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Dr Sharon Curtis, School of Technology
The topic of the paper
This paper documents the first phase in the development of a computer-assisted feedback system for an undergraduate computing module.
Why it is of concern
The original motivation behind the system was to get students engaged with the material by getting them to regularly attempt questions on the material outside of class hours.
What was done (methods)
To make this compulsory work palatable to students, we used a carrot that students are known to want more of: feedback. The time of practical tutors is limited, so a computer system is used to give automated feedback: the questions are carefully designed to be of high learning value, and the system generates individualised questions and emails them to the students. Answers are submitted via a web page, the system assesses the answers, and students receive a printed individual feedback sheet at the next lecture.
What are the main outcomes
As a result of this system, students did engage more: the set questions were widely attempted, feedback sheets got collected at lectures, more discussions of the material were initiated with tutors (who had copies of their students' feedback sheets), and the module pass rate went up a little. In module questionnaires, students felt that the feedback system was helpful, as it encouraged further study, provided feedback, and helped understanding. There was a further benefit: scanning the bundles of feedback sheets made it easy to spot where overall student confidence and/or understanding was lacking, and so the module lecturers also got valuable feedback on the results of their teaching.