Great Debate

The Great Debate: Engagement vs Attendance?

The fourth blog in this series has been written by Emilie Poletto-Lawson, a BILT Fellow and language associate in the School of Modern Languages. 

Have you ever tried to learn a language? Gone to your local bookshop or library and brought home the best resources you could find, sat in front of them, very excited and determined, that day is the day you start your journey! You booked on the highest rated course and sat there listening. And yet, ten minutes later, half an hour later, two hours later, one year later you realise that, well, you cannot have this philosophical conversation you dreamt of having with a native speaker, you cannot read your favourite writer in her/his original language, you cannot watch the latest film by your favourite foreign director without subtitles. Why? Because no matter how good the resources, no matter how good the facilitator, if you do not engage, if you only sit there, it will not work, it is about you.

I chose this example because I am a language tutor and this is a story I hear often but I think this applies to anything you do in life. Attending a talk, a workshop, reading a book, going to university etc. it will not work unless you engage with it. You might need to define what engaging is to you but it certainly is not sitting there, waiting for a miracle. You are the key and that can be daunting or extremely empowering.

As an educator, It think it is essential to build a supportive community in class, of course, but also outside of class. I remember amazing lectures from my time at university but my fondest memories are the activities I chose to engage with and the human adventure they were. Bearing this in mind, I try to offer those to my students. Starting a radio show in French, directing the French year abroad on stage acts, running subtitling workshops are all activities I love and that bring me closer to my colleagues involved in the project, and to my students. Seeing colleagues come together and students engage, build their confidence and further their language skills is the best reward for a teacher.  As facilitators we can make offers, we can listen, we can guide but the key lies with the students themselves.

We invite you to leave comments below.

Great Debate

The Great Debate: Engagement vs Attendance?

Our third blog in this series is from Philip Kent – University Librarian and Director of Library services. 

You are invited to leave comments below.

It is timely that BILT’s next theme is ‘ReThinking Spaces’. This is something that exercises my mind daily and is front of mind as we commence planning for the new University Library. In terms of library and study spaces this is an area that has seen considerable progress in the past 15 years. The Information or Learning Commons concept has grown out of changing needs of modern curricula and support for collaborative and individual learning. It has revolutionised the physical environment and created inspiring spaces to research, learn and to contemplate new ideas.

It is important that we understand the difference between library and study spaces despite the overlap of concepts. Post-occupancy evaluation of such spaces ensures that we refine models over time. Nevertheless we strive to create timeless, inspirational spaces including a diversity of contexts to suit different learning preferences. There is some difference of opinion about the role of books in 21st century libraries. Of course discipline differences contribute but there is no right answer. Digitisation of rare books for example, has created greater demand from scholars to visit, consult, touch and smell the real thing! In my opinion, the digital and physical co-exist and the sum is greater than the parts.

The topic of ‘Engagement vs. Attendance’ also inspires valid debate surfacing varied academic theories and opinions. In a former life I had institutional responsibility for university systems such as lecture capture and learning management. I heard impassioned debates for both sides of the argument in Senate-like bodies. We must listen to student demand for this technology. I was fascinated to see that usage of lecture capture was not a single substitute for lecture attendance. Usage data proved that lectures were revisited many times as part of the revision process. At risk of being cast as a fence sitter, again I think it is not either/or but rather a great opportunity to increase understanding and better educational outcomes. It is incumbent on practitioners to maximise face-to-face teaching opportunities to instil magic into the process!

As we approach Teaching and Learning Week, we also can learn from our colleagues and open our minds to new possibilities to transform students lives through the power of higher education.

Philip Kent
Director of Library Services and University Librarian

500 Words

What Does a ‘Good Seat’ in the Library Mean to You?

This article was written by Sofia Doyle, our contributing student author. 

As Teaching Block 2 comes to an end and exam period begins, study spaces at Bristol have started to fill up. It is around this time of year that finding a seat in the Arts and Social Sciences Library after 10am is nothing short of a miracle. With that said, it is clear that we all have our favourite places to study; our go-to spaces where we feel we can get the work done. Some feel motivated by the grandeur of the Wills Memorial Library, others enjoy the buzz of the Arts and Social Sciences, while my personal preference is the retreat offered by a small study room for those studying Master’s degrees in SPAIS.

