News

Addressing disparities and the shadow pandemic

As universities continue to be affected by the Covid-19 situation, colleagues are asked to redesign the curriculum for online and blended learning, as well as continue other academic duties remotely. Much of the conversation focuses on this stressful experience for staff, the time pressure to transform our curriculum, and how these changes dramatically impact the student experience. In this frayed situation, we can already see how the pandemic is causing greater societal disparities, such as a gender divide in academic publication rates (Fazackery 2020; Flaherty 2020), and disparities for BAME* staff and students (Singh 2020). 

*Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities 

The Shadow Pandemic 

A recent article from Inside Higher Ed describes a ‘Shadow Pandemic’, how Covid-19 has exacerbated xenophobia, racism and discrimination (Venkat Mani 2020). While the piece concerns the particular social context in the USA, it is worth reading as it pushes us to be active in how we respond to this Shadow Pandemic, rather than complacently relying on top level leadership.  

To address this issue, here are some inclusive teaching principles to consider in your practice drawn from an AdvanceHE presentation by Jess Moody

  • No one should be left behind – identify our most vulnerable groups 
  • Do no more harm – don’t compound existing structural inequalities in the crisis 
  • Be transparent and flexible 
  • Make sure you understand the impact of your decisions 

Further resources are listed below. 

BAME support 

When reworking your curriculum, you can support BAME inclusion and success by following guidance available on the grp-BME Success Sharepoint site. The site includes a helpful inclusion guide that features practical examples to support BAME students in all aspects of their student experience. Recommended steps that staff can take include: 

  • Read up to date materials regarding under-represented groups in Higher Education 
  • Appreciate BAME Students may have different experiences and needs 
  • Establish ways for students to interact with other students from different backgrounds 
  • Extend beyond European culture or history to include a wider view of the world 

There’s also information on the BAME Success Programme and nominated Success Advocates for each faculty who are available to support you. 

BiLT have also produced a blog post summarising top guidance from AdvancedHE on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). The piece was written by one of the Success Advocates, Samya Sarfaraz, who notes that the eight themes of EDI is a useful framework for all disciplines. It helps us see where our practice is strongest and where more work still needs to be done. 

It’s worth noting that not everyone agrees with the use of the acronym BAME. One of our University of Bristol academics, Dr Foluke Ifejola Adebisi, writes this useful prompt on how we might consider other terminology “The Only Accurate Part of ‘BAME’ is the ‘and’…”. In the writing of this blog, I’ve chosen to include the term BAME as it is the term currently employed throughout our university systems and guidance. When engaging with contemporary issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, BAME becomes a less appropriate term that can obfuscate appropriate responses to and understandings of lived Black experiences.  

Maintaining integrity through adversary 

In March 2020, the Bristol Medical School became the first in the UK to adopt a new BAME charter to address racial harassment. In May 2020, the University of Bristol achieved Silver and Bronze Athena SWAN awards in recognition of its progress on gender equality. Many of our staff are leaders in equality and diversity, yet this progress is put at risk because of the pressures caused by the pandemic. 

It’s difficult to be asked to consider the complexities of social inequalities when we are under pressure. However, it is important that this time of stress does not further negatively impact the most vulnerable or disenfranchised in our institutions. Before, during and after the pandemic, we should have pride in our ability to ensure equitability for all.  

If you haven’t already, our Digital Design course includes a session on designing inclusively. You can take the course asynchronously in August – sign up here. Staff who would like a refresher on the session are welcome to take the course again.  

 

Resources: 

 

Dr Aisling (Ash) Tierney – get in touch to discuss any aspect of our teaching and learning at Bristol: a.tierney@bristol.ac.uk https://twitter.com/IrishAshyT

Teaching Stories

The Civic University Online

A few months ago, I wrote a blogpost on urban spaces and the concept of the civic university. This topic is now reconsidered in the context a pandemic-affected world and has led me to ask some questions: what do civic teaching and learning activities look like in digital-only contexts? How can we engage our online practice with our city in meaningful ways?

‘How can students collect data and research without leaving the house?’

