The primary aims of this project are tripartite: to provide assessment-based opportunities for reflective practice; to expand the range of assessment models at Royal Holloway; and to engage in sustainable and inclusive practice by making best use of both institutional and personal technology. Secondary aims include the normalisation of non-traditional forms of assessment; and the promotion of the relatively underused, and oft misunderstood, institutional lecture capture and video streaming service.
Development & Practice
Assessment need not be passive (Dochy et al, 1999) and where students ‘mark’ their own work, they are often both accurate and, in so doing, reflect on their performance – often more than once - with the result of achieving better outcomes in future assignments (Gentle, 1994). The design of a new and innovative oral assessment for the first year core Law unit ‘English Legal Systems, Methods and Skills’ aims to capitalise on both of these aspects. This involves students being set a two-part assignment; the first part requires students to produce a digital video recording of themselves giving a short presentation on a given topic. The topic of the presentation is, fittingly, ‘To reflect the 21st century obsession with technology all lawyers should operate from ‘virtual chambers’ or ‘virtual offices’ and provide advice over the internet. Agree or disagree’. The recording is then uploaded to the streaming video service where it can be accessed only by the author and markers. The second element of the assessment involves students watching the recording of their presentation and completing a reflective self-feedback form to be submitted alongside their presentation for marking and feedback.
The oral presentation is designed to measure students’ ability to produce, deliver, record and reflect upon a key question in their discipline – and not their IT/multimedia skills. Therefore, it is crucial that consideration is given to the feelings and needs of those students who may, because of background, age or experience, lack confidence in the use of web-based and multi-media technology and feel uncomfortable with the prospect of such an activity. Self-recorded presentations, as opposed to those delivered live to an audience, are not only better suited to the personal and reflective focus of the assignment, but can provide equity for those students who may feel uncomfortable delivering an oral presentation in front of their peers and tutors.
‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) is a better fit with current student expectations and lifestyles (Johnson et al, 2016), and students are encouraged to use the technology they are most comfortable with. While this tends to be their own laptops, tablets or phones, departmental iPads are available to those who wish to use them. The ‘Bring’ element of BYOD is debatable here, as students were further encouraged to record in a familiar and comfortable environment; largely their own rooms, and at a time of their own choosing.
Online and face-to-face support is offered to students. The online support comprises of a standalone – and therefore reusable – Moodle resource with help-sheets, and a discussion forum that invites students to post questions relating to the assessment. The face-to-face support is in the form of drop-in sessions where students can seek assistance in installing and using the recording software.
Students are able to record, review, reflect upon, and – if necessary – re-record their presentations prior to submitting them to Panopto – the institutional Lecture Capture service. A global change was made to Panopto to facilitate this and future video-based assessment initiatives throughout the College. The reflective written piece is submitted to Turnitin – the institutional e-submission and marking service – and marks and feedback are delivered quickly. This workflow is already very familiar to staff and students alike.
Informal feedback from students is positive; students enjoy the use of a type of assessment that differs from their usual written assignments. Students also find the support materials useful and the process of recording and uploading their assignments is, for most, straightforward.
The marks awarded for this activity are impressively and consistently high; with 75% achieving grades commensurate with a 2:1 or a 1st. More importantly, there is consistency between the reflective comments and the marker feedback; the students’ self-assessment is largely accurate.
Further to the pedagogical benefits and increased inclusivity, there are also practical benefits – recording the presentations mean that students do not need to be watched by two members of academic staff as with a ‘live’ presentation. This not only increases efficiency in terms of utilising the resource of academic staff’s time, but also reduces the pressure on room bookings within the College; the cohort of 80 students would otherwise require around 3 days of booked rooms and the time of two academics. More significantly, recording the presentations means that the assessment is more compliant with College regulations on marking than ‘live’ oral presentations, as external examiners can easily be provided with access to the recordings.
Dochy, F., Segers, M. & Sluijsmans, D. (1999) The use of self-, peer and co- assessment in higher education: A review, in Studies in Higher Education, 24:3
Gentle, C.R. (1994) Thesys: an expert system for assessing undergraduate projects, in: Thomas, M. et al (Eds) Deciding our Future: technological imperatives for education, pp. 1158-1160 (Austin, TX, University of Texas)