• Dave Foord
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Using Word and Office 365 to streamline assessment feedback

In my last few posts I have been explaining some uses of Office 365 to create collaborative activities using PowerPoint or Excel. In this post, I am going to look at Microsoft Word. Word could be used to create a collaborative learning activity in a similar way to the PowerPoint example, but it is set so that only one person can edit one paragraph at a time – therefore careful consideration is required when designing such an activity. In this example I am going to look at the mechanism of student feedback following assessment and h the collaborative nature can be very useful.

If I look at what might happen in colleges, universities and some schools at the present:

  1. Teacher produces an assignment brief and gives this to the learner.
  2. Learner completes assignment and hands it in.
  3. Teacher marks the work and fills in a feedback sheet, hands work and feedback sheet back to learner.
  4. Learner fills in the box on feedback sheet where they reflect on the assignment and their action plan to solve any updates required.
  5. At end of term, teacher realises learner hasn’t updated their assignment – contacts learner.
  6. Learner has lost feedback sheet so has forgotten what needs doing.
  7. Teacher re-issues feedback sheet (luckily they have a copy).
  8. Student does updates, hands work back in.
  9. Teacher remarks work, fills in anew feedback sheet with the additional feedback and final grade.

Although the above may sound like a tedious drawn out exaggeration, I am sure that many will see similarities with current practices  – and whatever ones system, whether paper and pen or electronic there is almost always a significant amount of files moving from place to another and there is seldom an efficient loop where the students use the tutors feedback to help them with their updates or future assignments.

So here is one suggestion. We create a single Word document that is going to contain all of the information relating to that assignment – and this will be used by both tutor and student. This will contain the brief for the assessment, the list of criteria being covered/assessed, and area for the student to reflect on the assignment, areas for the teacher to give feedback, and space for them to add additional information if the work is referred and needs to be upgraded.

Once this document has been created – all the tutor has to do is to share this with the learner through OneDrive (the new name for SkyDrive). The learner and the tutor are now accessing the same document. If the tutor wants to have a situation where all of the students marked work is returned at the same time, rather than piecemeal – they can quickly remove the students sharing rights, mark all of the work and then re-share it.

Image showing the history settings within OneDrive

Image showing the history settings within OneDrive

One of the key reasons why this technique hasn’t worked in the past, is the verification process needs to see the different versions of the work and the feedback given – which in turn lead to the notion of creating lots of different documents. The beauty of using Office 365 and OneDrive is there is a built in history and version mechanism.

With this you can see any previous versions including who made the changes and you can restore or download any of the versions at a later date if required by an IV or EV.

Image showing the history options for a file including the ability to restore, download and who made the changes and when

Image showing the option to restore or download a previous version of the same file.

Having one file to deal with rather than lots of files is easier for the tutor and the student to manage. There are less chances of error due to people using the wrong version of those files, and from a teaching and learning perspective having all of the information in one place for the student is far more likely for them to reflect on the feedback and change their behaviour as a result.

I hope that as organisations start to use Office 365 more and more, there is a real effort for people to think about what they are doing and why – and how these technical advancements can make a huge difference to our overall efficiency and effectiveness.

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Adding a file into a Moodle 2 content area

Many people that use Moodle will know how to add files directly into a Moodle course, which works fine for some situations, but there is a risk that one ends up with a long list of files appearing on the course page, without guidance to the learners as to what to do with them.

Personally I hate seeing Moodle (or any other VLE system) courses that look like this, as it doesn’t make for good teaching and learning (we don’t usually go into a teaching session, give the students 3 or 4 handouts, and then let them get on with it – we usually explain and talk to the learners what we want them to do with the resources).

So – rather than uploading files in a long list – what I like to do is to add a narration around the files, explaining to the learners what I want them to do with each of the files or resources that I am sharing with them. For this I need to choose a Moodle resource or activity type. If it is a very simple topic, I may add a ‘page’, other times I add a ‘book’ (which allows me to have multiple pages within the resource), or I could use a discussion ‘forum’, ‘lesson’, ‘Quiz’, or ‘assignment’. As long as whatever I choose gives me the WYSIWYG editor (the row of icons that looks a bit like a word processor), then I can use this technique.

The following video will take you through the process:

Part of the beauty of this technique, is it becomes very easy to move content around within the Moodle course – in that if I want to re-arrange my teaching order, I may have 1 link for the topic (which itself links to 4 or 5 other files) – I only have to move this one link and the files go with it, rather than having to move the 4 or 5 files in turn.

Another place where I use this technique a lot is with the assignment tool. If I want students to submit work through Moodle, and I am giving them an assignment brief (e.g. in the form of a word document) I can create an assignment within Moodle. Add the link to the assignment brief and any other required documents into the description, and then the learners are accessing the brief in the same place that they will be submitting their work – which is much neater than putting the briefs in one place and them submitting their work in another.

OU release Moodle tool to aid referencing

One of my areas of work is that of plagiarism deterrence, in particular when using TurnItIn (software that helps a tutor detect matches between a piece of students work against the Internet and other students work). Dealing with plagiarism isn’t about just detecting copying – but it is a much wider issue looking at educating the learners, designing plagiarism out through assessment design, and then using the detecting tools as a deterrent not a rat catcher.

One part of the whole process is about referencing, and this in itself is a thorny issue. I have worked with staff who are sticklers for correct referencing and if a student has missed a comma out, or cited the wrong year of publication or something they have then treated the work as plagiarised, whereas the tutor down the corridor may not even bother to check the references. What is interesting to note, is that plagiarism is the act of passing something off as your own, which isn’t – so if you put down any form of reference (e.g. ‘I stole this from a Google Search’ ) – even if it is an awful reference – then you cannot treat that as plagiarism – you need to treat it as bad referencing, or bad academia, but not plagiarism.

The other issue is then about the importance of referencing styles – again some are sticklers for getting the (usually Harvard) referencing system absolutely spot on, whereas others (like me) recognise that the purpose of referencing is so that the writer, or any reader can easily locate the source of information.


Color-coded bookcase

Originally uploaded by juhansonin

I will admit that I hate referencing – I found it tedious, I didn’t fully understand the rules and sometimes even omitted a source from a piece of work, just to save me having to think about how to reference it, and it is with that, that the recent release from the OU excites, me – it will do the tedious hard work for me, allowing me to concentrate on the more important aspect of evaluating and analysing the work that I am creating.

For more information on the OU referencing tool go to

http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/telstar/telstar-quick-demonstration/