Talking Feedback: Using video to radically change essay marking by Emma Mayhew

On this day, exactly two years ago, I sat in my study staring at Blackboard. 212 little green symbols were showing in Grade Centre. 212 3,500 word essays needed to be marked in the next three weeks. And they didn’t just need marks. Each of them needed a page of rich, detailed feedback, often crucial to student attainment and important to student satisfaction. In the HE sector higher student numbers and increasing student expectations look set to intensify further the pressure to deliver numerous pieces of outstanding feedback within an increasingly tighter timeframe but a tiny number of us are looking at this differently. After years of marking over 200 essays at Christmas and over 200 at Easter I finally decided to radically change the delivery of feedback to students. Encouraged by the work of the ASSET project, a few pioneers in the sector and the success of my own screencast suite, I turned to screen capture technology. In December 2013, 25 students on one of my Part 3 modules didn’t get their normal A4 feedback sheet on Grade Centre. Instead they received their own individual 6-10 minute MP4 file via Blackboard. Each video showed my face and my cursor circling essay text as I talked through their coursework in detail…

TalkingFeedbackEmmaMayhew

…and follow on questionnaires revealed overwhelming student support. From 20 respondents, 18 said that video feedback was better than written feedback and 17 said they would prefer video feedback next time. At least two key themes emerged from student feedback:

Clarity-Students see markers highlighting specific sections of text as they comment while face to face contact reduces scope for misunderstanding and increase the sense of individual attention.

Depth- It takes me one hour to mark and provide written feedback on a 3,500 word essay. Video feedback didn’t actually save me any time. I still spent one hour on each essay but here is the difference-my written feedback contains an average of around 350-400 words. My video feedback contains an average of around 170 words per minute so that’s around 1,360 words in a typical 8 minute video feedback recording. This is 3 to 4 times more than students would normally receive and explains why 18 questionnaire respondents said that they received much more detailed feedback than they typically would via written comments.

OK I can’t mark in my pyjamas anymore but I’m willing to sacrifice this because my small scale study suggests that using simple screen capture software to create video feedback does allow us to give much more in-depth, personal and very specific feedback at no extra cost to staff time.

For further information on how to use free and simple screen capture software to create video feedback please click on my 90 second screencast (http://www.screencast.com/t/mUy4dDHFdnyv), part of a range of 1-2 minute ‘How to’ videos on the Reading GRASS screen capture website (http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/grass/).

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