Human aspects (2 Proceedings Papers 0212, 0094)


13:40 - 14:40 on Tuesday, 7 September 2010 in Room 3bc


94 Where angels fear to tread: online peer assessment in a large first year class
Markus Mostert, Jen Snowball


212 SWIFTLY enhancing laboratory learning: genetics in the virtual world
Paul Rudman, Suzanne Lavelle, Gilly Salmon, Annette Cashmore


94 Where angels fear to tread: online peer assessment in a large first year class
Markus Mostert, Jen Snowball
In the context of widening participation, large classes and increased diversity, assessment of student learning is becoming increasingly problematic. Due to the sheer volumes of marking required, the traditional essay format proves to be particularly onerous, but becomes even more labour-intensive when formative feedback is provided. Many lecturers respond to these challenges by simply abandoning the essay in favour of assessments comprising MCQs, thereby depriving students of valuable formative feedback and opportunities for improving their writing, which becomes even more crucial in the context of increased diversity. Although the value of peer assessment has been well documented in the literature (see, for example, Boud, Cohen, and Sampson 1999; Race 2001; Rust 2001) the associated administrative burden and issues related to anonymity and ownership of student work makes this option less attractive, particularly in large classes. The Workshop module of the Learning Management System (LMS) Moodle, automates the peer-assessment process from submission of essays to anonymising and distribution, calculation of marks and making feedback available. However, despite the potential of this module for alleviating the administrative burden associated with peer assessment, the uptake thereof within higher education seems to be insignificant, probably due to its sophisticated nature. This small scale case study reports on a peer assessment assignment using the Moodle Workshop in a first year introductory macroeconomics course with 800 students at Rhodes University, South Africa. Data were collected through an end-of-course evaluation and a survey aimed at eliciting tutor perceptions on the peer assessment exercise. In addition, a sample of pre- and post-peer assessment submissions will be compared to ascertain the effect of the student feedback on the quality of the final submissions of both the assessors and the assessed. Initial analysis of the data revealed that students value peer assessment more for the feedback that they provided than for the feedback that they received. Switching roles from the assessed to the assessor forced students to engage with the assessment criteria more deeply than they would normally do when writing their essays. For this reason, and contrary to suggestions in the literature, peer assessment seems to have value at first year level. Please see ALT’s Conference Proceedings publication for the full version of this paper.


212 SWIFTLY enhancing laboratory learning: genetics in the virtual world
Paul Rudman, Suzanne Lavelle, Gilly Salmon, Annette Cashmore
SWIFT (Second World Future Immersive Technology) is a three-year research project funded by the Higher Education Academy, lead by National Teaching Fellows Prof. Annette Cashmore and Prof. Gilly Salmon at the University of Leicester. Within the genetics department, there are increasing issues of space, time and resources that lead to limitations on what can be taught effectively in laboratory practical classes. These classes are essential for students to engage fully with the theoretical content of their modules and also help students to develop problem-solving skills, team-working and experimental design skills. We are investigating the effectiveness of offering students additional laboratory time within a simulated genetics laboratory, using the 3D Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) of Second Life®. This virtual space enables students to explore, experiment and conduct laboratory-based learning activities in risk-free, interactive ways, and at much lower cost. Previous work (Cobb et al. 2009; Conradi et al. 2009) suggests that this approach could dramatically improve the overall laboratory learning experience of undergraduates. This first activity in the SWIFT virtual laboratory comprised a Health and Safety induction for 1st year Biological Science undergraduates, and familiarisation with items of equipment. This was in addition to their regular genetics laboratory use as part of their course. Participants accessed the virtual laboratory using a standard computer. On-screen, the student is represented by an avatar that can move around the virtual world, carry out activities, and interact with other participants’ avatars in group situations. Since participants’ interaction with the virtual laboratory is mediated by the computer, we are able to implement pedagogic models not practical in the real world. For example, virtual items of equipment can ‘hand out’ usage notes, high-risk actions can be demonstrated and concepts can be directly related to learners’ actions. We report on the main challenges encountered, and benefits observed, of creating and operating a virtual genetics laboratory, as well as the students’ experiences and views of learning in this virtual space.