Digital Learning Strategy: How can blended learning help manage assessment for large classes and reduce marking burden?

Introduction

Designing assessments for large classes can present a number of challenges. Managing a large marking workload while providing quality feedback and encouraging deep learning can be difficult to balance.

This module introduces some strategies for managing assessment for large numbers of students and developing students' independent learning skills.

By the end of this module you will:

  • Be able to identify strategies to implement into your subject assessment to improve feedback and management of assessment
  • Be able to identify key tools to structure and support student assessment

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a mix of face-to-face and online learning. It involves thoughtful, sometimes innovative, integration of face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences. Blended learning design is focused on interactions between teachers, students and resources that assist students to achieve intended learning outcomes. There are infinite ways in which the strengths of face-to-face and online learning environments can be combined to meet the specific needs of students in the context of the discipline.

Blended learning allows us to explore new and innovative ways to combine face-to-face and online experiences seamlessly and coherently, in a manner which responds to disciplinary variation and student learning needs.

[Source: Blended Learning at La Trobe]

Blended learning is useful in the management of assessment by provided opportunities to rethink assessment design, feedback and tools and materials to support assessment activities including self assessment, peer review and group work.

Step 1: Design your assessment strategies

Front ending assessment

Front ending assessment can improve students learning and engagement. Create a clear connection for students between the learning outcomes, assessment and learning activities. Set students up for the assessment task through learning activities linked to assessment and clarification of assessment criteria. Combine explicit criteria and examples with an exercise to engage and involve students in the application of the criteria.

Decide which tools will support your desired outcomes

Activity Considerations Tools
Virtual Office Provide an online chat or virtual office for students to contact teaching staff at a designated time Moodle Chat
Collaborate
Zoom
FAQs Create an FAQ manage common questions and directly address commonly encountered problems Moodle Forum
Moodle Page
Online Forum Create an online forum with the assessment task so students can ask questions, discuss and obtain clarity around the assessment. Moodle Forum

Assessment reduction

Assessments throughout the subject should include formative and summative tasks. To encourage higher order learning, Biggs recommends a strategy that cuts down on massive single modes of assessment such as the final exam and assess more often with more variety in assessment (Biggs, 2011, p 20). Long breaks between assessments or less, larger assessment pieces can result in a drop in motivation (Rust, 2001, p 5). Regular assessment tasks can assist students to pace their learning while providing an opportunity for formative feedback. Shorter assessment tasks can be useful for developing students' critical and analytical skills and may require less marking time.

Decide which tools will support your desired outcomes

Activity Considerations Tools
Concept Maps and Venn Diagrams Concept Maps and Venn diagrams are concise expressions of knowledge and relationships enabling teachers to quickly assess students' grasp of key concepts. Creatly*
Mindmemister*
Venn Diagram Maker*
Short Writing Tasks Shorter writing tasks can demonstrate critical understanding and reduce marking burden.  Try a briefing paper annotated bibliography, three minute essay, book review or article. Moodle Assignment
Moodle OU Wiki
Moodle Forum
Turnitin
Zotero*
Wordpress*
Blogger*
Creatavist*
Posters and Presentations Posters provide and alternative for developing communication skills and provide and opportunity of peer learning. In large class assessment the poster offers a quick synthesis of understanding. Canva*
Piktochart*
Empressr*
Projeqt*
Slideshare*
Prezi*
Powerpoint
Curated Web Content Content curation allows student to synthesise and evaluate web content, developing crucial information literacy skills. Students can work individually or in collaborative knowledge construction activities. Storify*
ScoopIt*
Teded*
Pinterest*
Padlet*
Dipity*

Open Resources

Readings

Self assessment

Boud defines self assessment as the 'involvement of students in identifying standards and/or criteria to apply to their work and making judgements about the extent to which they have met these criteria and standards' (Boud, 1995 in Boud, 2007, p 122). Self assessment may be an individual activity but it also can involve peer and tutors. 'Student engagement can be further enhanced where peer and self-assessment is a meaningful proportion of the marks' (Nulty, n.d., p 5).

Decide which tools will support your desired outcomes

Activity Considerations Tools
Quizzes Quizzes and MCQ's offer students the ability to self assess their understanding of an activity, reading or multimedia content and automated provide feedback. Moodle Quiz
Moodle Lesson
Eportfolios Folios can be useful in documenting student learning.Combined with reflection, folios can assist students to develop their ability to self-assess. Students may select their best work for final assessment reducing the amount of assessment for teaching staff. PebblePad
Wordpress*
Behance*
Linkedin*
Evernote*
Blogs and Journals Blogs and reflective journals can encourage students to regularly assess their understanding and engage in the process of making judgments. Like folios of eportfolios students may regularly keep a journal or blog and select best pieces for assessment Moodle OU Wiki
Moodle Assignment PebblePad
Moodle Forum (Blog mode with ratings)
Wordpress*
Blogger*

Open resources

Readings

Peer review

Peer assessment engages students in the learning process while they assess the work of other students in their subject. Peer assessment is usually combined with self assessment and often undertaken within group assessment, where students assess the contribution of group members. Peer assessment can be either formative or summative. Peer assessment should be accompanied with clear direction criteria by which student assess each other's work.

