Monday, 15 April 2013

How I would like to see mygrades develop

Blackboard seem to be interested in re developing the my grades area in blackboard. This area allows students to see their grades and access any feedback.
I would like to make a few suggestions. However, they are perhaps more radical than wish. I have read extensively around the area of feedback, and these are some ideas that come from project and research I have come across.

Mygrades = myfeedback
In the UK the term 'feedback' has become a key area of research and interest. This is mostly because it features in the national student survey. Low scores for this area of the survey has meant that many student campaigns by universities have tried to educate the students about the benefits of engaging with feedback. The research around this area has also come to some very convincing arguments how feedback changes the student engagement and depth of learning. Taking all this into account my grades should be called myfeedback.

Separating the release of feedback and marks
In addition to this it should be designed in such a way to bring prominence to the feedback rather than the mark. Over concentration on the mark, by students, reduces their ability to see and use feedback. E.g." I got 55, that's a pass I'm though, I'll read the feedback later". I have worked hard over the past years to help staff bypass blackboard's design in order to get students to engage with their feedback and with online activities connected to it, before they are allowed to see their mark. This is very difficult to achieve with the current design, and it seems might even be harder in the future. The simple activities to be completed, such as planning and reflection processes in the form of online tests have allowed students to process their feedback, and provided staff with an understanding of how students are thinking and using feedback. Blackboard could build some functionality to help slow down the process of getting marks and allow the creation of activities connected with feedback.

General feedback.
There are no systems currently to allow generic feedback to groups of students. All feedback mechanisms are designed at the individual level, with the possible exception of the rubric tool. This is not about feedback for group work, but occasions when
- A number of students have all made similar errors
- An overview of common mistakes would help all or a particular targeted range of students e.g all those achieving a particular grade.
The tools to allow generic feedback to all or particular students could, if well designed speed up the process of providing feedback and allow greater depth of information provided.

Feedforward is the process where students and staff can see and make explicit connections between past feedback and the next assessments. for instance if i receive feedback commenting on my performance in a presentation, and can then . .
- See when the next time I will be asked to perform a similar task, where I can use that feedback to improve
- Have feedback actually talk about the ways in which I could work to achieve a higher grade explicitly for this next assessment
- be encouraged to review feedback before taking the next assignment.
Blackboard could support the process by which all students can, at a glance, see the connections between up and coming assessments, and plan which aspects of their learning need to be improved to allow them to complete these successfully. This level of engagement in their own learning process will help to build their independent learning skills so vital to future careers.
I would suggest a tool which allows staff to see all assignments across a programme, and allow then to visually connect these together. This feedback map could help all staff and students see the range and timings of assessment.
When marking work staff and be more informed when making comments because they will be more aware of the connecting assessments.

Mygrades should contain an indication of these links, and also a space for students to input their thoughts on improvements.
If future assignments do have links back to past assignments then these should be appear as links in the interface encouraging students to view the feedback.

Student reflections and planning
The mygrades tool needs to contain a space for student comments. This would allow the student to think and oceans the patterns of particular issues their may have. By seeing at a glance the past successes and failures, and see the comments on why those failures may have happened they can then plan for the future and change their behaviour. I believe that this information should be visible by key academics e.g personal tutor. The current eportfolio system in blackboard is being run down. I think this takes the best parts of that process and breathes new life into it.

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