Data collection allows students to practice primary research (e.g. photographs, observations, air quality monitors, etc.). In digital-only settings, primary data collection could include online polls, questionnaires and crowdsourcing data from the public.  If you’re planning this, you’ll need to get ethical approval – you can find guidance, links and online ethics tools on this website.

The benefits of using primary data collection include improved confidence in handling primary data and conducting research, and transferable skills development through the process of data collection design and methodologies for data analysis.

If these options don’t fit your teaching context, use of secondary data is a great alternative while still allowing your students to respond to locally-relevant questions for the City of Bristol. A host of third-party data can be included as raw materials for teaching activities.

A good starting point to find this information is the Open Data Bristol website that is populated with data collected predominantly by Bristol City Council. Topics covered include transport, planning, housing, population, geography, democracy, energy, economy and education. This data can be compared against national datasets, such as the Centre for Cities that has a visual “cities data tool” alongside downloadable raw data.If you’re considering the use of historical information, you can find visualised historic maps of the city from 1746 via Know Your Place. This site is populated with crowd-sourced data, and your students can also contribute to the site directly.

If you’re considering the use of historical information, you can find visualised historic maps of the city from 1746 via Know Your Place. This site is populated with crowd-sourced data, and your students can also contribute to the site directly.

How can we communicate and reach out to communities during this period?

In 2019, the University of Bristol was one of 31 institutions to sign the The Civic University Agreement. One of its leading ambitions is to understand the local population and ask them what they want. Outward-facing engagement can take many different forms, such as festivals, public talks, exhibitions, research papers, blogs, videos, school educational events and resource development with many disciplines already engaging outreach activities as part of their degree programmes. Ideally, these projects employ two-way communication and co-collaboration – co-creating with the community, rather than at the community.

How can we embed this ethos into our teaching practice when we are constrained to the digital world? At this pandemic juncture, how do we adjust our teaching and learning approaches to be responsive to the current crisis, while also preparing students for a post-pandemic world?

We also need to consider equitability. How confident are we that the communities we engage with all have equal access to digital devices and reliable internet? If we only communicate digitally, does this exclude parts of the community? How can we circumvent these issues? These are questions that can be contextually situated within your degree programme, to fit your disciplinary boundaries and existing methods, and serve as critical prompts for your students to grapple with.

It’s worth noting that one of the recommendations made in the civic university agreement is to remove the suggestions that local research is inferior to international research. We can ask ourselves, is this something that implicitly or explicitly emerges in our teaching? Do we teach our students to value our civic ethos?


How does this relate to the curriculum framework? 

The University of Bristol’s curriculum framework includes six dimensions, one of which is global and civic engagement. We can see how this can take shape from both teachers’ and student’s perspectives: 

Ideas for what teachers can do Ideas for what students can do 
Make links to community projects and identifies opportunities for student involvement Work with stakeholders, identifies needs and contributes to novel solutions 
Partner with civic organisations for social good and mutual benefit, expanding and applying knowledge Participate in engagement opportunities such as careers fairs and internships 
Develop ‘live briefs’ with external clients for student participation Commit to actions and behaviours which align with values 
Teach about disciplinary conundrums and breakthroughs in relation to global challenges Sign up to relevant Bristol Futures units  
Work with employers, SMEs and voluntary organisations to shape aspects of the curriculum Conduct research related to grand challenges  
Create research projects which use the city as a lab for innovation Volunteer and feed external learning into curriculum outcomes 

Civic curriculum thematics and activities that resonate with the city of Bristol provide our students with opportunities to apply their knowledge to real world problems. This civic platform enables students to explore their local environment and communities in engaged ways, offering opportunities for them to make a difference.  

Ash Tierney

News

Call for Chapters: ‘Learning in lockdown: Innovative teaching and academic support in higher education during COVID-19 crisis’.

I would like to invite you to submit a chapter proposal for the co-edited book titled ‘Learning in lockdown: Innovative teaching and academic support in higher education during COVID-19 crisis’. I am particularly interested to receive case studies, drawn from different academic disciplines or learning/teaching support programmes.

