Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference, 5 – 6 January

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The title of this year’s conference – the 17th Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference – was “Ticked Off – Towards Better Assessment & Feedback”. The event was held at the Durham University Business School.

There was an interesting mix of presentations throughout the two days, as well as opportunities to discuss ideas and issues with colleagues during breaks.

The opening keynote was Susie Schofield from the University of Dundee. Susie felt that students could avoid bad teaching, but not bad assessment; emphasising the need for clearly defined assessment criteria.

Susie said that feedback can be harmful – too much, too complicated, too late etc., and that feedback shouldn’t be too positive or too negative. There is also a difficulty in getting students to engage in feedback – they tend to be interested only in marks.

Good feedback should be dialogic she argued, but acknowledged that moving to this approach could cause friction within organisations as it could be seen as a redistribution of power.

She went on to describe a case study where a cover paper was produced for each assignment. Each student was expected to complete the cover sheet, self-evaluating on various criteria and stating what aspect of the assignment they would specifically like feedback on, as well as whether previous feedback had helped inform this assignment. This cover sheet was formatively marked.

On receipt of the marked assessment, there were some additional questions for the students, asking them to comment on the feedback.

Susie stated that the results were better engagement with students & tutors, improved feedback and improved assessment literacy.

There are some more details of the case study here;

Other presenters at the conference discussed different tools and strategies that they had used to support assessment and feedback within Blackboard.

One talk was on gamification, which was described as the use of game-thinking to help promote learning and problem-solve. Some examples of how behaviour can be influenced by taking a game-based approach were shown, and these can be found here; http://www.thefuntheory.com/, with one example below

I also went to presentations around system reporting and the use of design to help promote consistency.

Overall, a very informative and enjoyable conference with plenty of ideas.

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