An online assessment tool

Why was this developed?

The Human Early Life Development (HELD) project requires students to visit a mother and her baby and family over the course of two years and to record a variety of information about child development. In the past, data has been written into a booklet which was then submitted for assessment at the end of each year. These booklets were unwieldly and time-consuming to mark and often the comments required were similar from one student to another. In 2009, the project was converted to an online format and all students recorded their data into an electronic database. Because of the increased class size, students were also assigned in pairs to their visits where previously they had done them alone.

What has been achieved?

In order to streamline assessment and feedback at the end of the first year, and also to facilitate comparisons between the two students in each pair, on online marking system was developed. Coordinators decided the marks allocated to each section of the project and the likely comments to be associated with them. These were then coded into a database so that markers could simply read through the students' assignments using a web browser and click radio buttons to assign marks and comments to each section. Text boxes were also provided for markers to make additional comments if desired. Pairs of students were listed together so that markers could easily compare them.

Challenges and benefits?

The benefits have been

(i) shorter time taken to mark projects,
(ii) no printouts required to be handed in by students,
(iii) easier comparison of students in pairs,
(iv) more extensive and appropriate comments provided to students,
(v) automatic calculation of total marks,
(vi) all comments and marks available for students to view soon after marking. It was possible because of the online accumulation of student project data and could be tailored to the needs of the staff and students alike. It is however, not a generic system that could accept any text for marking although it may be possible to develop such a template.

Who was involved?

The Human Early Life Development team -Trecia Wouldes, Diane Emery, Roger Booth, Shelly D'Silva and Michelle Carvalho.

What do students say about it?

Few comments from students have been collected yet, as the marking has only just been completed, although it is already clear that students are finding it easier to see which sections they did well and which they could improve in future.