The chapters of the book will report innovative teaching, learning and academic support schemes implemented at universities during COVID-19 pandemic. The authors are expected to follow a systematic and robust evaluation approach in the presentation of their 4000-word case study. Examples of evaluation may include drawing findings from an empirical study or literature review, a reflective or critical analysis of educational theories and concepts, or a combination of all of them. Additionally, the authors can consider connecting their discussion with one or more underlying features of higher education, for example, instructional design, assessment, inclusion, and professional development for faculty members.

Please write to me (golam.jamil@bristol.ac.uk) for the full call including scope of the book and abstract writing guidelines.

Cheers!

Jamil

News

The Active, Collaborative Cookbook

A collection of ‘recipes’ to try with your students to introduce more active learning activities into your sessions. With a specific focus on digital engagement, this book is a must-have for any lecturer teaching students online! The cookbook was created by Toby Roberts, one of our BILT Student Fellows, and published in June 2020.

View the cookbook here.

hand taking book off shelf with title sustainability education
News

The Fierce Urgency Of Now: reflections on the 5th Sustainability in Higher Education Conference

Between the 18th and 21st of May, the fifth annual Sustainability in Higher Education Conference took place, jointly hosted by Canterbury Christ Church University and Plymouth University.  

The Paradox Model 

Welcomes and discussions engaging with the themes of paradoxes in sustainability education framed the event. Participants were invited to reflect on “The Paradox Model” that articulates challenges and tensions for educators. 

The Paradox Model

Resistance and alignment asks how radical universities should be, how able or willing they are to resist neoliberal tendencies (student satisfaction, employability, standardisation of experience).  

Fast and slow explores the pace that we respond to pressures, and the pace of learning. Right now, we see the demand for quick action, not just because of Covid-19, but also provocations like Extinction Rebellion. A key question is how we reconcile the fact that learning is a slow process, but we have urgent demands now. Both slow and quick responses have a place in our practice.  

Individual and society is at the centre of the diagram. Universities are complex and diverse, so we can’t assume an institutional level response is felt by other levels and vice-versa with regards to grass-roots action.  

The pedagogical concept of wicked problems prompted much of this thinking on complexity, uncertainty and how interconnected issues are. The paradox model is a response to the wickedness of what universities are responding to. Often, we are pushed towards positions of certainty and it can be difficult to resist linear thinking. 

The final talking point in the welcome section concerned wisdom. Here, the presenters asked how universities make choices and judgement in difficult and ambiguous situations. How can wisdom become a practical tool? One book that spurred reflection was Jonathan Rauch “The Happiness Curve”. Here we see how the language of wisdom provides greater richness in how we can make wise choices, rather than “good” choices. Wisdom encompasses cognitive domains of knowledge and understanding and also foregrounds affective experiential learning and reflection. 

University of Bristol 

I presented alongside colleagues in Geographical Sciences (Dr Eleni Michalopoulou) and Computer Science (Prof Chris Priest) on the theme of Fast Resistance. We reflected on our award-winning open online course “Sustainable Futures”.  

Since 2017, the course has run three times a year and is free to everybody worldwide. Thousands of participants have joined and shared their experiences. With a few years of the course completed, we now have lots of raw data on which elements of the course resonate best with our learners. We were able to share our course principles and design, such as viewing challenges from multiple perspectives, using personal stories to encourage reflection, and reflecting on a broad and integrated perspective on sustainability.  

Reflections 

The first two days offered asynchronous links to pre-recorded videos. The last two days were live sessions with Q&As and workshops in two half-day blocks. This format successfully minimised the time demands on participants. It was an interesting way to deliver a conference that allowed attendees to review material at their own pace and prepare for the discursive sessions. 

A major theme that emerged, perhaps unexpectedly, was that of postcolonial dialogues and non-Western perspectives in the curriculum. In retrospect, this was a timely concern given current social activism for Black Lives Matter.  

One question asked: why is scholarship outside the Western academy and policy decision making outside of these frameworks not more evident? This prompted discussion on issues of equality and justice in academia, policy making, identity politics and awareness-raising. Discussants challenged the concept of a “monolith of Western ideas” and asked why alternative voices are not published or accessible in English, asking us to fight against our own unconscious biases. 

For my own part, I offered tangible and actionable steps to address these concerns. This included starting steps such as revising reading lists with respect to inclusion, diversity and non-white voices.  

