Assignment Guidance Using Video Podcasts

Dr Aislinn O’Connell, Dr David Yuratich, Dr Michelle Webster, Dr Rita D’Alton-Harrison, Dr Pinar Canga and Mr Stefan Brown, Law and Criminology & Social Work

College Team Teaching Commendation 2020

Our teaching innovation was designed to engage students more fully in the creative/educational process of coursework assignments and to help them understand marking criteria. It was following up on a recommendation made as a result of a wider research project around inclusivity, undertaken within the now-Department of Law and Criminology in 2018-2019. For more on the earlier phase of this project, see here.


Aligning assessment with learning (Biggs, 1996) in a way that is understandable to students is an important part of ‘assessment literacy’ (Torrance, 2007). Whilst there has been ample research on the use of developing students’ own self-evaluation of their learning (e.g. Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick, 2006), very little research exists about providing students with assessment guidance as part of the pre-assessment-feedback process. Such guidance can catalyse a feed-forward process, which helps students reflect on their learning and actively develop their competencies whilst they complete an assessment, rather than seeing the assessment feedback provided with the final mark as the only point of feedback. 

The quantitative survey that was conducted as part of the initial research project around inclusivity, revealed that a high proportion of students across the programmes in the School said that they did not understand the marking criteria or how it was applied to their work, and the awarding gap was particularly high between students who came from non-A-level backgrounds. 

Assessment podcasts have previously been used to support postgraduate students in the now-Department of Social Work, then-School of Law. Our team trialled their use among undergraduates to improve the scaffolding that students receive (Beed, 1991). Assessments should be “valid, fair and transparent” (Race, 2005 & 2019) and serve as a tool to help tutors to move students to the next stage of learning. It is also important to diversify not only curriculum, but also assessment to ensure students with different learning needs are catered for. Institutions should support students as much as possible with tools to understand assessments. Cognitivism requires the learner to be an active participant in the process (Bredo, 1997). The assessment podcasts were intended to help engage students by allowing them to better understand what skills and cognitive learning the marker was looking for. The podcasts helped students to understand the need to take a conceptual approach rather than simply repeating content.

During each podcast the module convenor talked through the assignment guidelines and made links to the marking criteria to help students assess their own work against the criteria prior to submission. Using Panopto to record the videos and post them on Moodle allowed us to present this information accessibly; while all students can benefit from this initiative, this was designed to support students who have caring responsibilities or long-term health conditions etc. Additionally, the audio content is accessible for those with specific learning difficulties or ESL students.


Engagement with the podcasts 

The podcasts were trialled on four modules delivered on the LLB and BSc Criminology and Sociology programmes. In total, 382 students were covered. Level of engagement with the podcasts from students varied between 35.77% and 90.2% across the modules; of those who were registered across all four modules, more than two thirds (68.59%, N=262) engaged with one of the podcasts. The total number of engagements ranged between 1 and 10; of those who engaged, more than half (58.05%) listened to the podcast more than once (range: 34.09%-83.78%). This repeated engagement suggests that students found the podcasts helpful and some students listened to the podcast in stages as they worked through their assignment or relistened to some or all of it. Engagement was also measured by recording the proportion of engaged students who listened to 90% or more of the podcast; across the modules the proportion of engaged students listening to at least 90% of the podcast was 85.11%. There was some variation across the modules, but over 2/3 of engaged students listened to 90% or more of the podcast on all modules (range: 70.45% - 91.01%). This repeated/sustained engagement suggests students found this helpful, backed up in module feedback, SSC, and conversation with students.


Student feedback 

On one module students commented that they found the level of support with their summative assignment particularly helpful, including one stating the ‘online lecture on the report was very useful’. On the same module, the students requested a second podcast for the second summative assignment, again suggesting that the first podcast was a useful resource. On LL3001, students returned almost universally positive feedback and requested that the initiative continue. Comments were also made in the Staff-Student committee in support of the assessment podcasts from second- and third-year students on both LLB and BSc programmes. 


See other case studies on our Assessment and Feedback page