Monday, 10 November 2008

Undergraduate tutorials

The tutorial discussions that I set up with Jan Hillig on 31st October have come to an end today. As often happens, that deadline for a stage of their project work coincided with the ten-day exercise n Blackboard, so almost no one even turned to until the last day or two, and the majority of them did it today, the last possible day. It is interesting that it seems not to matter how long they are given, things will always get done on the last day. This is a real shame in this case, because the aim is to get them to make rejoinders to each others' posts. We even give marks for rejoinders as well as their original posts. These marks count towards the final assessment for the module, so they are usually highly motivated to complete this exercise. This year, there were a number of new problems. Some students saved their submission, rather than posting it on the discussion board, then could not find it! Others turned to it after the closing time and wondered why it was no longer possible to take part. One student got quite stressed as only two people in her tutorial group seemed to be active, so she could not make a sensible rejoinder until the last minute, when a few more joined in. Some students wanted to go back and edit their post, after they received comments from the tutors. I explained to them that this functionality was disabled, because the marks they get related to what they posted, and the marks may not make sense if they go back and change what they have written. More importantly, other students may make rejoinders to posts that would not make sense, were the original post to be edited. One student wrote to me to apologise for having hit the wrong button and accidentally posting something completely senseless. I was able t remove it quite quickly. I think we got there in the end. By the end of the allotted time there was a massive amount of work that had been posted by the students, much of was really excellent quality. Now the serious work of assessing and grading it begins. One really useful aspect of this mode of tutorial and assessment is that students get feedback on their performance very quickly. This sense of immediacy seems to be greatly appreciated. It places quite a lot of demand on students and tutors, though, which is why, this year, we have increased the proportion of marks represented by this part of the assessment.

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