rounding of marks is managed
Do I need to do anything?
This is a consolidation of existing guidance as well as the introduction of newly developed guidance, so some elements may be new, but not others. We ask all Module Leaders to take time to read and use the guidance at the next opportunity when submitting marks to Student Administration. We would welcome feedback from Module Leaders as this is rolled out and used for the first time. This can be sent by email to ! Assessment Journey Programme.
How do I get further information?
Representatives from Student Administration and the Assessment Journey Programme will be attending departmental management group meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the rationale and respond to any initial queries about the processes and refreshed guidance. In addition, queries or feedback about the guidance can also be sent by email to ! Assessment Journey Programme
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.
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:
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
Identification of the detailed technical requirements of the business and engagement with suppliers on development, costs and timeframes
– 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.
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.”
We 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.
Left to right: Emily Cooper, Jack Sutherst, Sian Roughley, Nicole Warwick.
Our new Graduate Interns are now based in the faculties supporting the Faculty TEL Teams with staff training and development as the University makes the transition to online management of assessment.
We asked them to tell us a little about themselves, here’s what they had to say:
Siân Roughley – supporting D&S “I recently moved to Sheffield after graduating from University of Leeds with a degree in BA (Hons) German this summer, and originally come from Widnes, Cheshire. As a recent graduate I’ve experienced the issues that come with assessment and feedback first hand from a student perspective and found it interesting how only a limited amount of academic staff utilised Blackboard fully. Hopefully in this role I can be part of improving the student experience by helping to provide consistency across all Blackboard module sites. I’m looking forward to gaining experience of working within the higher education sector, as well as acquiring knowledge about e-learning which I can continue to use throughout my career.”
Jack Sutherst – supporting HWB “I studied Chemistry at Sheffield Hallam University and graduated in 2016, moving from my home town of Bury, Lancashire in 2013. I am looking forward to supporting developments in assessment processes across the University, especially in Health and Wellbeing. This role really interests me as it links with my final year project which investigated what students considered when choosing a University. I hope this experience will help me grow professionally and develop my knowledge of assessment processes and the new innovations available to academics.”
Nicole Warwick – supporting SBS “I graduated from The University of Sheffield in 2015 after studying BSc Human Communication Sciences. I’m excited to return to Sheffield from Rossendale (Lancashire), to enjoy the city alongside the beautiful Sheffield hills.I understand how beneficial online assessment will be for students and am looking forward to being part of the team implementing the changes. I’m particularly interested in helping teaching staff gain confidence with the variety of different types of online feedback.”
Emily Cooper – supporting ACES “I recently graduated from University of the West of England with a degree in Drama with Creative Writing. I grew up on my Grandparents’ farm outside Worcester, and moved to Sheffield this summer. I am still finding my way around the city, but have fallen in love with the Peaks! This role interested me as it’s a great opportunity to gain experience in the higher education environment and to work as part of a development team, with a focus on learning. I am excited about seeing improvements in the Faculty of ACES and helping to make the Assessment Journey Programme a success.”
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.