All entries for Monday 07 November 2005

November 07, 2005

My Summer of Love

Follow-up to City slogans and climate change from Computer-aided assessment for sciences

Some wit is alleged to have said "Wagner's music is much better that it sounds". My Summer of Love (a BBC film directed by Pawel Pawlikowski) is better than it looked.

My film watching is usually confined to a DVD or video on the home TV and, more often than not, it's after 1 a.m. when the credits roll. Two measures I apply to a film's impact are

  • did I stay awake?
  • was I still thinking about it a week later?

My Summer scored on both counts. The film dealt with the infatuations of a sister and brother leading impoverished lives, the brother's infatuation with religion and the sister's with a spoilt rich girl. Both are exploited, both get hurt, and by the end the summer both are older and wiser. It was beautifully shot, movingly acted, and rose above the 'art house' feel that initially prejudiced me against it.

Just Cause Or Impediment?

If computer-aided assessment (CAA) means getting students to do their assignments and take their exams in front of computers, then there's precious little of it happening in the Warwick Science Faculty at the moment.

Why might this be? What are the barriers? The bottom line is the attitude of the person at the chalk face. Here are 12 uncomfortable questions a lecturer might (indeed should) ask before moving to CAA:

  1. How much extra time will it take?
  2. Will my department release me from other duties to compensate?
  3. How risky is it? How easy to get wrong?
  4. Do I have the skills to handle the technology and delivery?
  5. What support will I get?
  6. Will it improve student learning?
  7. Will students dislike it and protest?
  8. How secure it? Is cheating a problem if I use it for module credit (in summative mode)?
  9. Will it save time and money and make my job easier in the longer term?
  10. Will my efforts, even if they succeed, be recognised when it comes to promotion?
  11. Would I be professionally better off spending my time on research?
  12. Will it be abandoned when I stop teaching the module?

Your answers welcome.

Is there much of it about?

In Warwick's Science Faculty there are 9 departments teaching almost four and a half thousand undergraduates. How widely is computer-aided assessment (CAA) used right now? In my travels around the Faculty, I have so far uncovered the following sporadic activity:

Chemistry: The chemists use Questionmark Perception to assess some of the 10 mini-modules that make up CH158 Foundations of Chemistry. The spirit of the assessment is formative; however, passing the course is a prerequisite for progression to the second-year. Perception was also used by a member of the Chemistry Department for 4 assessment of 10 students on the Masters Programme Scientific Computing

Physics: The assessment software Perception was also used for regular summative assessment of the module PX425 High-Performance Computing in Physics last year.

Engineering: The School of Engineering requires its first-year students to take a diagnostic test in basic mathematics, using the software Diagnosys (see also this report ). The results are circulated to the students' tutors.

A number of departments (for instance, Engineering, Mathematics, Biological Science) use paper-based multiple choice/response tests for module credit. The answer sheets are usually processed with data capture, done either in-house (as in Biol Sci) or through the eLab service.

If there is more CAA happening out there, please let me know .

November 2005

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