Disagreement broke out for a minority of attendees who place priority on tackling “hard science” Climate Change above all other considerations, noting the failure of political regimes around the world to solve this problem. Others, myself included, noted that no action can be hoped for without societal buy-in.  These are familiar critiques for anyone working in Education for Sustainable Development over the last few decades. In particular, technology is often seen as the savior of humanity, an eternally “futured” resolution to current problems, but one that has yet to live up to expectations or pressing need. 

A chorus of voices chimed together that Universities always de-prioritise sustainability, that it always plays second fiddle to the latest neoliberal concern, so that sustainability becomes subservient rather than radical. 

Special mention must be given to the trance-like experience of Dr Hilary Leighton’s workshop “coming back to life – an invitation to experience the work that reconnects” (School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University, Canada). As an eco-psychologist who uses first nation (Native America; First Peoples) perspectives, we were invited to become emotive and personal connect on questions of interconnectedness, purpose, storytelling and remembering. 

Less exhilarating, but certainly of worthy relevance to the UK HE sector was the workshop on QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) update to the current UK guidelines on Education for Sustainable Development. Several crowd-sourced ideas from the attendees will now feed into future work on this agenda. 

The conference had several technical hick-ups that detracted from the vibrant discussions, but overall, there was more than enough food for thought to propel ESD further into our hearts, minds and curricula.  

Ash Tierney

News, Teaching Stories

Our Digital Champions’ Do’s and Don’ts

We’ve established a network of Digital Champions to support you in the transition to blended education. There are Digital Champions in each school and can support you:

  • By contributing their own perspectives and expertise to central guidance, courses and advice; 
  • By feeding school- or discipline-specific perspectives of the types of teaching that they need to do, or the challenges they are facing into BILT and the DEO so that it can be considered in the digital environment, guidance and exemplars; 
  • By gathering and sharing examples of effective online approaches from and with colleagues; 
  • By advising colleagues on suitable tools and approaches, and directing them to further relevant advice, guidance and support. 

We asked our Digital Champions what their online teaching do’s and don’ts were and have shared them below.

Emma Slade (School of Management)
Do: emphasize interactivity. Content is everywhere online, it’s the interaction between students and between academics and students that is unique.
Don’t: try and do everything online that you would face-to-face.

Jon Symonds (School for Policy Studies)
Do: speak to colleagues about what ideas you are trying out and what is working for you.
Don’t: feel you need to use tech tools until you’ve decided what you want to use them for.

Andy Wakefield (School of Biological Sciences)
Do: consider onscreen fatigue for your students, as well as for you and your colleagues.
Don’t: be afraid to ask colleagues (champions) for help/advice.

James Freeman (School of Humanities)
Do: use breakout groups (although only with super-narrow tasks/questions).
Don’t: hunt for a single magic formula – things that promote engagement one week don’t necessarily work the next week.

Sean Lancastle (School of Civil, Aero and Mechanical Engineering)
Do: leave the chat box open in BB Collaborate – students seem more likely to ask questions online than in a face-to-face setting.
Don’t: stick to the conventional 50 minute slots – shorter is better!

Andrew McKinley (School of Physics)
Do: create space for asynchronous discussions to prompt ‘background thought’ about material for longer periods.
Don’t: spend your contact time transmitting information that students can find in other places online.

Robert Sharples (School of Education)
Do: use the opportunity to ‘curate’ learning that cuts across units (and disciplines)
Don’t: over-complicate the tech. If you’re comfortable with it, your students probably are too.

Rebecca Vallis (Bristol Vet School)
Do: spend time engaging with individual students – it is still possible to get to know students online!
Don’t: deliver a 40-minute lecture – students much prefer it when content is split into chunks.

Tom Hill (School of Mechanical Engineering)
Do: let students follow their own path of learning in the online classroom
Don’t: try and maintain the hierarchy of the classroom

Peter Allen (School of Psychological Sciences)
Do: use Zoom – a surprisingly good proxy for a tutorial room!
Don’t: keep everyone on mute – synchronous sessions are much richer when everyone has their cameras and mics on.

