Evaluation and Reflection, Pedagogy

Part 2: Navigating the VLE for an assessment treasure hunt

This article has been divided into two parts. Part 1 includes Problem & Chosen Solution and Part 2 discusses a short assessment of the outcome.

This academic year we tried something new to get students to engage with assessment material. We set them a treasure hunt to find key information about their assessment. All those who followed the instructions and obtained the correct information were entered into a prize draw for a £15 Amazon voucher. This blog describes how we designed the task, what happened and what we learnt about our own assessment.

Continued from Part 1…

The outcome was…

At the end of Monday, I had just 15 emails from students so less than 10% had participated. Of those, around half had not used the correct subject to classify their email and no one had got the details of the assessment completely correct, although some were close and most of the errors were on the complex assessment strategy I had struggled with. I had sympathy with them on this!

After reviewing all those who had followed the correct procedure I selected a winner at random and emailed the student the voucher. I was feeling slightly disillusioned by this point because I was spending my own money and time (this was done late at night because there was no other time) to support students in finding information and so few had attempted to complete this. And then the winning student wrote back to me. She thanked me for arranging it but importantly she said that she felt ‘infinitely more informed’ for completing it and that it was a useful exercise that she probably should have done anyway.

The lesson learnt

So maybe it did not cajole the masses into action as I had hoped but the ~10% who completed it gained information and, I hope, some sense of the positive impact of having that information. It also reminded me that sometimes these things are complex to get our heads rounds and we should not expect too much of our students – if we cannot understand it, why should they?

I would do this again in future years because even if only a small number of students engage, that small number may feel empowered. Next year, I might get students to work in groups so that those less confident in navigating the VLE are supported by peers and we can have team prizes.

In short…

We used an online treasure hunt to encourage students to navigate the VLE and locate key assessment information early in their studies. The aim was to inform the students whilst also building on key digital skills (forum checking, emailing and navigating websites in a directed manner). Although uptake was low, it did seem to make an impact on those who participated and preparing the task served as a good reminder about making sure we communicate effectively and keep things simple. Based on our experiences I would recommend:

  • Creating a structure to help students extract key information especially when they are new to the university;
  • Check that you can understand your own guidance – ask a colleague to tell you about your assessment. If they get it wrong, your students will too.

Ellie Dommett Written by Dr Eleanor Dommett

Ellie Dommett is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at King’s College where she leads neuroscience and education modules. She is also the TEL-lead for the Digital Transformation Programme and has ten years’ experience teaching online. Her research focuses both on fundamental neuroscience (the neural basis of distractibility) and pedagogy (e.g. use of VLEs and online learning tools).

You can read more of her thoughts on education here: http://www.thoughts-on-education.net/ and follow her on Twitter (@EllieJane1980) for thoughts on education, running and dogs (not necessarily in that order).

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