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Tag to track? Analytics to measure the impact of educational policies

Analytics, or the utilisation of user data to enhance education, derives from business intelligence and has received considerable attention over the last few years (Cooper, 2012; Goldstein and Katz 2005). In the context of institutional research, it is argued that data can aid the decision making, implementation and analysis of policy and change (e.g. Saupe, 1990), and that new forms of online data collection make the incorporation of educational data more accessible and analysable for this purpose (e.g. Campbell and Oblinger, 2007).

An academic analytics approach has been used to evaluate the impact of two recently introduced educational policies designed to enhance the student experience at a London based university. These are a revised academic framework, which resulted in the redesign of most courses; and an online submission, marking and feedback policy. Each has had significant implications for the use and uptake of technologies to support learning, teaching and assessment.

The virtual learning environment of the institution has been used to collect longitudinal user data, including through customized page tagging, to enable the impact of the policies to be visualised and assessed. This paper discusses the findings.

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Research collaboration across the 1992 divide: the views of postgraduate research students from pre-and post-1992 institutions

Previously, it was shown that undergraduate student experience is enhanced by collaborations in teaching between institutions across the 1992 divide (Freestone et al., 2012) and thus postgraduate research experiences were hypothesised to be similarly enhanced. This study investigates the views of Ph.D students regarding collaboration between institutions. Ph.D students from a UK pre-1992 institution, the University of Oxford and from a UK post-1992 institution, Kingston University were randomly selected and semi-structured interviews, questionnaire responses and field notes were used. The opinions with regard to attending two collaborative research institutions were positive and optimistic from both groups, however, the reasoning and opinions differed. Kingston University, being a modern university was perceived by its students to have a more relaxed attitude in its research community. Collaborative institutions were favoured due to the more specialised laboratories however the travel between institutions may be a burden. Ph.D students from the University of Oxford are keen to establish international collaborations to enable more exposure to other laboratories abroad. They consider disadvantages to be about the intellectual property that comes with collaborative ventures. Both the pre- and post-1992 institutions studied mutually agreed that the expanded opportunity to learn additional novel research methods is an asset for the research graduate.

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A practitioner reflection on teaching computer ethics with case studies and psychology

Three issues complicate teaching computer ethics in an undergraduate course. The first relates to the often technically intensive knowledge required to fully understand the complexity of real world examples. The second relates to the pedagogic expectations of students who see ethical and professional issues as of little importance to their eventual degrees. The third revolves around the fact that the official accreditation that is required of many professions is not mandatory for computing professionals, and so professional codes of conduct are optional. In this reflective discussion, we discuss these issues and the approach we have taken to resolve them. Our philosophy for teaching computer ethics revolves around the use of social psychology to illuminate the importance of the topic, and case-studies to simultaneously lower the burden of technical expertise while also incorporating hooks for the discussion of real world incidents. We discuss several psychological studies which inform our discussions, and the way in which they are delivered to overcome initial student objections to the material. We then discuss both the Case of the Killer Robot and the Scandal in Academia as case studies appropriate for inclusion in most undergraduate and postgraduate courses on ethics and professional issues.

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Reflections on the evolution of the teaching of programming to undergraduates at Oxford Brookes University

Undergraduate computing courses inevitably include a high degree of regeneration in order to keep abreast of this rapidly changing field. Introductory programming modules in particular need to adapt to changing trends and languages. Until recently, the focus of debate within the Oxford Brookes University curriculum has therefore been on the course content, but since 2012 there has been a major change in the method of delivery through the introduction of a new apprenticeship model. This paper seeks to reflect on this, and other recent changes which have led to improved student engagement and results. The data is limited however, and so the results presented here are not conclusive.

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Ready, steady, program! How children can learn coding (and teach numeracy to a robot) during STEM school visit events

STEM topics are often perceived by secondary school students as boring, difficult and uninteresting. Therefore, the authors designed an event to challenge these perceptions. The opportunity was given during STEM School visits to Brunel University where the authors use a 55 minute event to attempt to convince pupils that STEM and in particular computing is fun. During an interactive sessions where students were encouraged to play with robots, they were gently introduced to the art of coding. The results were an increased confidence in their programming abilities and a better perception of STEM. This paper discusses this event in more detail.