Kathryn Allinson (Bristol Law School)
Do: think carefully about what the best tools or platform is for your teaching outcome and build in opportunities to check in with students so that they can share feedback and questions with you. Recorded lectures are great but it is important that students still have the opportunity for ‘live’ interaction with you.
Don’t: be inflexible – just as with teaching in person, things will happen that will require you to think on your feet. This isn’t a disaster and if you have planned in alternatives and back-ups then you will be prepared and able to ensure students still get the best teaching possible.

To find out who the Digital Champion is in your school, visit this page.

Teaching Stories

Forums: five ways to get your students talking online

In these ‘unprecedented times’ (yes, I said it) one thing at least is certain…like it or loath it, online teaching is here to stay.

This ‘new normal’ requires us as educators to consider new and innovative ways of engaging students with course materials. Simultaneously, we are challenged with fostering a sense of community and connectedness at a time when we have never been more isolated from one another. Online forums are just one tool that can help tackle both these challenges at once.

Forums can play a big part in providing peer-learning opportunities for students, strengthening relationships, lessening the effects of social isolation and empowering students to develop a social presence. From an educational perspective, forums provide students with space to reflect and apply their learning which in turn aids knowledge retention.

In short, ‘forums construct a learning experience around collaboration as a means of deepening understanding.’

Assuming my powers of persuasion are strong, and you are now itching to set up a student forum, here are some simple suggestions for establishing and managing forums to maximising student participation and connectedness.

  1. Don’t keep it a mystery

Ensure early buy-in from your students by being explicit about the benefits they can enjoy by being an active participant on the forum (see above). If these are made clear, students will be much more motivated to get- and stay- involved.

2. MIND YOUR Ps & Qs!!!!!! – online etiquette or ‘netiquette’

Good forums provide a safe space to openly share ideas, opinions, questions and considerations. This can only be achieved if students feel that it is a respectful and supportive environment. Take some time to consider some simple ground rules you expect students to follow. This could simply include asking students to avoid excessive use of capital letters and explanation points – no one likes to feel they’re being shouted, whether it be online or in person.

You could also provide more structured guidance to encourage a positive culture based on thoughtful and constructive engagement, this will help create an inclusive environment which encourages reluctant students to engage more freely.

Example: the ‘3CQ method’ suggests contributions should include compliment, a comment, a connection or a question.  This helps to keep discussion constructive and supportive whilst also avoiding dead-end comments like ‘I agree’.

3. Creative contributions

Make your forum somewhere that students want to come to by making it interactive and fun. This can be achieved by encouraging contributions which use multi-media, such as pictures, weblinks and personalised videos, YouTube content and PowerPoint presentations. Lead by example by contributing multimedia yourself. Your contributions will help set the tone and demonstrate to students that the forum can be a place for creative contributions outside of the traditionally academic.

4. Get involved

Forums are driven by discussions. Your active involvement on the forum will have a big impact on student engagement. Take the time to respond to comments and messages to keep the forum dynamic and lively. Follow up on questions, both privately and publicly, and provide affirmations, prompts, feedback and pose open-ended questions in order to encourage students to think deeper and more critically. Your involvement may also help identify any students who are less engaged and you can encourage their participation.

A word of warning – although your contributions help keep the forum dynamic and active, it is also important to give students space to discuss and share ideas. Try not to dominate.

5. Lose the lurking

Research shows that introverts are more likely to engage in forums than contribute in class. You may still find however, that some students are more eager to get involved than others, you may even get the odd ‘lurker’ – someone who views the forum but doesn’t actively contribute.

Lurking can occur because of a perception that those students who confidentially contribute have a better understanding of discussion topics. More often than not, active contributions have little to do with greater knowledge acquisition and far more to do with a student’s general confidence to engage with forums as a learning tool. Encourage lurking students to participate, contact them privately to tease out and challenge any preconceptions they may be harbouring about active contributors and encourage them to get involved by reiterating the benefits that can come with active engagement.

If you would like any help with setting up a forum please get in touch with DEO or attend one of their drop-in sessions details of which can be found here.

Caroline Harvey

News

Digital Design course details

The aim of this online course is to provide you with the digital design skills and knowledge to plan learning, assessment, units and programmes for flexible delivery next year.

