Profile 2: Working towards Quality Improvements, ‘Getting there better’
Once you have started to enjoy the efficiency gains from using standard e-learning tools for the assignment management and marking process you might want to look into the use of tools for improving the quality of the assignment process. Many of the generic features of learning management systems can be employed for support around assignments. Having assignments and marking available in electronic form opens up new opportunities for ensuring quality. Like the first profile this second profile only refers to standard tools you should readily have access to. Some of the recommendations in this profile assume that you are following the steps suggested in the first profile.
Supporting students with assignments
The use of an LMS discussion board for communication about assignments before submission provides an opportunity to clarify tasks and facilitates student engagement. It is helpful to setup a separate discussion forum for each assignment in the course to focus the postings. If you monitor these discussions you have the chance of intervening before assignment submission.
Submission of assignments
See Profile 1
Preparation of marking
Shared electronic access to assignments makes it easier to moderate the work of markers. Educational theories provide guidelines on how to ensure consistency of marking. Shared electronic access makes it less time consuming to implement such guidelines, especially with part-time markers who are geographically dispersed. In your LMS you can setup a special discussion forum, confidential to your marking team. This would ensure that every member of the marking team is kept up-to-date with changes, for example with an evolving marking scheme. You need to agree with your markers on who is releasing the results to the students and on how you moderate their work before the release.
The procedure you follow to moderate the work of markers will depend
on your choice of tools. If you work with a shared folder your
markers might have to update you on which assignments they have
finished marking or would like you to check. If you do not work with
a shared folder the markers can email their work to you. If you use
the assignment tool of an LMS the markers can upload their work for
you to look at. The settings in your LMS should allow you to upload
assignment marks and feedback but to delay student access to this
information until you have reviewed everything.
See Profile 1
Releasing results and providing feedback
An important part of working with assignments is to provide students with guidance for their learning. Ideally students will consider the feedback provided to them, engage with the material and strive for improvement. Using electronic communication after the release of the marking results can facilitate this process. Personal communication with individual students can occur via email. Communication on a class level can be supported by discussion forums in the LMS. The content pages and message boards are a good way to release sample solutions and overall feedback to everyone. You might want to consider making sample solutions available immediately after the submission deadline. At this point of time the students’ memory of the assignment task is still fresh and their interest in finding out the right solution might be high. They might look at sample solutions in the interest of learning and not just with a focus on marks.
Using assignment experience for future teaching
It is easy to keep electronic copies of assignments and marking for years to come. Looking back can be helpful on individual student level and for reviewing previous assignments for future teaching. An assignment task from one year might make a good tutorial example for another year. And, with the students’ permission, it might even be possible to use student work for discussion on various solution approaches and difficulties. Further, you can extract well-written feedback and use this to guide future markers, providing them with examples suitable to the context of your course.