When students study at university level, in addition to developing knowledge and skills, they are assessed throughout their journey at each level. Key skills such as preparing and gathering information, organising and synthesising ideas into a final assessment are integral to success in their chosen programme of study. UCEM has set up various study support and assessment support resources and channels to help students thrive in their academic journey. Our VLE Study Skills area has a range of resources starting from Induction and Preparation to study, to Maths support and Drawing and design support – the list goes on. These resources are very detailed and comprehensive. In addition to these, we provide synchronous academic support such as tutor webinars, Q&A sessions, assignment briefing sessions and 1 to 1 surgeries. There are weekly forums to discussions specific to the week’s topics covered and summarised the teaching in weekly wrap-up. Assignment forums are dedicated space for students to ask any questions or concerns around their assignment submission.
Sounds like we have provided everything for students to be successful in their assessments. However, we could see still some students were struggling with assignment submissions. We could see a lot of our students are time-poor and need to be able to work quickly and utilise their time effectively. The Digital Education team wanted to create a resource which condensed a lot of the existing support/guidance into one place, where students can dip in and out – a resource that guides the student through an assessment cycle.
What were the common barriers for student success?
- Terminology and the hidden curriculum of HE – Students are bombarded with new terminology the moment they begin their course, from the expectations and rigour of HE education, to navigating their way through a new and unfamiliar digital learning platform. This can become overwhelming when trying to unpick what is required to complete an assessment.
- Assessment technique – Assessments can vary from writing an essay, making a report, creating a presentation or completing a computer marked assessment (CMA). A key part of assessment preparation is knowing how to approach a task and how to break the task down into manageable chunks. A good example of this is some students not working in the Built environment sector may not understand how to structure or write a professional report.
- Self-assessment before submission – It is a crucial stage before submission. Students should allow some time to proof-read, amend, add or delete what they have written. There could be many errors, missed information and reference checks which can be easily avoided. Students need strategies to be able to self-assess their assignments prior to submission.
- Time – UCEM has a larger than average proportion of students in apprenticeships or in full time employment. With these additional commitments, many of our students may not have enough time to work through the comprehensive resources in the Study Skills area on the VLE and may overlook synchronous support such as assignment briefings or 1 to 1 surgeries. Even if students make use of synchronous support, if the cohort size is large (400+ students), this can prove challenging for the module team to respond quickly.
The solution/experience we wanted to provide to students
Our aim was to improve the student experience of assessment by providing a core dynamic resource for students rather than signposting a range of documents on the VLE. ‘Assessment Success’ aims to support student outcomes by developing assessment literacy, helping students to:
- understand the terminology used in the assessment tasks;
- become familiar with the UCEM assignment format and key assessment elements and how to apply them in the development of their own work;
- develop assessment techniques (e.g., essay writing, report writing, creating a presentation);
- develop the capacity to assess their own work.
What we did?
We wanted ‘Assessment Success’ to be a resource which leads the student through one complete assessment cycle. The sensible place to start was to review the wealth of resources we currently have within modules and Study Skills. From there, we were able to identify the key stages of an assessment journey from a student perspective (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Key stages of an assessment journey from a student perspective
We created a Moodle book resource with interactive features to engage students. We also included downloadable checklists to enable students to organise their time and ideas before starting their assignment.
This resource was embedded into Assessment Support section within the Study Skills area – a place where students are regularly encouraged to visit.
We signposted this resource in modules for Level 4 and Level 7 (Year 1 of MSc) that all new students would find it easier to approach an assessment. However, we did ensure that all students regardless of level had access to the resource as it can also act as a good aide-mémoire.
We also identified that students required some extra guidance on how to complete a CMA (Computer marked assessment) as this was a new method of summative assessment used particularly at Level 4 and 5. We created some practice questions to help students understand the premise of a CMA and techniques for approaching a timed online test.
What students are saying?
To date, 98% of students that have used the resource said that they found it useful with comments such as:
‘I found it very helpful, in particular the ‘preparing a good assignment’ section.’
‘The planning guide is extremely helpful.’
This is very promising feedback and we hope to collect more to make further enhancements.
We will continue to gather student feedback on this resource as we realise that online learning is constantly evolving and the way that we assess students is changing. We hope to continue building upon the ‘Assessment Success’ resource, using more interactive features and videos to enhance the student experience.
About the authors
Sharvari Balagatte Ramesh: Learning designer (LD) from Digital Education team at UCEM. LDs are always passionate and on the edge about bringing student friendly learning experience.
Sarah Jarvis: Academic programme support tutor at UCEM. The role involves supporting undergraduate and postgraduate students to engage and succeed in their studies. Her work focuses on the research, development and implementation of the complementary curriculum (such as academic skills and orientation).
Photo credits by jeshoots.com on Unsplash (accessed on 8th March 2023)
Tags #Assessment, #Assessment_in_HE, #Assessment_in_online_education, #Assessment_support
Learning designer at University College of Estate Management. My work greatly reflects design and development of high quality, accessible, learning resources. I support academic tutors and subject experts in the development and delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate module resources.