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Video Presentations and Ongoing Discussions

Introduction

In the following video we discuss a novel assessment method in a level 2 International Trade and Integration module at the University of East Anglia, implemented in Autumn 2020. We assigned students to small groups of 4-5 individuals at the beginning of the semester and guided two groups per week to produce videos of 20 minutes, essentially summarising their understanding of the materials covered in previous lectures and workshops. The focus of the task was an application of concepts to real-world economies and a reflection on current trends and policies related to trade and factor mobility.

As two groups of students submitted videos on the course Blackboard site each week for tutors' assessment and feedback, they were also asked to share these videos on the module discussion board — for the rest of the class to engage with the material. All students were thereby invited to put questions, offer further perspectives and contribute to the discussion of each topic in two designated weekly discussion threads, facilitating asynchronous teaching.

This structure allowed for both ongoing peer and tutor feedback, as well as a revision of the material throughout the semester and the distribution of the marking load across the semester. We also monitored students' engagement with the discussion board as part of their individual assessment, using Blackboard generated statistics for each student, as well as providing feedback to the class as a whole at the end of each week and for all discussion topics. We assessed in the process both the group video presentations and the quality of individual work, with a minimum of 5 meaningful discussion board contributions being expected from all students out of 8 weeks monitored by the tutors.

The clear advantage of this approach has been the ongoing engagement of all students and our ability to monitor and provide feedback to everyone from the start to the end of the semester. It also allowed for the reflection on students' own and peer learning at each stage of the course. As students got used to this novel structure of assessment and joined the discussions, engagement was increasing overall and performance improved, through the practice of reflection and learning from each other.

For further details, challenges and advantages, along with our thoughts on this assessment, please see as well the video below and join our conversation.

Video

Transcript

Good to see you here today. This is Ayobami Ilori and myself Lili Harding from the University of East Anglia. We will show you how we have assessed in an authentic mode at the International Trade and Integration module in 2020-2021. We will look into one piece of assessment which engaged students throughout the term and has seen them work both in groups as well as having a discussion forum which was ongoing throughout the term. Just to give you a brief flavor on that one, I will show a little bit on my screen: how everything looks at the time. So here is how the model has been set up. As a summative assessment we had essentially a portfolio where students had to submit a video as a group. So this can be set up nicely within your BlackBoard facilities and you can create, as well, nice rubrics for assessment. We were making sure that we had criteria which were looking into what makes a good presentation but also what makes good collaborative work.

Subsequent to having group work, students were discussing as well with each other throughout the term the presentations which have been also uploaded on the discussion boards here. Everybody could join in during the semester and we will look back a bit later on how that has been working.

Ayo, to you now: can you tell us a little bit about how this sits into the general assessment structure?

The assessment is actually quite interesting because, first of all, we asked the students to work in groups to produce a video relating to what they have learned in the previous weeks. For instance, in the first two weeks we'll learn about the theory of international trade and how that came into existence and their applications. Then we give these students an extra two weeks - specifically ten days - to work together to produce a video to summarize what they have learned and how they could apply this policy in reality. After that, the students submit this online and then they engage with one another for one week based on the video that has been produced by one of the teams in the group. In total, we have 16 groups and two of these groups produce a video each week. So, overall, we have this assessment over the period of eight weeks - specifically week 4 to week 11.

I actually was wondering what you think works best in this structure from your point of view and what we can carry forward in a blended learning environment?

I think what worked best in the assessment, particularly for me, is the way students learn both from themselves and from other material outside their own learning. This is particularly interesting because this is the first time students have been assessed while they are actively participating remotely from their homes. The particular interest we have in this work is to see students engaging with one another in order to ensure that they do not miss that feel of face-to-face learning they often have before the 2020 academic year. That is exactly what motivated this particular assessment. So what do I think works best? The ability of my students to apply what they have learned in the class and to bring out their own initiative in order to be able to explain this theory in a layman language which is one of the prerequisites of this particular assessment.

We could show you exactly what the assessment was about but I think what was most relevant for me, and what I did enjoy most, was the ongoing engagement of students. I would like to highlight that, apart from the video, we were monitoring as well the number and the quality of contributions over the semester as a whole. So Ayo and I were monitoring the discussion on a weekly basis. Students were putting questions to each other so they were expected to put questions to those who have submitted the video presentations, give comments, add research, or have any other kind of related discussion in the forum. While they had to contribute on a weekly basis, we were saying that five weekly contributions out of eight are essential in order to get the full grade for the group. In other words it was a pass/fail component where students had to engage in at least five weekly topics in order to get their full marks. That itself was also allowed for by the system because it does monitor actually, within BlackBoard, the number of contributions on a weekly basis while we as tutors are monitoring the quality of the contributions.

But enough with all this sort of praise: what were the challenges from your point of view?

I think the first challenge I noticed about this particular assessment is the fact that we have a kind of poor internet network for many of our students, particularly those who reside outside the UK. The issue about technology is beyond any student or even academics and you often find some students or even a group lagging beyond their own deadline to submit their own video. Another challenge we noticed is about non-cooperation: about some students who feel maybe they have been sidelined by other members in their own group. So one way we try to address this is to reach out to these groups and to understand what the issue is and to help them to organize their thoughts so that they can come together and produce something tangible.

This is great as advice for people to keep in mind and also the fact that people were stranded around the world. Sometimes the connections were not equally good, so it was a question of adjusting the assessment for those. It was also a question of training the other students to understand the challenges of their peers, because sometimes it was not possible maybe to do a video recording or essentially there were time differences or anything else that that stays in between the students total performance. Altogether I think that that proof to everybody's ability to contribute was actually the ability to also asynchronously be part of the discussion boards. Certainly another challenge, which I would highlight and probably people would expect, is teamwork itself. Students need to understand the reason why teamwork is useful and, in our particular setting here, they had to understand that they are actually accountable to the team as well as to the final assessment. Half of the marks were coming actually from their engagement with the discussion boards. Had they not done so in any meaningful way, their mark might have been halved. So that itself might be a challenge to explain to students why they get only half the marks which people do need to think about when designing similar coursework.

"We are able to evaluate what we are doing on the spot in order to see what works and how students engage with this so that we can feed it back into the process, even before the end of the assessment."

Is there anything else which you would like to add now in order to bring this forward?

Well I would like to talk about the assessment and monitoring. One of the things I like particularly about this particular assessment is the fact that we are able to evaluate what we are doing on the spot in order to see what works and how students engage with this so that we can feed it back into the process, even before the end of the assessment. So for instance, after the first two submissions we understand that the students were engaging quite well but not as much so we bring in more initiative to get students to be involved and to get them to talk to one another and to see what is happening. I also remember that at the middle of the assessment when we are ready in week five of the video, I reached out to some of the students who are not having good engagement enough and they were able to contribute. If it had been that it is a finite exam or something this would not be there, so this student will be lagging behind and we won't be able to monitor them as much as we were able to do that during this particular assessment. Another important thing is that the BlackBoard is very essential to this particular session. It helps us to be able to track each student's contribution and engagement throughout this semester. At the end of the day we are able to ensure that each of the students is carried along in this particular assessment process such that everybody have a good view of the assessment.

Thanks a lot, Ayo. I think that's pretty much all the time we have, but just to finish off I want to share once again our wonderful discussion board thread and just show people the number of contributions we did have from students over some of the weeks. This is students' engagement which was ongoing in the cohort itself with just about 80 students, so some of them were engaging more than once with the discussions. They were meaningful contributions as well and ultimately they were also feeding into a final report where they were reflecting what they learned from each other and on the different topics.

Well that's it from me, this time around. Thank you for listening. Thank you.

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