In the course you will:

  • Critically reflect on your experience of teaching online
  • Explore engaging and inclusive design for your context
  • Analyse how different technologies can support different types of learning, teaching and assessment
  • Apply principles of online design to your teaching, assessment, units and programmes

By the end you will have designed a sequence of online activities for a week of teaching, and will have the knowledge and skills to build a user-friendly course in Blackboard using a range of different tools and types of task. 

You should expect to spend 1 hour per day on the course activities.

To make the course available to as many possible we will be running it three times. Once you have signed up we will enrol you onto the Blackboard course and email you with details about how to join before the course starts.

Follow the links to sign up

Run 1: Wed 27th May – Fri 5th June

Run 2: Mon 15th June – Tue 23rd June

Run 3: Thurs 9th July – Fri 17th July

space raiders
Teaching Stories

Three super low-tech ways to gamify your learning

Adding game design and mechanics to your online content can make it more engaging, motivational and enjoyable. Online educational content is competing with social and entertainment content, and so now is as good a time as any to start adding a bit of fun to your teaching.

We’re going to look at three very simple ways to add game design elements into teaching online to encourage students to engage with your content and activities.

1. Challenges rather than tasks.

By framing work as a ‘challenge’, ‘quest’ or ‘mission’ rather than a ‘task’ or ‘activity’, you can completely change the tone of a piece of work, even if the content is exactly the same. Adding an element of team work to this further creates a sense that they are playing a game together, rather than just engaging in another dreaded piece of group work. The work could also ask you students to assume a certain role(s) to help them complete the challenges.

Compare these two examples below:

Example 1: Today’s mission asks you to analyse the following intercepted telecom for hidden messages sent to the Nazis by renown double-agent Eddie Chapman (‘Zigzag’). In your role as linguistic analyst, you need to report back your findings in less than 500 words summarising what you have found and the reasoning behind your answers. You have just an hour to complete your mission.

Example 2: Analyse the following telecom for hidden messages in less than 500 words, including reasoning for your answers. The telecom was intercepted by MI5 from Eddie Chapman to the Nazis. (1 hour task).

You’ll need to scaffold this sort of activity around similar others, or you could just choose to have a week dedicated to ‘missions’ rather than your traditional content and get feedback on how your students have found it.

2. Progress indicators and difficulty levels.

Seeing out how much content you’ve made it through on a certain day or week’s worth of learning can create a sense of achievement and like you’ve progressed in your learning.  

In many games you know how much you have left to complete the level either by a percentage or star system. Each ‘level’ or stage is often divided up into more manageable chunks of increasing difficulty for you to progress through. Once you get to the end of that stage you feel a sense of achievement and are motivated to carry on and complete the next level.

We can apply similar mechanics to online learning and a similar effect will occur. All you need to do to add this sort of engagement is structure the content in a way that looks like students are moving through stages or levels, rather than just completing one activity after another. Adding a ‘%’ to each task also helps students understand how long they should be spending on different activities

Consider the three different ways this week’s activities are presented and think about which one attracts you the most and why. What don’t you like about them?

Understand what this week’s learning outcomes are. (10%)  

Join the live webinar (watch the recording if you can’t watch it live). (30%)  

Complete the week’s challenge. (50%)  

Feedback and share using the discussion board. (10%)  
BONUS: Complete this code-breaking game to unlock the secret material.  
Level 1 (Easy): Understand what this week’s learning outcomes are.  

Level 2 (Moderate): Join the live webinar (watch the recording if you can’t watch it live).  

Level 3 (Moderate – Difficult): Complete this week’s challenge.  

Final task (Easy): Feedback and reflect on the discussion board.  

*Optional extra: Complete this code-breaking game to unlock secret content.    
Understand what this week’s learning outcomes are.  

Join the live webinar (watch the recording if you can’t watch it live).  

Complete the week’s task.
 
A checkpoint/ opportunity for feedback.  

*Extra activity – complete this  game for extra material.

Go one step further…

  • Consider adding questions or quizzes students have to complete before moving onto the next ‘level’.
  • Add ‘secret’ content students have to unlock by completing small challenges.

