The ASSET Project Assembly was held on 14th January 2010, at the University of Reading.
The day's objectives were:
- To explore exemplars of innovative practice
- To discuss electronic, video and audio feedback tools
- To outline the pros and cons of using these technologies
- To propose dissemination activities and opportunities for further development
Throughout the day there were a number of presentations from JISC Institutional Innovations (Strand 07/8) projects and internal and external staff exploring the use of video, audio and electronic resources for enhancing staff and student engagement with feedback.
The day commenced with a presentation from the ASSET project, based at the University of Reading, and which aims to:
- Explore the usefulness of video media for enhancing quality and timeliness of feedback provision.
- Encourage staff to focus on feed-forward elements of feedback.
- Develop an interactive resource 'ASSET' which allows students to organise their feedback into personalised playlists.
- Facilitate feedback-oriented dialogue between students and staff thereby encouraging deeper engagement with feed-forward and feedback.
This was followed by a project from the University of Southampton "eAssignment: Defining, marking, feeding back and managing open-ended assignments", which outlined a tool for online submission of work, and the returning of feedback electronically to students.
These were followed by a series of presentations from colleagues across the UK who are working with different methods of providing feedback and using video and audio tools to enhance both staff and student engagement with Teaching and Learning. Rod Cullen (Manchester Metropolitan), used his personal experiences of using different feedback methods, such as annotated Microsoft Word documents and camtasia video feedback, over two years to give student and staff perspectives on the different methods, including staff time to produce the different forms of feedback.
Jon Scott (University of Leicester), presented an overview of the video diaries project, focussing on the fragmented transitions that students experience during their first year at university. The videos included in the talk demonstrated the pressures that students are under, both academically and personally, and eloquently highlighted the use of video in conveying "the student voice".
Paul McLaughlin (University of Edinburgh) gave a presentation based on his use of Microsoft Word and Camtasia to provide written commentary on coursework, followed with an audiovisual summary looking at a student's strengths, weaknesses and how to move forward.
Following lunch, the student voice in feedback was represented by Tom Gilchrist (VP Education, Reading University Students Union), who commented on the importance of maintaining the momentum in innovating with regards to enhancing feedback provision. This was followed by Andrew Middleton (Sheffield Hallam) who spoke about his experiences of audio feedback and the diverse ways in which it can be used to support learning.
The final talk of the day was by Clare McCullagh (University of Reading), who presented findings from her research project using both generic and individual audio feedback with teachers and learners in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) context, and looked at how this feedback is used and perceived.
The day ended with an 'open discussion' looking at the pros and cons of using these technologies for feedback techniques at an institutional level which demonstrated the need for institutions to maintain their desire for innovation, despite the financially difficult times we are facing.
ASSET: An interactive video resource to enhance feedback provision
 Dr Anne Crook, Dr Julian Park, Dr Clare Lawson, Karsten Lundqvist, Robyn Drinkwater;  Professor Stephen Gomez;  Dr Paul Orsmond;  Dr Steve Maw.
"It's just so time consuming"
"I don't get feedback in time"
"They don't ever read it or listen to what I'm saying"
"I can't even read the handwriting"
"I'm always saying the same things…"
"What does it mean?"
The National Student Surveys have consistently and publicly highlighted students' concerns about the quality of feedback they receive with the 'assessment and feedback' category of successive surveys recording, on average, the lowest overall scores. It is, however, also recognised that the provision of quality, timely feedback to students can often be challenging for staff.
The University of Reading is leading a JISC funded project that aims to improve student and staff engagement with feedback. Using Web 2.0 technology, the project has developed a resource, 'ASSET', which supports staff in providing feed-forward and rapid, feedback to students via video. ASSET encourages and supports students' engagement with feedback from staff and can enable communities of students to interact with one another, reflecting on the feedback they receive on their work. The establishment of 'communities of learning' between students and staff opens up new opportunities for dialogues between learner and assessor, thus completing the "feedback loop".