Decide which tools will support your desired outcomes

Activity Considerations Tools
Peer created and reviewed questions Students explain their understanding of the subject through creation and, discussion and rating of related assessment questions. Peerwise*
Moodle OU Wiki
Peer Reviewed Project Students provide anonymous qualitative and quantitative feedback to their peers on draft writing tasks. Moodle Workshop Moodle Forum
PebblePad
Wordpress*
Blogger*
Spark*

Open Resources

Reading

Group assessment

Group assessment may reduce marking burden in large enrolment subjects. Students however, may perceive issues with group assessment, generally associated with fairness in marking. Possible strategies for addressing this include peer assessment of contributions, divided group mark, and individual contracts where students have a dedicated role and responsibility within the group. Group assessment can get better buy in from students where students are given input into the assessment criteria.

Decide which tools will support your desired outcomes

Activity Considerations Tools
Group Assignments Student work in groups on projects in wikis, on video collaboration and presentation sites. Moodle OU Wiki
Moodle Assignment
Prezi*
Slideshare*
YouTube*
/ Vimeo*
WeVideo* 
Teded*
Creatavist*
Flickr*
SoundCloud*
Powerpoint
Office Mix
Projeqt*
Empressr*
Group Project Management Groups manage their groupwork and files through project management applications. Freedcamp*
Slack*
Basecamp*
Trello*
Group Curation Students work in groups in collaborative knowledge construction activities. Moodle Glossary
ScoopIt*
Storify*
Padlet*
Group meetings

Students organise synchronous or asynchronous meetings to discuss project progress and requirements. 

Collaborate
UCROO
Zoom*
Google Hangouts* Mightybell*
Facebook*
Moodle Forum

Open Resources

Feedback and interactive formative assessment

A strategic approach to feedback can reduce the amount of feedback given to students, while ensuring the maximum learning from the feedback. Brown and Knight recommend giving feedback to students early in the assessment process (Brown & Knight, 1994). Ideally, incorporate an early low stakes assessment task within the first four weeks of semester to ensure early feedback for students to help them identify issues and improve their learning. Interactive formative assessment provides feedback to students and feedback from students to the teacher. It is especially useful in teaching of large student cohorts as a way of gauging theoretical or conceptual understanding and fostering independent learning.

Decide which tools will support your desired outcomes

Activity Considerations Tools
Online Lesson or Module Create an online lesson or module that gives students a change to assess their learning as they progress. Some platforms allow for the development of different navigational paths for students based on their responses to questions. Moodle Lesson
Moodle Quiz
Adobe Captivate
Articulate Storyline
Interactive Lectures and Tutorials Using polling, discussion or learning analytics to focus and customise your lecture or tutorial content, address common misconceptions, or create interactivity within lecture. Moodle Feedback
Moodle Discussion
Moodle Reports
Twitter*
Poll Everywhere*
Kahoots*
Feedback

Audio feedback provides engaging and personal feedback for students and can decrease time spent giving feedback to students. 

Rubrics provide a very useful tool to inform and provide clear criteria in assessment for both the student and the marker. 

Online quizzes can provide continuous feedback to students.
Turnitin
Moodle Quiz
Moodle Gradebook
Voicethread*

Open Resources

Readings

Minimising plagiarism

It is often thought that in a larger student cohort that it is easier for students to plagiarise. This is due to, either the student belief that in a larger group they it will less likely to be identified, or that a large marking workload will mean that tutors have less time to thoroughly monitor plagiarism in assessment. Sessions on referencing early in the semester can be helpful students and the library has a number of student resources and modules designed to assist students to correctly reference their work. These include the Academic Referencing Tool and Academic Referencing Modules.

The University also supports the use of Turnitin, a web based test matching software system. Turnitin is best employed as a formative assessment tool.

Open Resources

Readings

References

Biggs, J. (2011). Assessing learning Quality: II Practice, Teaching for Quality Learning at University 4th Ed.

Bluic, A-M., Goodyear, P., and Ellis, R. 2007. 'Research focus and methodological choices in studies into students' experiences of blended learning'. Internet and Higher Education, 10: 231-244.

Brown, S., & Knight, P. (1994). Assessing learners in higher education. London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Boud, D. (2007). Avoiding the traps: seeking good practice in the use of self assessment and reflection in professional courses, Social Work Education: the International Journal, 18 (2), pp. 121-132.


Please note: Applications indicated by * are web applications that may involve a cost or licensing and the university may not be able to provide technical support in the use of these applications. Many however are simple to use and provide good online support and resources. Where you are considering using these applications you should consider:

  • What additional functionality does this application provide to University applications?
  • What alternative will be provided/developed?
  • What are the implications for accessibility?
  • Where are your students going to get technical support?

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