e-Assessment: Worts and All

Today I went to a really interesting University of Leicester event focusing e-assessment. The purpose of the event was see current practice and think about how e-assessment could be further embedded in the future.

The first session of the day was given by Denise Whitelock (Open University) who gave a Tour d’horizon. She spoke about automated feedback systems that are based upon algorithms and exemplar institutions, which in the UK is Dundee. Here is a link to a JISC policy considerations document with links to a case study of e-assessment activities at Dundee. She made several references to Elliot’s Assessment 2.0.

Other speakers included Gilly Salmon (BDRA) and a project partner Sue Harrington  (Occupational Psychology). Gilly spoke about how BDRA projects relate to e-assessment, but in typical Gilly fashion here presentation was full of some really useful references and links (slide online shortly). Sue Harrington spoke about Audio Feedback Podcasts, what she discussed where not podcast! Nevertheless it is a useful technique, but nothing new, including the example of the ASSET project discussed at yesterdays HEA Bioscience event.

We also looked at the paper e is for exploration: Assessing hard-to-measure learning outcomes, Kerry Shepard

I found the most useful part of the day the group, in both sessions I supported Jo Badge in the with ePortfolio discussion. Most of the discussion were focused around 1st year undergraduate ability to reflect, many suggested that they require a framework/guideline t0 stimulate reflection. This seemed like a valid point because as Mark Rawlinson (nosnilwar), Academic Director of Humanities pointed out the only time during a year when the majority of UoL staff reflect is during appraisal. This is based upon a standard form that asks; what have you achieved this year? what events have you attended? Targets for the year ahead? Development needs… There if we can’t do it without guidance, how can we expect students to. Therefore if ePortfolios and reflection are part of a course, may it needs to be stimulated with a ‘spark’.

There were also suggestions of ways to link their assessments with reflection, as a method of achieving engagement, including getting students to predict the exam marks and comparing them to final grades. However the eternal question arouse, should reflection be assessed?

Returning to the question, can undergrads reflect, there where many methods suggested about how we could teach the techniques, instead of getting them to reflect upon something so formative as assessed work, start by looking at something light touch like ‘how their style of note taking has evolved’ e.g. from the parrot fashion of high school to the more interpretative style of HE.

Some interesting projects came out of the discussions, I spoke to Wasyl Cajkler (School of Education), we discussed the PGCE Teacher Progression File, a massive amount a paperwork I had to complete during my PGCE and how this could be replaced with an ePortfolio approach. He wanted to know the possible solutions, I suggested:

  • Out of the box: PebblePad, reliable but not flexible and charges post graduation.
  • Non institutional online: WordPress (my ePortfolio of choice), however it is a web service and could disappear.
  • Bespoke: needs alot of techies and may not be reliable.

I also spoke to Fiona in AccessAbility about ePortfolios for Access to Employability, a good idea I think we’ll implement. Another AAC idea was asking a handful first year AAC users to record and reflect throughout their time a UoL as a measure of effectiveness of the AAC and source of case studies.


  1. Hi, Matthew,

    Why is it that so many people like yourself can only suggest PebblePad, WordPress or GoogleDocs as e-Portfolio solutions?

    Having spent some two years investigating e-Portfolios, and developing my UK version of a robust US product, I must ask, Have you looked at eFolio?

    eFolio is capable of being formatted and scaffolded according to an institution’s requirements, whether Eary Years, all Key Stages, FE, HE or continued/adult learning.

    Perhaps the most significant aspect of eFolio is that it can be ‘personalised’, is e-secure, is easily navigable and, more importantly, is totally ‘portable’ and can be configured for different audiences, concurently.

    Please see my blog for other links.

    Perhaps we can talk further?

    Ray T


  2. Just one point about the following;

    “Non-institutional online: WordPress (my ePortfolio of choice), however it is a web service and could disappear.”

    WordPress is an open source project and as such you can download the software and host it yourself (http://wordpress.org/). The free hosting at wordpress.com could disappear, but you always have the option of exporting your entire portfolio and placing it in your own hosted site.

    Dumfries & Galloway College have taken the concept of a WordPress portfolio even further, developing various management tools to run portfolios with larger groups of students, adding functionality to lock submitted items for assessment, etc. All of their code is released under an open source licence, and several institutions have now successfully implemented their model.

    One thing about the D&G model which impresses me, is that students are free to export their portfolios and continue to use them (with full functionality – not frozen onto a CD). Seems that this is more in line with the target of a tool for lifelong learning than other solutions I’ve seen.

    The guys at D&G are always happy to talk to people interested in their work…


    Kenji Lamb

    e-Learning Advisor (e-Assessment)
    JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland N&E


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