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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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Using Google Apps to create a fast feedback tracking system

I have been very lucky to work with Loughborough College in recent months on an LSIS funded LIT project, which looked at using the functionality of Google Apps (which the college uses) to create a mechanism to speed up the feedback process for students once they have submitted their BTEC assessments.

In order to achieve this the services of Martin Hawksey were enlisted as the mentor – as his knowledge and skill in using Google Scripts was going to be required. The project was originally lead by Patrick Lander, but he left the college to return to New Zealand, so after he had done all the hard work, I was able to take over to finish off and get the pleasure of seeing the project through to fruition.

The project is currently in the testing stage, to check that it works fully before rolling out wide scale (which will now have to be next academic year) but the early indicators are good.

The project has been a very interesting one, not just from the technical side of things but also recognising that teaching staff work in very different ways, and for this to work we had to accomodate these different ways of working – which proved a huge challenge, but one which I think we have overcome. The main issue to overcome was to reduce the need for the tutor to record information in 2 separate locations (e.g. on the feedback sheet for the learner, and in a central recording and tracking location). The starting point was the idea of using a spreadsheet grid which then effectively mail merged the information into a feedback sheets that the learners received – however some staff don’t like filling out information in grids, and you are very limited with the formatting options of the feedback. So the solution is (in over simplistic terms) – information can be entered into a spreadsheet grid if the tutor wants to – or there is an interface that can be used which is more user friendly – this then fill sin the grid for the tutor. They can then produce feedback sheets for their students – in which they can individually add formatting or additional information to the feedback – and once done they can ‘release’ the feedback which puts a copy into the students area, and send them an emil notifying them. Although this may not sound it, when in action, it speeds the process up significantly, and because the actual grade data isn’t being entered twice there is less chance of data copying errors.

All of the outputs from the projects have been released to the wider community, in a hope that other people will see the benefits and develop this further. Full details of how to do this can be found on Martin Hawksey’s blog post on this at http://mashe.hawksey.info/2012/05/hacking-stuff-together-with-google-spreadsheets-fast-tracking-student-feedback-system/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=jisccetis. Personally I think that for an organisation to use this they would have to have implemented Google Apps for this to work (it could work without it, but I think would be very difficult – as each student would need a google account, and the tutor would need to know their email address).

As the project goes through testing, further updates will be made to the project blog at http://thehub.loucoll.ac.uk/elearning/category/lsis-lit-project/