Despite many peoples’ clear preferences, most of the time we do not question what it is about a particular spatial environment that appeals to each of us as a place to study. We might know where we want to go, but the reasons why are a little more hazy. When we do talk about it, factors that often come up include the likelihood of getting a ‘good seat’, proximity to subject specific resources, and whether or not your friends and a cafe is nearby for the all important coffee break(s).

Recent research into student perceptions of their learning environment have sought to dig deeper into these questions, unearthing what makes a good study space and why. This research has investigated both physical and social factors that influence how we feel about the spaces in which we learn.

In respect to physical factors that impact our learning environments, the research shows that temperature, light, and air quality are of major importance. A space in a room with a lack of sufficient natural or artificial lighting, that is too hot or too cold, or is stuffy with no air-flow, is unlikely to fulfil the ‘good seat’ criteria. In fact, a room that’s overly hot and stuffy is not only uncomfortable to study in, but can have a significant impact on concentration levels.

On the social side of things, research has shown we prefer quiet spaces when completing individual work, and tend more to avoid the hustle and bustle of busy social environments. This is contrasted to the benefits of more social spaces for group project work. Learning environments that combine the ability to retreat to quiet study while providing access to social spaces like cafes or canteens score highly; they give us the opportunity to complete individual study while facilitating spaces where we can collaborate and socialise with our peers. In other words: the best of both worlds.

While we seldom think about these factors on the way to the library in the morning, they may be subconsciously influencing our decision to study in some spaces over others. Next time we all snag our favourite library seats, it might be worth reflecting on the physical and social environment of the study space we are in. Does it tick all the boxes, or could it be better?

An interview with...

An interview with… Naomi Winstone

The third interview in our series is with Naomi Winstone, who presented an excellent seminar on maximising the impact of feedback in March 2018. Naomi has helped to implement a new feedback system in Surrey and has had huge success; she was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2016 and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. You can find more about her research and publications here.

What are the most common problems you tend to observe with current feedback practices?

One of the key problems I think we face is the positioning of students as passive receivers of feedback, where feedback is something that is ‘done’ to them, and where the delivery of feedback by their tutor represents the end of the feedback process. In fact, this should be seen as the beginning of the process, where student engagement and action are the most important determinants of the impact of the feedback.

We perhaps unwittingly reinforce students’ position in this way by focusing on feedback as written comments (what David Carless terms the ‘Old Paradigm’ of feedback practice), often provided at the end of a unit or module. We are also perhaps telling students that this is the model of feedback that we value, by asking them in surveys such as the NSS to evaluate the quality of assessment and feedback according to what they have ‘received’. The modularisation of curricula also places feedback into topic-based silos, making it harder for students to see feedback as part of an ongoing learning journey.

A lot of efforts to improve students’ satisfaction with feedback focus on the role of the educator, for example, promoting the use of particular language in feedback comments, or designing new feedback pro-formas. I don’t think we will ever see a transformation in the assessment and feedback process unless we focus not on the feedback itself, but on its impact on student learning and development.

What benefits do students experience through a better understanding of the feedback process?

The ability to use feedback effectively is not just a critical academic skill, but also a crucial life skill. If students gain an appreciation of the power of feedback, and learn how to apply it beyond just the next piece of work, they are developing skills that will support their learning and development way beyond their time at University. Understanding the feedback process enables students to develop the ability to evaluate their own work, making them less reliant on external sources of feedback.

How can Universities help students to understand these benefits?

I think that it is essential to build time into the curriculum to support students to develop and hone the skills needed to implement feedback. We use the workshop tool from the Developing Engagement with Feedback Toolkit ( to equip our incoming students with these skills. Dialogue is also essential; we should be continually talking to students about the impact of feedback and their role in the process.

What are the most valuable resources/articles you use?