3. Healthy competition.

One of the more controversial aspects of gamifying education is the use of competitive elements, such as leaderboards and rewards. However, if integrated sensitively, they can provide light competition and drive among students, furthering engagement with the materials.

One way to do this is to allow students to vote on their favourite contribution to a discussion board, or a prize for the student who has engaged the most with the discussion.

You can also have a leaderboard for any quizzes that students take as part of the online content.

To bring some team work into your online teaching, consider hosting a weekly ‘pub quiz’ for students to show off what they’ve learnt during the week.

If you’re interested in gamification and game-based learning, you can join the Digital Education Office/ BILT ‘Learning Games’ learning community by getting in touch with either BILT or DEO.

BONUS: Further reading.

Read about ‘Gamifying History’ at the University last year here.
Watch this TEDx talk on ‘How gaming can make a better world’.
Take the ‘Lifesaver’ game – a brilliant example of using a game for learning.

Amy Palmer.

News

Moving Assessment Online: Key Principles for Inclusion, Pedagogy and Practice

This AdvanceHE webinar was chaired by Patrick Baughan with presenters David Carless, Jess Moody and Jess Stokes discussing different aspects. The format of the webinar was that each presenter gave a 10-15 minute presentation (some followed these guidelines more closely than others) and at the end questions were taken and the panel had a discussion.

Screengrab of the three speakers and panel chair on Zoom.

David Carless was the first to speak, covering assessment and feedback in online learning environments. His recent tweets (@CarlessDavid) cover a lot of the material discussed below, but I’ve summarised the main points he addressed below.

Assessment principles:

  • Flexibility and choice to enable – we want to give students opportunity to show best knowledge and performance.
  • Assessment needs to be a partnership with students, rather than something that is done to students.
  • Assessment during this period should be of ‘no detriment’ to our students. We need to provide alternative assessments that can meet the learning outcomes we are looking for – David offered examples of these but you can see a similar list on this DEO page.

Feedback principles:

  • Pedagogy even more than technology should guide planning feedback.
  • Students need to be active in the feedback processes, making meaning from, and acting on, feedback
  • There needs to be a social and interpersonal and relational aspect to feedback, which is even more pertinent at the moment.
  • There also needs to be opportunities for acting upon feedback. Proof of feedback pudding is in the eating! Timing of feedback needs to allow for opportunities – think about peer feedback and internal self-evaluation.

Suggested practices for doing this:

  • Audio and video peer feedback;
    • enables students to make academic judgements and they can compare their own work with peers. In this climate, it can also help develop a sense of community (Filius et al, 2019). In research done with peer assessment in MOOCs, it was shown that multiple peer reviews aligned with self-evaluation of own work were most effective. It can be a really rich process in the composing of peer review.
  • Collaborative writing, e.g. Google Docs – multiple sources of feedback and action works in process.
  • Online quizzes with automated feedback
  • Teaching screencast or give video feedback to students via online conferencing tools. Allows us to build rapport, nuance, trust and builds social presence. Also encourages students to take action and helps develop shared responsibilities.

Workload needs to be wisely deployed – we need to reduce teacher commentary at times when it cannot be taken up.

To summarise:

  • Pedagogy drives technology use
  • We need students to have active involvement in assessment and feedback
  • Social presence, care and trust is of upmost importance
  • Support and coaching for feedback literacy should be available.

Jess Moody then went on to deliver her short presentation on inclusion and online assessment in the Covid-19 pandemic.

She identified the key aspects of the challenge:

  • Decisions about assessment must ensure that all students are equally enabled to demonstrate their learning.
  • The key factors in decision making are changing or unknown (both delivery and health concerns, economic distress).
  • The danger of compounding existing structural inequities – award, progression, grants and careers.

Jess then went on to discuss some priority issues:

  • Digital equity – students do not have equal access to home to both learning materials and access to feedback. Things like internet at home, space and a place to work, privacy at home, access to resources. We need to enable software and hardware for students at home they would normally use on campus.

Safeguarding – Not all of our students are safe at home, need to think of stress of that on top of assessment. Also the online spaces present different challenges (gendered/ racialised issues) for our students.

