Today’s event is a result of the combined efforts of the Higher Education Academy and the Heads of eLearning Forum to discuss the management of moving from a paper-based to an online assessment submission, marking and feedback system. Most of the attendants are HELF reps but others are here as well.
This post will share highlights from the morning sessions which are specifically relevant to EBEAM.
Barbara Newland from U of Brighton reported on this year’s survey of UK HEIs and their use of EAM. There is clear evidence that institutions are taking a staged approach towards EAM starting with online submission and moving to eMarking and eFeedback later on. It’s also clear that there is a wide variety of how assessment is being managed from entirely electronic management to various mixtures of paper-based and EAM. The provision of training is also a very mixed picture with very few choosing compulsory training (which is hardly surprising). It is worrying how many institutions are not even considering formal policies to cover online submission. The data is showing what many of us know already: academics are happy with esubmission but much less so about eMarking. The evidence shows also that students and administrators are much keener for the whole process being electronic than academics. This reflects, if nothing else, the fact that that’s where the bulk of assessment labour rests: in the marking and therefore with the markers. Very powerful points are being made about the challenges we face including regulations, guidelines, support and the technology itself. To my mind one of the biggest ones is responsibility – who takes responsibility for what and when. Every single one of the benefits that Barbara has identified in her presentation are relevant to our institution and they’re all very powerful in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. The comparison to last year’s data shows that as a sector we’ve moved away from the patchy implementation of last year to a more widespread adoption this year, but that the focus remains on the administrative side of things rather than the pedagogy.
Alice Bird from Liverpool John Moores U reported on her project which has been running since 2008 and starts from the very important point: at its base, this is a change management issue. Her project followed what in relationship to our strategy is a relatively tentative approach (over several years) but was backed up with good, flexible and non-restrictive policy. She’s made a very powerful point about the shifting power base as a result of the fees regime that means students have much more control over the strategic direction of their institution. Alice makes a point we’re all aware of: there is no technological requirement that meets all our needs. Reflecting on what LJMU has been through, I can’t help thinking it’s been a bit tentative and over engineered. I’m not convinced that the piloting, the policy detail and the consultation they have done is necessary for success. It’s certainly very expensive and slow.
Some general reflections:
Anonymous marking remains a big issue and there remains so much misunderstanding surrounding it. The question of moving from monologic to dialogue feedback that is coming from a JISC Assess Strand A project is central to this.
It is alarming to hear how many institutions are requiring academic staff to set up assignment inboxes themselves rather than making it an administrative job.
Setting minimum requirement policy means being able to police it and doing this is going to be tricky.
Time for lunch now: more this afternoon.