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Journal Article

An Automated Individual Feedback and Marking System: An Empirical Study  pp1-14

Trevor Barker

© Apr 2011 Volume 9 Issue 1, ECEL 2010 special issue, Editor: Carlos Vaz de Carvalho, pp1 - 114

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Abstract

The recent National Students Survey showed that feedback to students was an ongoing problem in Higher Education. This paper reports on the extension of our past research into the provision of automated feedback for objective testing. In the research presented here, the system has been further developed for marking practical and essay questions and providing automated feedback. Recent research at the University of Hertfordshire was able to show that learners and tutors accept and value our automated feedback approach based on objective tests and Computer Adaptive Testing. The research reported in this paper is an important extension to this work. The automated feedback system developed for objective testing has been extended to include practical testing and essay type questions. The automated feedback system, which can be used within any subject area, is based on a simple marking scheme created by the subject tutor as a text file according to a simple template. Marks for each option and a set of feedback statements are held within a database on a computer. As marks are awarded for each question by the teacher an individual feedback file is created automatically for each learner. Teachers may also add and modify comments to each learner and save additional feedback to the database for later use. Each individual feedback file was emailed automatically to learners. The development of the system is explained in the paper and testing and evaluation with 350 first year (1 final practical test), 120 second year (1 written and 1 practical tests) and 100 final year (1 final practical test) undergraduate Computer Science students is reported. It was found that the time to mark practical and essay type tests was reduced by more than 30% in all cases compared to previous years. More importantly it was possible to provide good quality individual feedback to learners rapidly. Feedback was delivered to all within three weeks of the test submission date. In end of module tests it was very beneficial indeed as it had proven difficult to provide feedback in the past after modules had ended. Examples of the feedback provided are presented in the paper and the development of the system using a user‑centred approach based on student and staff evaluation is explained. The comments of staff teaching on these modules and a sample of students who took part in this series of evaluations of the system are presented. The results of these evaluations were very positive and are reported in the paper, showing the changes that were made to the system at each iteration of the development cycle. The provision of fast effective feedback is vital and this system was found to be an important addition to the tools available.

 

Keywords: assessment, feedback, automated systems, development, evaluation

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 9 Issue 1, ECEL 2010 special issue / Apr 2011  pp1‑114

Editor: Carlos Vaz de Carvalho

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Editorial

Vaz e‑Learning is one of the most active fields of research and practice in Europe, in all the education and training sectors. The use of new and innovative technologies for learning is raising expectations and motivation between researchers, teachers, students and other education stakeholders.The European Conference on e‑Learning (ECEL) is an annual event that has been at the forefront of this revolution. It brings together groups of people in a variety of areas related to e‑Learning seeking to combine cutting‑edge research with practical, real‑life applications, in order to advance the state of e‑Learning around Europe.

The 9th European Conference on e‑Learning ‑ ECEL 2010 took place in Porto, Portugal. Porto is renowned for its historical City Centre (World Heritage) and its wine but also for being an innovation‑prone city which is an excellent environment for an e‑learning conference. This special edition of EJEL is dedicated to ECEL 2010.

With an initial submission of 220 abstracts, after the double blind, peer review process there were 97 papers published in the Conference Proceedings, an acceptance rate that places ECEL 2010 on the top of the conference quality rankings. The number of high‑quality submissions to the conference required a thorough process of selection by the session chairs and the editors to finally produce this edition of the journal. The selected articles cover different points of view of e‑learning from a more technological approach to a more pedagogical one.

The first set of articles is precisely concerned with technological aspects and in particular with the importance of computer aided assessment systems in the efficiency of e‑learning. Trevor Barker presents a study on the importance of automated feedback to provide good quality individual feedback to learners. He also demonstrates that these systems, by relieving the teachers from the exhaustive task of test marking can give them more time for communicating with students. Escudeiro and Cruz present a very innovative approach to the grading of students' answers in free text. Their work minimizes fluctuations in the evaluation criteria, improves detection of plagiarism, reduces the assessment process time and allows teachers to focus on the feedback to the students. Gütl, Lankmayr, Weinhofer and Höfler approach the design, development and validation of an automatic test item creation tool. This tool is able to extract concepts out of textual learning content and create different types of questions on the basis of those concepts.

To complete this more technically‑oriented view, Kurilovas, Bireniene and Serikoviene present a model and several scientific methods for the quality evaluation of Learning Objects (LOs). They pay special attention to their reusability level, in particular, when crossing linguistic barriers.

The second set of articles focus on pedagogical aspects of e‑learning and in particular, in students' related issues. Karin Levinsen presents new concepts related with e‑learning. She addresses the phenomenology of acquiring digital literacy and self‑programming in order to be able to identify relevant learning objectives and scaffolding.

Marques and Belo approach the profiling of student through their web usage habits. Through their investigations they can discover what students do, by establishing user navigation patterns on Web based platforms, and learn how they explore and search the sites’ pages that they visit. Nakayama and Yamamoto also address student issues by examining participants’ assessments made during the transitional phase in a learning environment which includes blended and fully online courses. O’Hara, Reis, Esteves, Brás and Branco focus on the effectiveness of learning through sports with the systematic integration of interactive situations in different contexts, with or without electronic devices. Sabey and Horrocks tackle the need for new electronic resources for health research for use within the context of a classroom taught course. They describe the process of developing an interactive resource incorporating a narrative element. Finally, Tuncay, Stanescu and Tuncay present a very innovative approach to the use of metaphors in e‑learning to reinforce communication between students and teachers.

As chair of ECEL 2010 and editor of this special edition of EJEL I feel privileged to have been in contact with such exciting thoughts, ideas and projects presented by the authors. It is now my pleasure to pass on to you this collection of articles, knowing for sure that they will motivate you to continue or even to start your research, development or use of e‑Learning as a major learning strategy. I also look forward to meeting you in Brighton, this autumn, for another fascinating ECEL conference.

 

Keywords: active learning, assessment, assessment in transition, automated systems, automated test item creation, blended learning, Clickstream analysis, computer-based assessment, design for teaching and learning, development, distance learning, e-assessment, eLearning, evaluation, evidence-based practice, feedback, free-text assisted grading, fully online learning, learning objects, lifelong learning, Markov chains, metaphors, multiple criteria decision analysis, narrative, natural language processing, Navigation paths analysis, networked society, nurse education, online learning, optimisation, quality evaluation, research methods teaching, reusability, self-directed learning, self-programming, skills acquisition, sport, student assessment, students, SurveyMonkey, task design, technology, text mining, web based elearning platforms, web usage profiling.

 

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