Category Archives: assessment

100 ways to use a VLE – #30 Field Trip Task

Across many curriculum areas, learners will go on field trips. Sometimes they will be to inhospitable environments such as forests, mountains, fjords or Croydon. Generally though they will be to places a little more local and urban.

Travel and Tourism students for example, may visit London to see the tourist attractions. Sports Studies could visit the site of the Olympics in 2012. Business Studies may visit a factory or a retail outlet. When I was teaching Business we visited such diverse places as an aircraft factory, a dockside undergoing urban regeneration, the Clothes Show Live, Amsterdam and Bruges, Museums and Croydon.

There were many reasons for going on field trips, a core one was to base an assignment or assessment task around the field trip. Looking at my own examples, we went to the Clothes Show Live to look at marketing and advertising. The visit to Europe was to look at the impact of cultural differences on business in the European Union. The aircraft factory was looking at how technology and changes in technology impacted on businesses processes, job roles and manufacturing.

So where does the VLE come into all this?

Well the VLE can be the place from which the task is centered and alongside the assignment brief you could place all the other information and links that learners could use for the field trip.

You do need to consider if you are expecting learners to access the VLE whilst actually on the field trip. In this case you will need to consider what your expectations are for learners in relation to the use of the VLE, and to ensure that the learner are aware of those expectations.

You will need to consider connectivity for those that will be accessing the VLE. You will need to be aware of the sort of devices that the learners will be using.

So if your learners are using the iPod touch to access the VLE, is there free wifi somewhere in the vicinity of the field trip? If they are using the iPhone or iPad, make sure you don’t have any links to Flash video or activities. If they are going to be using laptops or netbooks, where can they use them sitting down? Are there cafés or other places where they could go?

Once the logisitics of remote access to the VLE is sorted, you can then make decisions about how you are going to support the task from the VLE in the field.

Mobile connections are much slower than connections in college, so it’s vital that any resources are made to be downloaded as quickly as possible.

Simple things can be done to enable that, such as rather than using Word files (which can be quite large) ensure that you post text to the VLE (copy and paste it in) to a “label”, “discussion forum” or “web page”. That way learners can immediately access the text without needing to download a large file first. Often mobile devices are better at rendering text on webpages for smalller screens than trying to render A4 Word documents. Avoid using Powerpoint for similar reasons and as already stated unless you know that the devices are capable of using Flash, avoid Flash based content and video.

Video is possible over the mobile web, but unless you have a good connection, it is to be avoided. Audio however will download fine on even a poor 3G or GPRS connection and can be a viable alternative to video. Make sure the audio files are not too big, as some mobile phone providers have file size limits on what can be downloaded.

So what if remote access is not available, say you’re up a mountain or in Croydon?

Well the VLE could be the focus of the field trip after the event. A place to collate the thoughts, blog entries, images, video, audio from the field trip. A way of sharing resources and media easily and effectively. This will then enable any task that was started off on the field trip to be finished and finalised with all the resources that the group collected.

Field trips are a great way of making learning real for many students, the VLE can be used to support any field trip tasks and for post-trip activities too.

100 ways to use a VLE – #43 Group Task

Group assignments or tasks are a valuable part of any learning experience. They do so much more than just allow students to learn about a topic. They have to use a range of other skills too, including diplomacy, planning, monitoring, negotiation, tracking and many others.

The VLE is an ideal place to act as a portal for a group task. With a little effort it would be possible, using a VLE such as Moodle, to create a “course” for each group, duplicating the bare bones of an assignment course. This course would contain the assignment brief, notes, links, copies of handouts. It could contain tools such as discussion forums, wikis, a calendar and planning tools.

Before the advent of social networking and ubiquitous SMS students would often find it difficult to communicate and collaborate on an assignment. Today with the wealth of tools available, why would the learner use the VLE?

Well two reasons. Firstly, using the VLE does not preclude or stop the use of other online tools and services. Learners also need to recognise the time to use external tools and when to use internal tools. We do the same with internal spaces and external spaces. Usually for example seminars are held on campus, whilst informal chats in the pub are held, well in the pub… It would be expected that as well as using the VLE for the group task, learners would meet face to face and use informal communication tools such as SMS and Facebook. The VLE would be used for discussions about the assignment, sharing, collaborating and working together.

Secondly, as well as supporting learners to complete the group task, the use of the VLE could act as evidence towards the assignment itself. This is useful where the process is important part of the assignment as well as the final outcome.

As well as providing a focus for individual tasks, the VLE can also be used as a portal for group tasks or assignments.

Effective Assessment in a Digital Age Workshops

Effective Assessment in a Digital Age Workshops

From challenge to change…

Using principles of good practice, work with colleagues towards an effective model for the use of technology in assessment and feedback.

A series of free workshops based around the JISC Effective Assessment in a Digital Age publication and associated online resources will take place during January – March 2011. Workshops will be held in London (20 January 2011), Birmingham (16th February 2011), Bristol (March 2011, date to be confirmed) and Newcastle (24 March 2011). The JISC e-Learning Programme will be working in partnership with the JISC Regional Support Centres on these events.

These workshops will be exploring how the use of technology in HE and HE in FE, linked to principles of good practice in assessment and feedback, can help promote more effective learning. These workshops, which draw on the work of recent JISC-funded projects as well as related significant developments in the area of assessment, will have a practical, hands-on flavour with a focus on how to move from current challenges towards sustainable change.