  • Temporal equity – students are craving normalcy but time is not available equally to students. There are issues around caring responsibilities, health religious observance and access. Students need option to disengage where they can not prioritise assessments. Not all days are equal – students may have part time jobs etc that means they need extra time to complete tasks. We also need to consider how we check in with students wellbeing during this time.

This is not a binary switch from assessment ‘A’ to assessment ‘B’. We need to understand the diversity and uncertainty of individual needs and we have to support their informed choices about things like delaying exams, taking assessments in a different format, etc. We need to give agency and sense of control to student who may otherwise be feeling powerless.

Policy, procedure and impact analysis – we should embed equality impact analysis in decisions about change. Priorities are changing and we need to ensure we have more streamlined extenuating circumstances, resits, progressions rules and deferral and interruption procedures. Certain groups are likely to apply for these more than others, so be prepared for this. Built into all of this needs to be a commitment to reviewing the impact of decision on different groups.

Key principles

  • No one should be left behind – 0identiy our most vulnerable groups
  • Do no more harm – don’t compound existing inequalities in the crisis
  • Be transparent and flexible
  • Support should be first
  • Make sure you understand the impact of your decisions.

Geoff Stoakes – special advisor in advance HE and close involvement in TEF

At this point in the webinar my neighbour came round to drop off some shopping he had picked up for us so I missed the first part of Geoff’s presentation. When I rejoined the webinar, Geoff almost immediately lost his connection to the internet so all I can do is post the slide we were on! Please speak to the AQPO about any quality questions you have.

We then started the discussion element of the webinar while Geoff sorted out his internet connection.

(Geoff did then go on to finish his presentation but at this point I had been listening and writing notes for 50 minutes and was finding it very difficult to concentrate. There was a great deal of text on his slides and he was going through them too fast for me to take good notes. You can see all of his slides on the AdvanceHE website, which provide a good enough summary of what he was saying.)

I walked away from my computer for a couple of minutes to get a drink and have a quick conversation with my husband. This seemed to reset my concentration ready for the final discussion/ questions part of the presentation.

Discussion following the talks covered:

How lecturers could minimise their own bias when marking online – Jess talked about how bias impacts our decisions more when we are stressed, tired, hungry, etc – which is more evident now at the moment. Institutionally how do we support out staff, deadline for markings could be extended, as well as when and how anonymisation is helpful, how you design assessment mitigates bias and continuous monitoring to ensure that we minimise bias where possible. David discussed evaluative judgements and what we can learn from art and design communities and make professional judgements, it is part of their subject to discuss this and so we need to bring it into other discipline conversations.

How to make it easier to record video feedback – David says that sometimes hard-working staff do too much with feedback (and students can find it overwhelming!) – less is more. We need to train students to self-evaluate and make use of peer feedback.

Resources for students for peer feedback – David has covered this is his previous writings (Carless and Winstone, 2019 – ‘meaty’ chapter on it) – we need to train and coach students in how to do it, model our own experiences, sell the benefits, negotiate with them how to tackle the challenges.

Increase in student anxiety with the flexibility offered in assessments – students are worried they might make wrong choice – how do we mitigate this? David has seen this in his research and encountered this – the more choice, the more confusing for students! We need to negotiate choices with them and asking them to think it through. Jess discusses informed choices and how we communicate in different ways – how can we make things as clear as possible? And consider – are there certain choices that may impact on certain groups more than others?  We also need a space where people can come and have that conversation. Why and how are people making certain choices in these times too?

Issues with internet connections – can’t give feedback online – is responsibility of HEI to provide internet access or they need to provide alternative feedback and resources? Jess starts the conversation and says there are legal requirements here that need to be considered depending on where you are in the world. There are moral questions – who are we leaving behind? Other institutions are making funds available for students but internet access is a really difficult one – there are things around proportionality in implementing the Equality Act. Geoff adds that some universities are partnering with a company to ensure students have laptops. We also need to consider alternative forms of assessments that allow for students that do not have internet access.

Recording of this webinar is in the Advance HE Connect membership benefit series, also in Teaching and Learning forum. Advance HE Connect is available as an app on iOS and Android.

If you’re thinking of a doing a webinar, make it shorter than an hour unless you build in long enough breaks for people to have a concentration reset!

Amy Palmer