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Moving assessments online: sharing lessons learned from across the Commonwealth

Published on 03 June 2020
Assessments

Supporting our members through these unprecedented times remains our top priority. Last month, the ACU launched its first ever virtual event on ‘Moving assessments online’ as part of the ACU Digital Now series.

ACU Digital Now pushes the boundaries of how we can work and collaborate across the Commonwealth at a distance. By championing innovative approaches for enhancing virtual engagement across membership services, grants, networks and communities of practice, and funded educational opportunities - ACU Digital Now marks a digital step change in how we collaborate with each other.

Over 200 people joined us for a free, insightful virtual event looking at moving assessments online. Campus closures and lockdowns have left many universities grappling with the sudden switch to virtual learning and online assessments. The event united voices from across the Commonwealth for a lively and informative virtual discussion on the successes and challenges of delivering assessments virtually. Speakers from ACU member universities from Canada, Ghana, India and the UK shared insights and practical learning by drawing on their own unique contexts and experiences.

These insights are a powerful resource for universities as they adapt to a rapidly changing world. Thank you to our speakers for sharing their perspectives and knowledge on this increasingly relevant topic. Thank you also to our attendees for submitting answers during the live Q&A and our speakers for kindly providing the answers. You can find the questions and answers from the session below.

Q&A

Ms Kalyani Unkule, Associate Professor at the Jindal Global Law School and Director Office of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, India


How did your institution support their academics during the online transition?

The main institutional support was in the form of upgraded our IT infrastructure. We already had platforms in place for online assessment. When the decision to transition all classes to online delivery was made, training sessions were organised for faculty members on how to use the Microsoft Teams platform, before we went into lockdown. 

You are assuming that all lecturers know what learning outcomes are and can prioritise them. What of cases where faculty have no background in education? How do you lead them into online assessment?

If lecturers have not thought about learning outcomes it probably means the focus is on content delivery - this approach does not lend itself very well to online assessment, unfortunately. At this stage Deans can probably reach out to faculty members and work with them to adopt this approach on a case by case basis. But from a longer-term perspective, online learning could be thought of as an opportunity to help students develop analytical and ethical thinking by fundamentally reviewing what we teach and how we assess. 

 

Dr Henry Kofi Mensah, Senior Lecturer, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Business School, Ghana


What percentage of students at KNUST, Ghana do not have online access? 

Roughly 28% of the student population in my university do not have easy access. They are students coming from disadvantaged/remote areas of the country.

How has KNUST managed lack of internet connection, data and/or devices to access online resources?

My university has an agreement with service providers which allows free zero-rate access to the university’s servers (through out virtual academic space - ilearn.knust.edu.gh.

 

Dr Andrew Turner, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning, Coventry University, UK


What (new) Learning Experience Platform is Coventry moving to?

We are moving to Aula, a learning experience platform. You can learn more about this platform on the Aula website, and you can find out more information about Coventry's our move online. 

How were the practical components of the assessments administered (particularly for health students) using the online platform?

Practical components are difficult.  Where possible we have taken these online, for example working with data for science-based work.  In computing we are making the most of online programming platforms.  We were lucky in the spring semester as most of the teaching was over when the UK went into lockdown with the pandemic, so much of the practical assessment had taken place.  We have supported staff by listing possible alternatives to physical assessments. We expected to have nearly a thousand students on trips to European destinations which had an assessment component – we converted these to virtual visits with case study assessments.  For health students we do have some simulation environments and wherever possible have met the learning outcomes. Where it has not been possible to replace a required practical assessment, we have deferred the final assessment, but this is a minority of students.

 

Dr Peter Wood, Assistant Dean Online for the Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo, Canada


How have you dealt with Faculty and student burnout. We have all felt like we are now working double of what we were doing before and our students feel the same way. Pacing assignments has not truly worked either.

This is a big issue for us. The university hired 300 coop students to assist instructors to build content and generally help with course issues. Even with this, faculty members are working very hard.  A concern now is fall. If we are still on-line, faculty will not get a respite from this activity. We are surveying our colleagues regularly to assess their stress and workload, and providing assistance to those most in need.  We have also tried to tell our faculty that their hastily designed course is not expected to be of the polished level that a normal on-line class would have.  Providing easy technology solutions has helped people maintain reasonable expectations. We are also reorganising teaching schedules to better match faculty with course demands.

What platforms did you use for delivering timed online assessments/exams? 

We are using Mobius (a DigitalEd product) and Brightspace (D2L) our LMS.  Both seem to work well. For assessments without narrow time windows, we are using Crowdmark for handwritten submissions permitting on-line grading.

How do you ensure that a student taking an online exam is actually attempting the exam by themselves? Any experiences?

This is a serious problem that we have not solved. Mobius allows for randomisation of questions so each student writes a different exam. This reduces the simplest form of collaboration. But that does have some limits to eliminate integrity concerns.

 

More information 


ACU Digital Now events

This event was delivered as part of ACU Digital Now -  an ongoing project around innovative approaches for enhancing virtual engagement across our membership.

As our practices for engaging and collaborating will change in nature, the ACU is well placed to support our members with a host of free, virtual events, co-created with ACU members, to extend the support and insights needed to continue important work.

As universities across the world navigate digital ways of working, now is the time to share knowledge, experiences, and insights to respond effectively to COVID-19. Learn from colleagues across the Commonwealth by attending one of our upcoming ACU Digital Now events.