On Monday the 27th of March, in a seminar room in Glamorgan Building, I hosted my second PSE Learning Technology Workshop of this academic year. The Learning Technology workshops were created to think about how to embed learning technology when developing new programmes, but also when thinking of new ways to deliver existing programmes. They are also a great opportunity to share good practice, so others can see the good work that happens across the whole college.
The last workshop was in November; and during this workshop I demoed Blackboard Collaborate, and we broke into smaller groups, each discussing a different aspect of learning technology – these included e-assessment, blended learning and virtual classrooms.
I felt we needed to expand on these discussions more, and therefore the theme for the March workshop was e-assessment. This was the perfect time for a workshop on e-assessment, especially considering the new Feedback Studio that will be with us at Cardiff University before the next academic year (have a read of my blog post on Feedback Studio here), and the recent increasing interest in e-assessment within the college of physical science and engineering in general.
We began the workshop with a series of presentations. Andre du Plooy gave a presentation on the work he’s done in the School of Architecture (read his blog post here) and I followed with a quick demo of the new Feedback Studio. Participants particularly liked the work Andre has done with creating a central space to host basic support materials on various learning technologies. This space is created within Architecture’s learning central templates; therefore, they are available to any Architecture members of staff who are instructors on learning central modules. This means that it can be accessed quickly and easily for anyone who needs further support when logged in on Learning Central.
This was followed by Dr Christopher Morley, from the School of Chemistry, who gave a presentation on the work Chemistry have done to put all the tutorial work that all their students are required to do weekly, online. Previously, this was done offline. The students were expected to hand in their work (that varied from short answer questions, to reports and small assignments) every Monday morning in their departmental pigeon-hole, two administrative assistants had the task of disseminating all the work to various academics (all the students are put into groups, with a designated academic), those academics marked the work, and feedback were given to students in the tutorial classes at the end of the week. The whole administrative process took roughly two full working days! By using Blackboard Assignments and Groups, the new online process now does everything more efficiently and securely. Students and staff have welcomed the change, and the school will continue to use this process for their tutorial work.
We finished the workshop with small group discussions on two topics – MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) and Audio/Video Feedback.
After being given a short case study complied by JISC (page 39 of this guide) to read, and discussing their own experiences, we had a group discussion around MCQs. The general consensus was that MCQs have the potential to be very effective to a student’s learning and teaching, but only if used well. Of course, this lead to a discussion on what makes a good MCQ, with most attendants agreeing that MCQs are very good for calculations and measurement, but not so good for testing theory and being able to argue a point of view. It was agreed that there is a ‘time and place’ for MCQs, and it is vital that educators know when and where this is. Some emphasised the power of statistics, and that MCQs (or more accurately blackboard tests) allow an educator to acquire a greater sense of the students’ progress – whether they are struggling with particular aspects of the work, and if this struggle is shared by everyone on the course.
The next topic of discussion was audio and video feedback. Here, attention was given to the importance of the tool; that it can improve accessibility of feedback, as long as there is a robust system in place that would allow this. Some concerns were raised in regards to what extent (or not) audio/video feedback would allow conversation. Therefore, even though a pre-recorded audio or video file can be more detailed and supportive than text and can be a richer experience to students (especially in regards to providing emotional support), it would only grant a one-way conversation.
The PSE Learning Technology Workshops are held once every semester, and anyone within PSE and beyond are welcome to attend. For more information, contact myself.
Bear in mind that our Drop-In Sessions are also available for all members of staff, which are ideal for anyone who want to discuss anything related to learning technologies at Cardiff University, and more information can be found here.