There were several other presentations throughout the rest of the day.
Bill Rammell keynote: Tensions in collaboration in a changing landscape outlined the current position that the HE sector found itself in in relation to the Higher Education white paper. Some of the key challenges outlined were
- Pressure on budgets
- Greater competition
- Students expectations
which are probably the things every university senior management team are exercising their minds over. Bill discussed the current challenge of encouraging students to consider going to university despite the new fees system (see Plymouth’s promotional video )
In looking at the challenges facing HEI’s, Bill argued that there will still be a need for collaboration within the HE sector. I would concur but would argue that as status/brand is one of the key marketing points of institutions, the decsion about who to collaborate with will be more carefully debated.
Bill then went onto to look at digital literacy strategies and it was interesting when polled, that most participants didn’t know whether there was a strategy or not and, of those that did, the majority stated that their institutions didn’t have a strategy.
Bill’s conclusion to the challenges ahead for HE was that rather than consider students as consumers we need to treat them as partners (Certainly some of the later presentations by Uni of Exeter showed some good example of this in practice). I’m certainly happy to look at how, with a student-centred approach, we can enable this partnership and try and avoid the consumerist approach to education. I’m not convinced that these students’ parents, trying to fund the rest of their offspring’s higher education, will be so willing to take a partnership approach.
Following from Bill keynote, giving a bit more inspiration that staying in HE is worthwhile, was the presentation from University of Winchester and Bath Spa on ‘An evidence-based model to enhance programme-wide assessment using technology’ featuring the work of the TESTA project and the FASTECH project.
The projects highlighted case studies where the teams had gone in and look closely at why assessment practices within the programmes weren’t working as well as they should. The presenters described some scenarios where contrary to expectations students efforts with assessments was patchy. In this particular instance it was due to the bunching of summative assessments across the modules of the programme.
In another example, it was due to the feedback being given back to students 4 weeks after the assessment leading to it being too late for to be of any use for students and a wasted effort for staff.
There was some interesting discussion going on in this talk and it was interesting to hear some of the key elements regarding the principles of assessment being discussed in very practical terms, such as
- A variety of assessments can be a bad thing if not sequenced properly
- Tacit standards for feedback can be unhelpful for students
- Need to be aware of technologies being used in module silos rather than across programmes
- A lack of feed forward in assessment
- Staff need to understand what feedback is as well as students.
Coupled with this were discussions regarding students recognition and use of feedback when given and consideration of how institutional practices can make it difficult in terms of providing feedback. There was a lot of discussion in the chat regarding external examiners and their acceptance of audio or video feedback.
A key question that came out of this discussion was ‘if we know from the evidence that feedback works really well in aiding learning, why as a sector are we still not getting it to work?’