Assessment · MSc MMEL

Assessment for learning in a digital age


Mini Project 3 of Assignment 1 (MMEL)

The value of formative assessment is widely acknowledged, with effective feedback being a crucial element of the assessment process (Chickering and Gamson, 1986; Hattie’s effect sizes in Petty, 2009, REAP, 2009).  However, studies have also shown that students often find written feedback to be unhelpful: not having enough detail, not being clear or understandable, or being given too late for action to be taken (Glover and Brown, 2006). This mini-project will therefore consider how using  audio and video technology could support and enhance effective feedback, using research from theJISC funded Effective Assessment in a Digital Age project (JISC, 2010a)

 Laurillard’s  conversational framework (2002 in Nicol, 2010) suggests that effective feedback should be a discursive process. The use of audio to record feedback could, Nicol (2010) argues, be a method of opening up such a dialogue. In the JISC  project,  the University of Leicester piloted a study which involved recording audio feedback using podcasts.  The study found that tutors were able to give much more detailed explanations than in their written critiques. In addition, they were able to offer the feedback in a personalised way which was relevant to the student concerned. The tutors also found that it was actually quicker to record the feedback than to write it, thereby enabling a quicker turnaround.  Students responded positively to this type of feedback, which they thought was clear and more meaningful (JISC, 2010b)  Further research at Staffordshire University also suggests that students react positively to audio feedback, engaging with the feedback by making amendments to their work whilst listening to and replaying the podcasts, and were also appreciative of the personal approach by tutors (Merry and Orsmond, 2008).

In my own teaching practice, there are two specific examples where feedback by audio could be used to enhance formative feedback. In the first example, I teach a cohort of Year 1 Business students who are often concerned about writing their first assignments.  Therefore, my objective is to be able to give detailed and constructive feedback, without appearing over-critical and therefore de-motivating students. Audio feedback would allow me to stress important points, such as whether or not the criteria has been addressed, whilst also offering supportive comments to suggest improvements in future.  written work.  In the second example I teach a ‘Using Spreadsheets’ module to accounting students.  Currently, the students upload completed Excel spreadsheets to the VLE, and corrections are made using annotation tools within the software.  However, given the nature of the software, some of these instructions can be quite complex.  By using a video/audio tool such as Jing, the students’ work could be corrected on screen and the students’ could then replay the recordings at their convenience.

Nicol and McFarlane-Dick (2004) put forward seven principles of good feedback practice and it could be suggested that audio/video feedback meets many of these requirements, for example by delivering high quality information to students about their learning, encouraging dialogue, encouraging positive motivational beliefs, and providing opportunities to act on feedback. Moreover, as Merry and Orsmond (2008) suggest, students who are becoming more familiar with multimedia technology may engage more with  audio and video feedback  than with written words.


Black, P. J., Wiliam, D., & King’s College (Universityof London) Dept. of Education and Professional Studies. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment.London: Nelson.

 Chickering, A.,  Gamson, S.C.(1996), “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,”AAHE Bulletin, October, pp.  3-6. [online] Available at: Last accessed 28th October, 2011

Glover, C., Brown, E., (2006) Written Feedback for Students: too much, too detailed or too incomprehensible to be effective? Bioscience Education ejournal Vol 7, 3 [online] Available at:  Last accessed 28th October, 2011

JISC (2010a)  Effective Assessment in a Digital Age – A guide to technology-enhanced assessment and feedback. [online] Available at: Last accessed 28th October, 2011

JISC (2010b)  Case study 6: Enhancing the experience of feedbackUniversity of Leicester [online]. Available at: Last accessed 28th October, 2011

Merry, S., Orsmond, P., (2008) Students’ Attitudes to and Usage of Academic Feedback Provided Via Audio Files  Bioscience Education ejournal Vol 11, 3 [online] Available at:  Last accessed 28th October, 2011

Nicol, D (2010): From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35:5, 501-517 [online]  Available at: Last accessed 28th October 2011

Nicol, D.J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) ‘Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice’, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199–218 [online] Available at: Last accessed 28th October 2011

Petty, G. (2009). Teaching today: A practical guide.Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

REAP (Re-engineering Assessment Practices) (2009), 11 Principles of Assessment Design, [online] Available at: Last accessed 28th October, 2011

Technologies used in JISC projects related to REAP Principles

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One thought on “Assessment for learning in a digital age

  1. Exceellent scoping of the literature here. Good use of Laurillard and the work at Leicester. Excellent discussion of how theory relates to practice. Well done. I think that Jing would work really well in this context. Liz

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