There are so many people whose work has had a huge impact on me, and whose articles I return to time and again, and always gain something new from. In particular, Margaret Price’s work encouraged me to focus on engagement with feedback rather than its delivery, and the work of David Nicol, David Carless, and David Boud has also been very influential. If I were to identify one ‘go-to’ resource, it would be David Boud and Elizabeth Molloy’s 2013 edited volume entitled ‘Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well’. It’s a really comprehensive and thought-provoking resource with contributions from leading scholars.

What one piece of advice would you give to help improve students understanding of the feedback process?

Don’t focus just on the feedback you get when an assignment is marked. There is potentially no limit to the amount of feedback you can get whilst at University. You can continually gain feedback from tutors, learning advisors, librarians, peers, family members, and through your own self-assessment. In order to gain maximum benefit from these sources of feedback, you need to be willing to ask for it!

What inspired you to first start looking at feedback practice and advocating change?

As a psychologist, I am primarily interested in the reasons behind people’s behaviour. We hear a lot of negativity about students’ engagement with feedback, that they often don’t read or even collect feedback! I think it is important to ask why this might be the case, and better understand why students don’t feel that the feedback holds value for them. In previous roles (Head of Level 4, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Director of Learning and Teaching, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching) I spent a lot of time talking to students, and hearing about the challenges they face when trying to implement feedback. I wanted to explore the impact of feedback by focusing not on what the educator does, but on what the student does.

What one film/book/resource would you like to share with the academic community?

I have really enjoyed reading “Thanks for the Feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Their focus is on receiving feedback in the workplace, but there are so many parallels to educational contexts. I also recently came across a story book for children called “Thanks for the feedback…I think…” which teaches young children the value of feedback. There is an accompanying teacher resource pack which is brilliant!

If you could change one thing about HE in the UK what would it be?

That we move towards a model where we position students as genuine partners in their education. I don’t think it’s enough to tell students that they shouldn’t see themselves as consumers if we don’t then work hard to create an environment where their input, participation and expertise is fully valued and integrated into innovation and decision-making at all levels.

Who was your favourite teacher at school/university and why?

My A-Level Psychology teacher, Mrs Middleton, was the most inspiring teacher I had at school. She brought psychology to life, giving us the opportunity to explore the relevance of theory to everyday life. I had gained a place at university to study music, but in giving me feedback on one of my essays, she suggested that I seriously consider doing a psychology degree. Therefore, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am now without her encouragement!

You can watch Naomi’s Education Excellence seminar here.

Great Debate

The Great Debate: Engagement vs Attendance?

Our second blog entry is by Shanaz Pottinger, undergraduate student studying Experimental Psychology, at the University of Bristol.

You are invited to leave comments below.

Do we even need traditional lectures?

Succinctly, yes, we do! Lectures are an intrinsic part of the university experience, a rite of passage for all degree holders and an important arena for community building. In many ways Bristol is a traditional institution that draws a student body who are attracted to elements of the traditional educational experience (at least at the undergraduate level). I am in full agreement that the university must innovate and move with the times, however, far-reaching over modernisation at Bristol will lead to a loss of the university’s intrinsic appeal. Moreover, in my view, if courses were to see serious reductions in contact time there would need to be a reduction in tuition fees charged for this type of degree.

I appreciate that an opposing argument may be that traditional lectures favour a ‘one size fits all’ approach whereas an engagement focussed approach allows students to engage with material in a way that works for them. However, human beings are fundamentally social animals and research suggests that the quality of our social networks has an impact on our sense of wellbeing. Thus, I propose that the social benefits of traditional lectures should not be overlooked. These can be simulated in a digital environment but in my view these interactions are not totally comparable. After all Facebook has not replaced the social benefits of actually meeting up for a coffee has it?

In my view, we should be aiming for a model that champions attendance and engagement. As a student I would love the opportunity to experience a little less death by PowerPoint and a little more blended learning and flipped classrooms- just not entirely from the comfort of my own bedroom.

Great Debate

The Great Debate: Engagement vs. Attendance?