Posted in Research Paper

Using technology to monitor first year student attendance in their academic studies

This project monitored first year student attendance in practical computing sessions across several courses at the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of South Wales (USW). Research has shown the correlation between attendance and success. We frequently observe a vicious cycle of poor attendance that leads to poor engagement and consequently poor results, the combination often self-perpetuating.

In order to break this cycle the project had three key objectives. The first was to establish an automated attendance monitoring system based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) and computer login data. The second was to identify how attendance data could be turned into information to improve the structure around year tutor support and course leadership. The final objective was to ensure that students could not only view their own individual data ‘picture’ but also interact and engage with the system.

Results are outlined for the first two objectives, showing that for the data to be of use, the teaching staff require accurate registers and a comparison for student attendance in other modules, to gain a full picture of the students’ attendance. Also year tutors / course leaders need to view the aggregated data for all students across all modules with drill-down functionality.

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Group connoisseurship: creating shared understandings of quality in online collaborative assessments

This article addresses the challenges of designing the assessment of students’ collaborative writing. It explores the shift in focus from individualistic notions of authorship and ownership to shared practices, values and goals, which are developed through dialogue and discussion. Existing notions of connoisseurship refer to the capacity to evaluate and enhance one’s writing. Drawing on our research (O’Shea and Fawns, 2014), we extend this to include an understanding of academic quality that is co-constructed and interdependent across the members of a group – a concept we term ‘group connoisseurship’. This is challenging and it requires the development of a range of complex knowledge and skills within a supportive environment to reach a standard that is shared between students as well as tutors. In this article, we explore how this concept can inform course design to improve groups’ academic alignment, functional roles and writing practices in collaborative assessment.

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Online collaborative writing: testimony of a wiki project and recommendations

This article reports on the use of a wiki that was embedded into a course in English for Academic Purposes (EAP). It explains why a wiki platform was embedded into the course design, how the preparatory work (scaffolding) fed into writing tasks, and how students interacted with each other using this writing tool. The use of a wiki to enhance students’ experiences was evaluated through student questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and tutor interviews. The results indicate that students had varying degrees of success in engaging with the wiki, and that some tutors were more comfortable than others with the validity of the wiki platform for critical writing tasks. A recommendation emerging from this study is that wider use of online writing components within other EAP courses could be beneficial.

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Providing sandwiches: optimising feedback at the education picnic

The National Student Survey (NSS) has indicated over several years that not all students in UK higher education are satisfied with the feedback they receive on their assessments. However, the Open University consistently receives high scores for student satisfaction in the area of feedback and assessment. This article provides an overview of the Open University’s model of providing written feedback on student assignments, which may be useful for other institutions. The basic model is to provide students with a sandwich in which constructive criticism is presented embedded within praise for attainment. There is also a focus on general feedback that can be applied to future assessment situations, rather than detailed corrections on assignment tasks that are not necessarily repeated.

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From a reflective audit of assessment feedback practices emerges a framework for ‘paving the way for feedback’

Faced with my own inability to think of a full response to a question put to a panel at a recent conference about the nature of effective feedback for students whose first language is not English, I was motivated, following a scholarship of teaching (henceforth SoTL) approach (see e.g. Prosser, 2008), to conduct a reflective audit of feedback practices, on a group of seven undergraduate academic English modules. The aim was to investigate the feedback practices and explore the currently somewhat tacit rationale for these. Then to evaluate the extent to which they were integrated into course design to effectively target the specific needs of English as an additional language novice undergraduates (henceforth EAL students). The audit did reveal that the feedback practices, which had grown somewhat organically over a number of years, are generally fit for purpose, but more interestingly, that a significant number of the practices provide a scaffolding function to cater for novice HE students unfamiliar with assessment and feedback processes in the UK. The feedback practices therefore, aim to prepare students for their future assessment experiences. The reflective audit resulted in the development of a framework for paving the way for feedback for the students in question. This serves as a conceptual framework for planning, monitoring, targeting and developing assessment feedback practices. It is hoped that the paving the way for feedback framework may inform the practice of others.

Posted in Research Paper

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