Written by Elisa Long Perez, Department of Law & Criminology
Assessments are the predominant way for lecturers to test students’ knowledge in a module or subject. To make that possible, students need to know what criteria they are expected to adhere to, as well as where and when to submit. In some modules, this essential information are not as easily accessible as needed.
During the usability testing activities, I completed as part of the Student Learning Ambassadors project, I noticed that some modules either had no marking criteria or had marking criteria that were not easily accessible to students. The absence of this key document often leaves students confused as to how they should approach their assignments, leading to lower marks. Other issues I found were to do with submission points and deadlines. Submission points were often included at the bottom of the Assessment and Feedback section or in a different section altogether which may lead to students either not submitting their assignments on time or they don’t submit them at all. Secondly, if the deadline isn’t emphasised enough or is easily missed the same thing happens; students won’t know when they are due to submit their assignments and may end up rushing to submit at the last minute or fail to submit on time.
My suggestions to teaching staff would be to: always include the marking criteria in the Assessment and Feedback section and the module handbook; make sure the submission points are on top of the section and highlight the deadline in bold; send a reminder one month, one week and one day before the deadline.
Written by Gabriele Sidekerskyte, Aberystwyth Business School
Being a part of the Student Learning Ambassadors group was one of the most interesting projects I have participated in at the University. I am very glad that I was able to use my student experience as a tool to improve Blackboard and other students’ experience at Aberystwyth University. The fact, that students are the ones deciding how Blackboard modules should look like and what they should contain is amazing because students are the ones that are and will be using it, so their opinion is most important. In the past years, especially during the pandemic, Blackboard played a very important role in my student life. I came across some issues like accessing reading materials and assignments. The reading lists provided by module coordinators are great, however, sometimes not all reading is accessible to students. Making sure that all materials on the reading lists are available in an electronic version is essential.
In terms of the Assessment and Feedback section, the most important information included there are: the submission deadline and submission point, assignment requirements, marks and feedback. Although some modules include this information in the module handbook, it is much easier and more intuitive if they are included in the Assessment and Feedback section. It would be ideal if the submission deadlines for all assignments would be provided as early as possible so students can plan their time effectively. If the deadline has been extended, that should be announced clearly for everyone. Assignment topics, requirements, literature if available and weight of the assignment on the overall module mark should also be included in the Assessment and Feedback section, in the same place where students will have to submit their work. Similarly, it should be clearly communicated when students can expect their marks and feedback, especially if it changes. I think it would be great if students would get notified once the mark and feedback are available. Feedback should be clear and detailed, with examples and explanations of the mistakes made and suggestions for improvements as only then students can get better.
I hope these words will be taken into consideration. I enjoyed this experience and I hope this project will improve the Blackboard experience for everyone. The teamwork and organisation side of the project were great, the meetings were just perfect length, and the activities were interesting. Thank you for the experience.