Our first blog entry is by Bruce Macfarlane, Head of the School of Education at the University of Bristol. 

‘Student engagement’ has become a buzz phrase in universities influenced by a growing moral panic about whether higher education represents good value for public investment. UK universities are also under pressure to improve retention rates and this has largely led to the focus on student engagement.

I believe that there is a fundamental problem with many university engagement policies. They tend to forget that a) higher education is a voluntary post-compulsory activity b) the students are, in most national contexts including the UK, legally defined as adults, and c) attempts to measure engagement and punish non-compliance are ham-fisted at best and, at worse, represent a threat to student academic freedom.

Academics are keen to assert their right to enjoy academic freedom but we need to take the rights of students as learners much more seriously. This ought to include being allowed to engage in their university studies on their own terms and being able to exercise choice about how, when and where to learn.

Attendance at class is being increasingly monitored and students are also being graded for their ‘class participation’. In my view these types of things – what I call bodily performativity and participative performativity in a recent book – are academic non-achievements. They are about forcing compliance with social and behavioural expectations, not about learning. Attendance rules and class contribution grades do not provide a legitimate means of measuring whether learning is actually taking place. In truth, this is more about assessing large numbers of students in a lazy and time-efficient way. I also oppose progression rules that have minimum attendance requirements.

Universities want students to ‘engage’ but only on their terms as domesticated customers. Others forms of engagement, such as student protest, are not so welcome on campus. We should be interested in how students want to engage and pay more attention to assessing them legitimately rather than using tactics that are essentially a coercive abuse of power.

You are welcome to leave comments on this post below. Comments will be moderated for appropriate language. 

You can find a list of Bruce’s publications below: 

Macfarlane, B. (2017) Freedom to Learn: the threat to student academic freedom and how it can be reclaimed. Routledge/Society for Research into Higher Education, New York/Abingdon.

Macfarlane, B. and Tomlinson, M. (2017) Critiques of student engagement, Higher Education Policy, 30:1, 5-21.

Macfarlane, B. (2016) The performative turn in the assessment of student learning: a rights perspective, Teaching in Higher Education, 21:7, 839-853.

Macfarlane, B. (2015) Student performativity in higher education: converting learning as a private space into a public performance, Higher Education Research and Development, 34:2, 338-350.

Macfarlane, B. (2013) The surveillance of learning: a critical analysis of university attendance policies, Higher Education Quarterly, 67:4, 358-373.

An interview with...

An interview with… Tansy Jessop

We interviewed Tansy Jessop, TESTA Project co-founder and Professor of  Research Informed Teaching at Southampton Solent University.

Please note: the interview below has been transcribed from an audio recording.

What are the key benefits of a programme-level assessment approach?

I think one of the key benefits is that a programme-level approach brings more coherence in a system which is modular and where people have begun to think in silos and I think that from the design to the teaching and to the student experience, one of the hidden benefits of a programme-level approach is that people work together as teams because you can’t design a programme-level approach all by yourself and I think the heart of higher education is not just brilliant individual academics with their practice but people thinking and learning together and pushing the experience of students into higher levels as teams. There is an interesting story from Lundt University in Sweden, where the Vice Chancellor stripped out their equivalent of BILT from twenty people to three people and the people at Lundt University said well ‘how will we manage now we’ve only got three people doing academic development and working with colleagues’, and they way they managed was they said they would never see individual academics, they would only see teams – they would only work with teams, and what it meant was that you had whole teams making one step further in their progress rather than one individual making twenty steps and the student experience, and what they responded to on the national student survey, is not individual brilliant lecturers, but it is whole teams doing well…. Even if its not as, you know, it doesn’t look as exciting on an individual level, you get progress together that’s much more systematic and more systemic.

What advice do you have for engaging staff who may not feel engaged with programme level assessment?