The workshops will be suitable for:

  • Lecturers, tutors and course leaders who design assessment and feedback for their learners on HE-level courses
  • Intermediaries with a role in supporting practitioners with assessment, and technology-enhanced assessment (learning technologists, e-learning/ILT champions, staff developers, educational developers, academic registry)

Further information together with the registration form for the London workshop is now available from

100 ways to use a VLE – #9 Peer Assessment

We are often fearful of getting our peers to judge us, is that because we fear they are incompetent at assessing us, or that they are so much like us that they will do it honestly and openly and notice all our hidden flaws?

Probably for the latter reason peer assessment by learners of learner is such a valuable method of assessment. Learners giving each other formative or summative feedback to each other can be a very positive activity, even if it is (to the learners) somewhat daunting.

There are many advantages to peer assessment. It can enhance learning through learners having to not convince you that they understand a topic, but also ensure that their peers understand the topic too. It allows for a greater depth of self-reflection by learners on the learning process. Peer assessment is daunting, but as a result can increase the confidence of learners as they need to work with each other. This working together builds social interaction across a group of learners and a support mechanism.

There are some issues and fears in regard to peer assessment. It can be an administrative nightmare. It is dependent on learners all taking part and not all will want to, some may not want to give the same level of effort as others. Conflict and arguments can arise, unlikely to happen with other forms of assessment, and will the learners have the skills and the confidence to resolve these conflicts. Some staff think that it will be challenging to do and that “exam boards” may object. Even some learners may object as they see the assessment process as an end and not as a learning process in itself.

One of the key features of peer assessment is communication and though e-mail and SMS is one way, the VLE allows for the communication to be more easily aggregated, sorted and assessed.

Any piece of peer assessed work, like any other piece of assessed work, needs a detailed briefing, time to discuss, both face to face and online, and guidelines and rules need to be in place. Once more the VLE is an idea vehicle to provide the online space for the briefing, online discussions, guidelines and rules. Providing a dedicated space on the VLE for the assessment will make it easier for learners to compartmentalise the assessment from other parts of the course.

Using the VLE allows learners to undertake parts of the peer assessment at a time and place to suit them; in college, at home, in the workplace or drinking coffee!

Peer assessment offers a different process of assessment that engages learners, builds relationships and improves learning. By undertaking that peer assessment through the VLE ensures that it is easier for learners to work together, discuss, share and refer to in the future.

100 ways to use a VLE – #8 Assessment Feedback

In a previous entry in this series I wrote about how the VLE can be used for assignment submission and setting an assessment.

You can of course use the VLE to provide feedback on those submitted assignments or assessments.

Feedback is important to learners, it allows them to reflect on their work, to improve the current future work and improve their potential to finish and succeed on the course, module or programme of study.

Traditionally feedback was written onto the handwritten scripts that the learner submitted.

We have moved along a little since then, it is now, as already mentioned, very easy to set an assessment on the VLE and for the learner to submit their work on the VLE. It closes the circle if the feedback on the assessment is also on the VLE.

Though some practitioners like to write on scripts, this can be challenging if the submitted work is electronic, I know you can say print it off, but what about if the submitted work is a poster, a website, a presentation, a video, an audio recording… quite challenging to write feedback on an audio recording!

It makes much more sense to place this feedback where the learner can access it. Of course feedback needn’t always be textual, and using audio, video or screencasted feedback means the ideal home for this feedback is on the VLE. It needn’t get lost in the pile of papers that most learners carry or in the hundreds of e-mails if it was e-mailed. Most institutional e-mails have a limit on the size of the mailbox and this can cause issues not just for the learner who receives the e-mail but also the practitioner who sends feedback (and they will send it to a whole class).

Remember they may need to access it more than once, especially if they have to resubmit for example. Feedback is not a one off process it can be useful for reflective learners to re-read feedback on not just their latest piece of work, but also past pieces of work so that they can enhance and improve future pieces of work; demonstrate that they do understand and can apply the substance of the course.

Feedback is important, it doesn’t have to be on or live on the VLE, but the VLE can be a useful place to deliver and store feedback on assessments for learners.

Picture source.

100 ways to use a VLE – #95 Setting an Assessment

Assessment is an important check on learning, have the learners understood what they have learnt and can they apply what they have learnt.

Assessment can take many forms, most require not just time from the learner to complete, but also from the assessor in marking the work. It also takes time for all the “paperwork” related to submitting assignments.

Though a VLE can not be used to set and mark all assessments it can be used to make life easier for the assessor in maintaining the “paperwork” of assessment. Have all the learners received the assessment? Have all the learners submitted their assignment? Which learners have submitted on time? Has the assessor graded every assignment? Has the assessor given every learner feedback on their assignment?

The assignment module on Moodle (VLE) can allow for all this making life much easier for assessors to ensure that all the relevant “paperwork” and grading for assignments is done. Learners know that they have submitted and they can use the VLE to access their grade and feedback; they can also re-submit via the VLE too.

The submission process can be undertaken by the learner at a time and place to suit the learner; likewise the assessor can collect in and mark the assignments when and where they want to.

Using a VLE to set an assignment, to ensure that learners submit their assignment, grade and provide feedback can make life easier and better for learners and save time for assessors.

Photo source.

Personalisation of Assessment

Traditional assessment models in education often not only clarify the learning outcomes from the assessment, but also the mode of assessment.

For example

Write an essay on the impact of shrinking consumer income on supermarkets.

The learning outcome is quite clearly demonstrate your understanding of how falling consumer incomes will impact on the supermarket business.

But why does it have to be supermarkets?

But why does it have to be an essay?

Couldn’t the learner choose and be actively involved in designing their own assessment and therefore their own learning.

One learner may for example want to produce a radio show (podcast) which demonstrates that they understand how falling consumer incomes will impact on radio stations.

Another learner may want to have an online discussion with others on the impact of falling incomes on the places where they work.

Of course this may make assessment more challenging for the assessor, so how do we deal with that?