A recent joint meeting of the JISC CETIS Assessment, Enterprise and Portfolio SIGs drew a wide range of participants to discuss topics of interest to all three SIGs. The morning sessions covered a range of topics that touched on all three domains, while the afternoon was given over to a special session on student retention.
John Winkley of AlphaPlus Consultancy, who has been working with JISC as an expert consultant in the area of assessment, opened the meeting by introducing delegates to a number of funding opportunities in the domain that JISC will be releasing in the next few weeks. These opportunities include at least two and up to four demonstrator projects, funded to build on and further develop outputs from earlier JISC toolkit activities, and two Invitations to Tender for desktop research studies. These studies will look at advanced eassessment techniques, and at quality concerns around eassessment. The demonstrator projects must be led by a HEFCE-funded institution, while the ITTs will be open to all bidders including Scottish insitutions, FE colleges with less than 400 HE students, and the private sector. All work is due to be completed by March 2009, and will add considerably to JISC’s portfolio of work in this area.
One project which has benefited from JISC funding for part of its lifetime is the WebPA project based at Loughborough University. Nic Wilkinson presented the successful peer assessment system to delegates, illustrating some of the reasons for its success at the recent IMS Learning Impact Awards in Austin, Texas. One of the most signficant factors in the system’s ongoing success is the effort the project team have put into attracting and supporting a signficiant number of participating organisations that have now integrated the system into their own teaching practice. It was also extremely interesting to learn how positively the students themselves have responded to the system, and their attitudes towards the anonymity of peer marks: the system awards each member of a group an aggregated mark derived from the individual scores awarded by their peers, and students are reported to not want to receive individual marks in order to avoid potential clashes outside the classroom.
After the break, Karim Derrick of TAGLearning discussed a proposed British Standard for managing the transmission of coursemarks and portfolios of digital evidence of coursework between schools and awarding bodies. Based on TAG’s extensive experience in this area, the proposed standard includes ‘an XML schema for describing the relationship between components, options and exam specifications’ and a ‘universal translator’ API to support data exchange between the various systems used by exam centres and awarding bodies. Although the current focus for this work is firmly on the schools sector, if adopted it’s not hard to see how it could be extended to support the universities admissions process and external marking at all levels, particularly in vocational courses where a single accrediting body has to deal with substantial amounts of data.
Alan Paull of APS Ltd closed the morning with a lively journey round the admissions domain landscape and the DELIA project. DELIA enables the sharing of enhanced learner information as part of the admissions process, enabling admissions officers to make more informed decisions when evaluating borderline applications. This not only improves the quality of the admissions process, enabling a closer matching between applicants and course requirements, but can have a positive impact on subsequent retetention of such students.
The afternoon featured a special session on student retention, looking at a range of issues around the topic and attempting to capture requirements for work in the domain. Simon Grant of JISC CETIS and the Centre for Recording Achievement led an interactive session that asked participants to consider self-assessment of suitability for courses and the different personas we adopt as our contexts change. Simon also touched on some of the problems that arise when our different personas come into conflict, a situation which can be exacerbated by the widespread use of social networking services and individuals’ lack of awareness of the potential implications of forgoing privacy when using them.
Helen Richardson, also of JISC CETIS and the Centre for Recording Achievement, closed the day by discussing some of the findings of the STAR project and the National Audit Office’s report on student retention. The STAR project produced a detailed series of guidelines to help support students both before and during their university careers, including the use of technologies such as SMS messaging to aid this.
We’re grateful to all our presenters for sharing their work with us and for being so willing to respond to questions and comments from the audience, and to all those who attended on the day and helped to make it a success.