I think the advice I’d give, and the carrot I’d put out, is that actually it will positively affect their workloads, I think that engaging in programme-level assessment while it might initially require a bit more thinking and working together, I think the design of programme-level assessment eventually allows for fewer summative assessment points, much richer feedback because you don’t have so many little tasks all the time so my advice would be get involved because eventually you’ll find that the burden is shared across the whole programme rather than a terribly burdensome load individually. I think that’s my advice. It’s that the benefits will outweigh the negatives.

And that’s happened on the programmes you’ve worked on…

Yeah I think so, people start to plan and think together on their own and they share creative ideas, they learn from each other, and, to some extent, it becomes a much more … you know, they burdens not all on you, you’re working together as a team. While its fun to do things on  your own, sometimes you run out of juice and this is a way of keeping your gas tank full really.

Why are institutes like BILT so important in the current HE climate?

Well, I think there is much more of an emphasis on teaching and learning, and the quality of the student experience, than there ever was. I think it’s partly driven by fees, but I think it’s a good thing, because students are not here just to witness other people doing their research. I think students have to have an experience which is transformative in their lives through the level of teaching. I think it’s a brilliant thing that there is an emphasis on that. I almost think our research should emphasize curriculum and pedagogy and certainly… Roger Barne, who has written about marketisation argues that any pure research that doesn’t influence the curriculum should happen in institutes outside of the university, because it is subsidised by students, which is really interesting. I think BILT is vital for the fabric of teaching and learning and consistency of excellence across the piece. I think it is a ‘must-do’. I can’t understand how any institution would work without something like BILT, bringing a theoretical and practical piece to teaching and learning across the University of Bristol. It’s just vital. It’s the same as a lot of other institutions, my institution, has only invested in this in the last two or three years as well… its vital.

In your institution have you seen a change in terms of NSS going up in some areas or…

Well its interesting because NSS across the piece went down 2% last year – everyone went down 2% – and [Winchester] only went down 1% so while our NSS scores went down, our ranking went up because other people went down further than us. I think that’s partly holding ground with institutes like us working with academics in a collegiate way, and bringing the student experience to the fall. I think we’re gaining more and more traction across the piece and becoming more of a go-to place for academics, and I think that’s brilliant, and I think that BILT is doing the same thing.

What one film/book/resource would you like to share with the academic community?

There is a book by Nicholas Carr called ‘The Shallows’, which basically charts the intellectual history of writing aural cultures, to the printing press, to the internet.   It is looking at what the internet does to our brains and learning. It uses biology, science, exploration of technology to basically say, its not dismissive of tech, but it basically is saying we’ve moved into a fragmented, distracted age with the harper technology of the internet and in order to learn slowly and in complex ways. There is a whole slow learning movement, just like the slow food movement, we need to be much more disciplined about the internet and technology. It’s a very interesting book – worth a read!

Who was your favourite teacher at school/ university, and why?

Nigel Worden and Richard Mendelsohn taught me History at the University of Cape Town. They were experimenting with a Film History option, and I vividly remember watching the propaganda movie, ‘Triumph of the Will’ directed by Leni Riefenstahl, with its monumental shots of a Nuremberg rally, and analysing it using historical approaches. In the 1980s, it was incredibly novel to use film on a mainstream course. I loved their scholarly approach, and the risk-taking it must have involved to break out of text and into film.

If you could change one thing about HE in the UK what would it be?

Big question! I’m tempted to say that I’d give marketization and metrics a big miss, but they have done a few good things, like bringing about a bit more accountability, transparency and awareness of the student experience. However, I’d like to dispense with (or temper) the dark side of marketization, like the huge expenditure on marketing and recruitment, and put that money into the real stuff of HE – teaching, learning and research. In my view we sometimes take our eyes of the important things in trying to satisfy quite narrow metrics, and to reel in enough students.


500 Words

Pipe cleaners, pick’n’mix and colouring in – active learning goes back to basics!

Author: Andrew Doherty

School/ Centre: Centre for Applied Anatomy, University of Bristol

Andrew Doherty discusses his use of unusual teaching tools in his anatomy undergraduate classes and their impact on learning.

