Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2011

Summary of projects

Project title

Utilising electronic input devices to provide assessment feedback to large classes: A sustainable approach to student feedback

Project team

  • A/Prof. Anthony Bedford, School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
  • A/Prof. Andrea Chester, School of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Adrian Schembri, School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
  • Ms. Monique Ladds, School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
  • Mr. Minh Huynh, School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences

Project summary

The aim of this project was to improve student feedback by developing a system that enables digital submission of assessments for students enrolled in large classes. Feedback was provided electronically using pen and multi-touch input devices. Recently released models of this technology enabled student comments to be provided in handwritten or typed format.

Several schools within the University participated in this project, enabling a broad range of assessment types (e.g. essays, reports, and mathematical and statistical content) to be trialled with this technology. The deviceutilised for this project was the Wacom Intuos 4 professional tablet and was used across disciplines.

Broadly, this project was designed to:

  • improve the quality and efficiency of student feedback
  • provide teaching staff with an alternative method to marking/returning assignments
  • provide greater efficiency to teaching staff in regards to time and space
  • allow both staff and students to save resources such as paper and print output; and
  • improveoverall student experience in courses throughout their degree, thus enhancing the likelihood of student satisfaction and retention.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach to student feedback, a number of large classes were recruited to participate in the study. Tutors within these classes were trained in the use of the pen and multi-touch devices, which were purchased for the purposes of this research. Students enrolled in these classes submitted all written assignments/worksheets (e.g. essays) electronically; following which tutors corrected and graded the assignments using the newly-purchased input devices. Assignments were then returned to students in electronic format with comments and feedback throughout.

Both qualitative interviews and quantitative analyses were conducted to identify the strengths and shortcomings of this project. In general, most students responded positively to the new technology, with the advantage of “being able to submit my work from home” proving to be a common response trend among participants. Staff participants however had mixed opinions regarding the tablet system. Whilst the submission and return of assignments were more efficient, the marking process was difficult and proved to be more time consuming than the traditional method of pen and paper. A common problem that staff participants mentioned related to the electronic pen used with the tablets. “The pen was too chunky and did not respond/sync well when providing large amounts of feedback. However, it works well when minor changes or comments are required (i.e. writing a tick or cross on the assignment)…perhaps a finer pen would work better” (a statement from one of the participating tutors).

Overall, this pilot study identified a number of advantages and benefits for utilising the tablet systems. All qualitative feedback (positive and negative) will be utilised to optimise this approach for subsequent trials and implementations. Once completed, the tablet approach will offeran improved method for providing student feedback, which will be both more efficient and sustainable.

Outcomes

The following outcomes were achieved:

  • improved the quality and efficiency of student feedback
  • provided teaching staff with an alternative method to marking/returning assignments
  • provided greater efficiency to teaching staff in regards to time and space
  • allowed both staff and students to save resources such as paper and print output; and
  • improved overall student experience in courses throughout their degree, thus enhancing the likelihood of student satisfaction and retention.

The following outcomes will be achieved in 2012:

  • development into a research paper, to be submitted into a peer-reviewed journal in 2012; and
  • findings to be presented at an international conference in 2012.

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