A pedagogic innovation such as ASSET has the potential to positively impact on the teaching and learning community, addressing many of the challenges inherent in ensuring that feedback supports and encourages learning. In this presentation we will discuss the design and development of ASSET alongside the challenges and advantages of using video feedback; we'll also share preliminary findings from our evaluation of this resource to date.
Click here to view the ASSET Project's presentation
 University of Reading,  University of Plymouth,  Staffordshire University,  HEA Centre for Bioscience, University of Leeds
eAssignment: Defining, Marking, Feeding back and Managing Open-Ended Assignments
Dr Trevor Bryant, University of Southampton
Although digital drop boxes for student submissions exist in VLEs they are often incomplete solutions. We are developing an institutional system to provide an on-line environment for administration, marking and feedback of electronically submitted open-ended student assignments, these are typically essays but any digital document that can be uploaded could be assessed using this system. The benefits for students is access to assignment criteria, marking descriptors, assignments results and feedback anytime anywhere; for markers it provides access to assignments online, thus removing the need to circulate physical copies of assignments; for quality assurance, there is the transparency of assignment criteria and marking descriptors in use for all assignments, together with a consistent process of marking and easy access for external examiners anytime anywhere. One of the perceived benefits from our institutional system will be that it will be used to facilitate the harmonisation of assessment processes across the institution. Current details of the project can be viewed at www.jisc-ea.soton.ac.uk
Click here to view Trevor Bryant's Presentation
Using written proformas, audio recordings and video screen captures to provide feedback to students: Experiences from my own teaching.
Rod Cullen, Manchester Metropolitan University
Provision of timely, relevant and constructive feedback is an essential component of student learning. It can however be a challenge to provide feedback that is both useful to students and within an appropriate timescale. In addition, getting students to utilise the feedback they receive can be problematic. These issues are increasingly difficult as academics are faced with larger class sizes, less face-to-face contact with students and additional demands on their time.
Over the past two years I have explored three main mechanisms, written proformas, audio recordings and video screen captures, for providing feedback to participants engaged in formatively assessed activities in my own teaching (Post-graduate Certificate/Masters in Academic Practice). Over this period I have not only explored the participant experience of these different feedback formats but I have also examined, in some detail, the timescales involved in producing feedback in the different formats.
My findings suggest that participants find video and audio formats more personal and engaging than written proformas. Some participants find the visual component of video screen captures particularly helpful while others find that the ease with which audio recordings can be paused and replayed make this format more appropriate to their needs. Detailed personal activity logs, kept during teaching periods, show that I am able to provide feedback via audio recordings more quickly than via written proformas and using video screen captures. In addition, the technical requirements of providing feedback using video screen captures can be particularly time consuming.
This presentation will: emphasise the need to design feedback provision into the delivery of the teaching, learning and assessment; demonstrate the different methods of providing feedback that I have used; present findings on students perceptions and use of the feedback; and look at the time investments required for the different feedback methods from the staff perspective.
Click here to view Rod Cullen's presentation
'Fragmented Transitions: The 1st Year Perspective Through Video Diaries'
Dr Jon Scott, University of Leicester
The student experience is a strong focus of current research in higher education and a significant amount of quantitative data, in the form of questionnaires and surveys, has provided insights into important and emerging issues such as student retention and assessment and feedback. The methodology underpinning this research, however, offers limited insights into the ways in which students actually live the student experience. This paper considers ongoing research findings of a longitudinal research project involving two cohorts of undergraduate students and the use of video diaries. More than 30 bioscience students are involved in the project and the video diary data is being complemented by the involvement of the same students in a series of focus groups. The overall aim of the project is to gain a nuanced understanding of issues that are central to students' lives and which may feed into and enrich the experiences and concerns of future students within the School of Biological Sciences and University as a whole.