There’s a phrase from the media that comes to mind while wandering around the campus … young people are ‘buried in their phones all the time’. This may well be true – students do spend a lot of time on their phones. I’m not entirely sure what they’re doing half the time, but the modern digitally native student seems to be lost without one. Mobile phones are after all a font of all knowledge – an information centre with an endless library of books, articles, lecture notes, videos … and that’s before we get to the social media sites with Facechat and Snapbook …. I think!

This has given rise to the notion that students of today prefer to use digital media for their learning and that as long as we can provide our learning materials via the web, all will be well because they can all learn digitally. I’m not convinced that this is true and, while I am very interested in providing engaging and interesting digital resources for our students, I also take the view that hands-on, practical activities can sometimes provide the best tool for deep learning of complex information. The interaction between hands and brain is as crucial for learning now as it has ever been.

So, when myself and a colleague, Dr Jo Howarth, were given the job of re-designing the first year curriculum for the Neuroscience programme, the chance was there to re-think what we teach – and more importantly, how we teach it. We have introduced a raft of new hands-on workshops ranging from making pictures from pick’n’mix sweets, building models with pipe cleaners, drawing pathway diagrams with coloured pens – and yes, even using those ubiquitous smartphones to make stop-motion animations to illustrate network dynamics. After all – why shouldn’t learning be fun? We try to engage students in the process of making things themselves to help them synthesise their own knowledge and to encourage them to learn for themselves. Students seem to like what we are doing and, more importantly, are learning the information we want them to learn.

All the activities we have introduced also have an element of personal research to help students gain skills in selecting relevant and appropriate information from the ocean of stuff that sits out there in the big wide world – and the evaluations we have carried out have led to some surprising results. For instance, in providing students with a range of digital resources to learn about aspect of spinal cord anatomy, ranging from you tube videos to manipulatable 3D computer models, what resource did they choose? The good old text book – that’s right – the paper one that sits on the bookshelf!

So, are our students ready for the digital world? In their social space, indeed they are – but when it comes to learning materials, the hands-on approach still has a long way to go before it runs out of steam – pipe cleaner makers, be warned!


Figure 1. Examples of activities used in the re-design of the 1st year neuroscience curriculum. A range of hands-on activities have been used in the revised teaching on the neuroscience programme. These range from (A) using pick’n’mix sweets to make an image, (B) using pipe cleaners to create models, (C) drawing pathway diagrams with coloured pens. Each image has been created by students studying on the neuroscience programme.

500 Words

e-marking as a tool for teachers and learners: evaluation of a GradeMark trial

Author: Andy Wakefield

School/ Centre: School of Biological Sciences

Provision of timely, detailed feedback is important for student learning (1), yet can be challenging to achieve in practice. Technology may hold the solution, say Dr Andy Wakefield.

The tech bit

Implementation of electronic management of assessment (EMA), has enormous potential for transforming teaching and learning (2,3). One widely used online tool is Turnitin, equipped with an originality-checker but also an e-marking function called GradeMark. This allows markers to annotate and grade student work digitally without the need to download or print work; no more stacks of paperwork on your desk and fewer trees being felled.


Here I summarize my findings from a GradeMark trial within the School of Biological Sciences (SoBS), in which I asked:

  1. Does using GradeMark allow for more efficient use of staff time?
  2. How does using GradeMark support student learning?


I conducted the trial on a third-year unit which consisted of four modules, each assessed via a 500-word report. I provided students with instructions for the e-submission process and teachers with guidance on how to access reports and use key tools within GradeMark. Student (n=19) and staff (n=3) opinions were gathered via end-of-unit feedback questionnaires.


In general, both students and academics had positive views of GradeMark. Students:

  • found the digital workflow easy to use;
  • appreciated how easy it was to obtain/access their feedback;
  • liked the specific nature of their feedback;
  • liked the breakdown of marks offered by the rubric system;
  • liked the improved clarity of digital feedback.

Staff found GradeMark easy to use and believed that they provided the same amount of feedback for students in the same (n=1) or less (n=2) time, relative to marking paper-scripts. When asked about future use, all three agreed they would “definitely like to continue to use online marking”.


