The EMA Symposium: Sharing Knowledge, Good Practice, and Cake

Dr Madeleine Davies and Dr Emma Mayhew

On Tuesday 22nd May 2018, over 150 colleagues from across the university gathered in the Meadow Suite to hear a series of presentations and to engage in conversations about the work that the EMA Programme has been doing to prepare for roll-out of online assessment and feedback. Colleagues from the majority of Schools and units across the university were represented and staff from academic Schools, Support Centres, and CQSD shared experience and good practice. An active Twitter feed provided live commentary on the presentations and activities (120 tweets and re-tweets) and reflected an atmosphere that was informative and wholly positive.

The event was organised by Dr Emma Mayhew (EMA Academic Director) and Dr Madeleine Davies (EMA Academic Partner) and was introduced by Professor Gavin Brooks, the Programme’s sponsor. The Vice-Chancellor attended for the first hour of the event which was supported throughout by colleagues from TEL. As well as seven panels involving presentations given by 21 colleagues, the day of activities included a Q&A session, a roundtable, a Menti quiz, a talk about Learning Analytics, and a demonstration of online marking for beginners: the result was a permanent movement between learning and dialogue. Piles of EMA cup-cakes and biscuits retained energy levels throughout the day.

The Symposium was designed to offer events for colleagues new to online assessment as well as to those with more experience. Colleagues attending the Symposium provided information about their level of technological confidence: of 40 surveyed participants, 5% rated themselves as having low levels of confidence with technology, 45% rated themselves as having average levels of confidence, and 48% rated themselves as having advanced confidence. The Symposium offered talks and events for all levels.

Presentations from the Early Adopter Schools discussed the process of change and offered advice about successfully implementing online assessment in departments; a panel was also convened where ‘nervous adopters’ who had already transitioned to online marking spoke about the training and tactics that had worked for them. For more experienced users the Symposium offered presentations on the use of rubrics and QuickMarks, explaining the several ‘hidden’ benefits of online marking and demonstrating the potential of previously unidentified buttons.

Throughout the day, the emphasis remained on student experience and marking quality: several presentations commented on ways in which online assessment could enhance feedback and release a range of marking options that had not been available previously. At the same time, presentations emphasised that ‘good marking is still good marking’, as Rob Hosfield stated: the change to a new delivery model does not alter the fact that it is the usability of feedback that matters most in relation to teaching and learning.

Participants also heard presentations from the Support Centres and their experience of change: Luisa Ciampi’s presentation explained how online assessment benefits our colleagues in the Support Centres and Marguerite Gascoine spoke of the process of change. Advice about managing the potential impact of increased screen-time was given in a session led by Dr Eileen Hyder, and a presentation by Dr Calvin Smith demonstrated how new screens in RISIS support the move towards the Academic Tutoring System (Calvin was the winner of the ‘Best Title’ Menti Prize for ‘Spotting Crisis in RISIS’).

The feedback that was collected at the end of the afternoon was overwhelmingly positive:

39/40 colleagues rated the event as good or excellent and 38/40 said that the event would impact positively on their teaching and learning provision. Colleagues commented positively on the benefit of hearing the experience of a wide range of colleagues, the broad range of topics covered, and the advice on good practice. The feedback also noted how useful it had been to bring academic and professional staff together to discuss experiences, and several colleagues mentioned how they had enjoyed putting faces to the names of Support Centre colleagues. Also praised was the emphasis on how new data can be used, sessions on the practical use of marking tools, and hearing the experiences of Early Adopter schools. There was a great deal of positive feedback on a talk given by Dr Alex Knox on Learning Analytics.

As the organisers of the Symposium, we were delighted by colleagues’ positivity, collegiality, and eagerness to share online assessment experience. We hope that our colleagues will be able to join us again in September when the Programme is hosting a conference in association with the the Advance HE’s (formerly HEA) Assessment and Feedback Community of Practice. In the meantime, screencasts of key presentations will be posted on the EMA website together with a collection of helpful links and information.

Thank you to all our colleagues who attended the Symposium to share experience and to listen to that of others. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of staff who contributed their time and expertise to the event, and by the goodwill of our colleagues who attended.

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