Whilst student transitions are often viewed as distinct, one-directional processes this paper highlights the extent to which Biosciences students are continually adjusting and re-adjusting to the social and academic transitions at the heart of their university experience. These adjustments are particularly felt in and around the break-up of the first semester and the beginning of the second semester. Our research findings also reveal complex interactions between social and academic transitions, with the former complicating the ways in which students adapt to new processes of teaching and learning (and vice versa). On these terms, the need to step back from the initial transition from home to university during the Christmas holidays compromises the ability of students to prepare for important examinations in the New Year. Similarly, our research reveals the problems some students face in re-adapting to social relations at university as a result of immediate demands to further revise for and sit these examinations. This presentation offers a reflection on the approach and one set of findings from this study into the student experience.
Click here to view Jon Scott's presentation
A WORD On Audiovisual Feedback, Using A Well-Known Word Processor Package.
Dr Paul McLaughlin, University of Edinburgh
We have used macros in Microsoft Word to (i) give the capacity to reuse and/or redit text comments previously made and (ii) to integrate this with the screen capture program Camtasia. Thus we give written comments as normal, but we replace by an audio visual file the usual final paragraph that should be a "higher level" summary of what was good, what was less good, and how the student can move forward. We argue that this uses each medium to its particular strength. The student sees the essays just as it appears on the marker's screen and hears the marker comment in context (perhaps underlining with a virtual highlighter in real time as they make their points). This has been run successfully for three years now in a first year biology class. Recently we returned 280 essays, fully marked and moderated, within the three week deadline set for us. The feedback from students is very good: some of the comments show attitudes that we value. Current computer speeds and cheap storage make audiovisual feedback possible and timely. Like many aspects of e-marking/feedback, though, managing the "paper-flow" is tedious. There is a need for better software to manage moving files between markers/moderators and students before this, and other forms of more innovative feedback, can be scaled up.
Click here to view Paul McLaughlin's presentation
Audio feedback: adopted and adapted to facilitate formative engagement
Andrew Middleton, Sheffield Hallam Univeristy
Audio feedback allows academics to address the challenge of providing students with engaging feedback in a timely and meaningful manner. The literature shows that academics and students have come to value the personal connection that is afforded by the asynchronous use of the recorded voice. With reference to case studies drawn from across the UK HE sector, this short paper will describe the diverse ways in which audio is being used by academics and students to directly address the need for feedback that results in learner improvement. In this session audio feedback is described as adaptable, an important attribute in ensuring that the technology fits with the particular needs of teacher and learner. The many variable factors that allow for it to be designed will be introduced and, as such, it is hoped that academics, developers and learning technologists will be inspired to apply audio feedback to their own practice.
Click here to view Andrew Middleton's presentation
Talking about student's writing: a closer look at teacher and student response to audio feedback
Clare McCullagh, University of Reading
This paper reports on the findings of a small scale action research project exploring how teachers and learners in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) writing context exploit and perceive digital audio as a feedback medium. The study was designed in response to a changing context, in which writing teachers find themselves facing larger classes of learners who need extra support. The study was inspired by research across the HE sector in which audio as a feedback mode has proved to be an effective and efficient method of delivering feedback for learners, who find it friendly and engaging. The action research set out to explore whether digital audio might be a more accessible feedback mode for those learners at ease with speaking and listening activities who respond well to more personal and informal teaching styles. For all learners, it was envisaged that audio might enable teachers to provide a richer layer of detail that would motivate learners to engage more deeply with the re-drafting process.
During a Pre-sessional course both generic and individual audio feedback was introduced in a staged approach alongside a reduced amount of written commentary on student essays. Teacher and student responses were captured through surveys, focus groups and discussion. In all respects, apart from the demands it placed upon tutor time and energy, audio feedback met our expectations and proved itself to be entirely appropriate for a process writing context as an enhancement, rather than a replacement, to written commentary. The findings of this study are of relevance beyond an EAP context to the wider University context, where the flexibility of digital audio offers great potential for both face-to-face and distance applications.Click here to view Clare McCullagh's presentation