Conference Close-up: Enhancing a university’s evaluation system

Posted by Joan Phaup

At a university with tens of thousands of students, how do you make it easy for students take assessments, and how do you manage the reams of data gathered from quizzes, tests and surveys? As manager of the Blended Learning Support Team at Glamorgan University in Wales, David Lewis thinks about these questions every day.

He’ll be sharing some of the answers during his case study presentation, Deploying and Using a Blackboard-integrated Questionmark Module Evaluation System, at the Questionmark European Users Conference in Brussels this fall.

David Lewis

I asked him recently about his presentation and what he’s looking forward to at the conference:

Tell me a little about the University of Glamorgan.

The University of Glamorgan is the second largest university in Wales, and we have nearly 24,000 students. Seventy percent are on campus but we also have a large constituency of part-time time students – about 6,000. We have a fairly even mix of traditional students and people who come back to university as adults. We are known all over the country for our technological innovations, particularly in the areas of assessment and simulations – and we will celebrate our 100th anniversary in 2013!

What kinds of assessments are you using there?

We use Questionmark for pretty much everything, but in some cases we also use other forms of assessment including “Turnitin” for plagiarism checking and submission of online material. We do a lot of in-class tests, exams, formative assessments and surveys. We run hundreds and hundreds of tests in engineering and accountancy – and in almost every subject area there’s some form of Questionmark assessment going on.

We gather a great deal of student intelligence, so surveys and questionnaires are very important to us. The surveys work in two ways —  giving us some information but also providing feedback to the students. For instance, we may ask students if they know which faculty they belong to. If they know, we’ll give them some details about their faculty, some resources, but if they don’t know we’ll tell them how they can find out and where to turn to for information and help. In this way, we can identify students who may be dropping through the net and help them get the information they need.

What will you cover during your case study at the Users Conference?

My presentation will be about how we use Questionmark Perception as our module evaluation tool. We use Blackboard Building Blocks, together with Perception, to make it easy for students to complete evaluations and for tutors and module managers to keep track of assessment data.

I’ll tell about our efforts to improve the availability of the tremendous amount of data we collect from assessments and to improve our survey response rates. I’ll explain our various iterations and improvements, including our delivery of multi-language assessments. And I’ll talk about how we’re trying to automate more administrative processes and make information more readily available to students.

I’ll show how we make as many of our systems as possible accessible to students via our custom portal. The portal gives us a nice baseline on which to integrate and provide all our functionality to students with a consistent look and feel. They can get course information on the portal, as well as their assessments. There’s one button to access assessments: they always know where to look for them! The portal works well for staff members, too: module leaders can click on a button to update student records. All the data we collect from evaluations and other assessments goes directly into Blackboard for the benefit of both students and academics.

Can you share some of the lessons you’ve learned?

It’s very important to make it easy for students to take evaluations. One way we do this is to give students a link that allows them to switch between English and Welsh version of a single questionnaire. That’s a really big advantage over having two separate questionnaires.

We’re also making it easy provide print-friendly versions of evaluations for instructors or students who prefer or need to use paper and pencil. This appears in a window within our Blackboard frame. This is our default for enabling academics to provide an alternative mode of evaluation.  But they can choose any alternative they want.

We’ve also found that it’s not always necessary to wait until the end of a module to run an evaluation. Some instructors like to run a mid-module evaluation. Or students might be notified about an evaluation two weeks before the end of the module, which gives them plenty of time to complete it.

We’ve organized our evaluations so that we can view results in different ways. By adding information about faculty, subject area, year of study and so forth, we can look at all first-year engineering modules, for instance, or third-year courses in the faculty of Health Science and get a wider view of what’s going on.

What are you looking forward to at the conference?

Number one on my list is anything to do with Questionmark Perception version 5! We will be upgrading very soon so I’ll make a beeline to any sessions touching on the upgrade process. I’d like to engage with the user community about their experiences and learn from them about that process. Also, it will be a nice opportunity for me to speak at the conference and engage with the company. And of course who could turn down the beautiful city of Brussels?

The conference will be held October 9 – 11. Click here to register.

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