From my study I found that e-marking can allow for more efficient use of staff time. It can also support student learning by allowing easy access to clear, timely, individualised, assessment feedback. These findings echo those published in the literature (4,5). One of the strengths of GradeMark is the QuickMark comment function, which allows for saved comments to be quickly reused. This function doesn’t currently exist within the Blackboard e-marking toolkit, which is the standard for EMA at UOB.

Other benefits to e-marking include: increased privacy of marks and feedback; and a greater likelihood that students will revisit feedback due to ease of access (3). However, focusing all our attention on the quality and quantity of our written comments may not fully address current student dissatisfaction with feedback. Large cohorts limit time available for student-teacher communication that was once integral to the feedback process (6). But don’t worry, technology provides us with multiple ways to switch from monologue back to dialogue. Why not try mediating discussion boards and blogs within Blackboard, or investigate adaptive release functionality to prevent release of student marks until they have reflected on their feedback? Engagement with EMA offers professional development benefits to staff and is claimed to be “essential for reasons of both pedagogy and efficiency(2).


  1. Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which Assessment supports Student Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-31
  2. Ambler, T., Breyer, Y., & Young, S. (2014) Piloting online submission and online assessment with Grademark. In S. Kennedy-Clark, K. Everett & P. Wheeler (Eds.), Cases on the assessment of scenario and game-based virtual worlds in higher education (pp. 125-151). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
  3. Ferrel, G. & Gray, L. (2016) Electronic management of assessment. Using technology to support the assessment life cycle, from the electronic submission of assignments to marking and feedback. Jisc guide. Available at [Accessed 16/05/2017].
  4. Chew, E. & Price, T. (2010) Online originality checking and online assessment – an extension of academics or disruption for academics. In S. L. Wong, S.C. Kong & F.-Y. Yun (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computers in Education (pp. 683-687). Putrajaya, Malaysia: Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education.
  5. Buckley, E. & Cowap, L. (2013) An evaluation of the use of Turnitin for electronic submission and marking and as a formative feedback tool from an educator’s perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44 (4), 562-579.
  6. Nicol, D. (2010) From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (5), 501-517.

If you’d like to share your work with BILT, please email for more information.

500 Words

YouTube goes maths!

Author: Sven Friedemann

School/ Centre: School of Physics

Sven Friedemann tells us about the videos he developed for his 4th Year Physics students to help them understand complex mathematical derivations.

Teaching maths-heavy courses requires going over derivations step-by-step. Feedback from students has told us that this can not be done effectively using Powerpoint slides as the lecturer inevitably goes too fast and students find it hard to stay engaged. Consequently, the chalk-and-blackboard, or the equivalent pen-and-whiteboard, remain the most-used method for teaching courses like my 4th year “Magnetism and Superconductivity”. I really like the course as it allows me to baffle students with demonstrations, whilst still calculating these phenomena together using fundamental models.

When I used this method of going through the derivations on the blackboard, it leaves students with the dilemma: either they copy down every step, or they listen and follow the narrative. The student that has copied will have good notes but might have missed the tricks and important discussion. My videos provide students with a new resource to review all the steps of the derivations in their own time whilst absorbing and participating in the lectures.

I have recorded about 15 videos, between 5 and 15 min long, which go over the most difficult derivations of my course. For this I used my Android tablet and a microphone headset. The videos are now available through Blackboard.

A key benefit is that I can reuse the videos each year without much extra work.

I have seen positive uptake, both in the usage statistics, and in the lectures. I analysed last year’s statistics for my CREATE project and found that at least half of the students used these videos very heavily, with some students watching them 5 times or more. Whilst students did mostly watch them for immediate exam preparations last year I can see earlier uptake alongside lectures this year. This has a very positive effect on lectures with students much more engaged, asking questions and checking my calculations on the blackboard.

These videos have helped to transform the course into one that is suitable for the digital age; with students benefitting from online resources, while at the same time keeping the personal contact that lectures provide.

Sven Friedemann