Announcing the University’s new Digital Exam System: Inspera Assessment

In September 2021 we will be launching a new system for centrally supported digital exams, called Inspera Assessment. Implementing the system will enable the Digital Exam Service to: 

  • Deliver secure locked down present-in-person exams on University computers and students’ own laptops, monitored by University invigilators 
  • Ensure that digital exams are accessible to all our students, and enhance the student experience of exams 
  • Increase the University’s digital exam capacity in the long term 
  • Enable more authentic exams by introducing new functionality

New exam types possible with Inspera will include:  

  • Students taking written exams online, by typing their answers on computer, and incorporating drawings or written calculations done on paper into their online answers where needed. 
  • Allowing access to specific online resources or applications during a secure exam, using allow listing functionality. 

Introducing Inspera is a big step forward for education, assessment and feedback at Newcastle University.  Adopting a specialist digital exam system allows us to do much more than would be possible if we continued to use the Virtual Learning Environment for digital exams.

Choosing a digital exam system 

Inspera has been selected as our digital exam system following a rigorous procurement process, which began with requirements mapping workshops in February 2020, attended by over 60 academic and professional services staff.  The procurement was postponed for a year as a result of the global pandemic, and restarted in semester 2 2020/21 when colleagues had the opportunity to feed in any new or updated requirements via an online survey.   

Once the tender was issued key digital exams stakeholders contributed to a rigorous evaluation process to decide on the system that best fit our requirements.  Students and staff were invited to volunteer for usability testing in each system that met the mandatory technical requirements. The team are very grateful to the 36 colleagues, and 13 undergraduate and postgraduate students, who completed a total of approximately 150 hours of usability testing between them! 

Inspera scored the highest overall for both usability, and for technical and functional requirements. 

Rolling out Inspera 

As standard all 2021/22 modules that have a present-in-person digital exam in MOFS will use Inspera.  If the public health situation requires, it will be possible for these modules to use the system for open book take home exams.

Numbas maths assessment system remains an option digital exams that need specialist mathematics functionality.

The system will be available for additional new digital exams from 2022/23 onwards.  There will be opportunities in the coming months to see demonstrations of the software, and learn more about the new types of assessment that it makes possible.  If you would like to learn more now, please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

How to get started  

The Digital Exams Service team will contact all 2021/22 module teams with a digital exam in their MOF at the beginning of September, with details of the process for preparing their exam. 

Training will also launch in September 2021, and all colleagues who will be using Inspera in the new academic year are encouraged to sign up.   

Online resources to help students prepare for a digital exam will be published in September, and students will also be able to try out a demo exam in Inspera to help familiarise themselves with the system. 

If you are interested in introducing a new digital exam using Inspera in future, or if you have any queries about a 2021/22 digital exam, please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

Assessment resources on Digital Learning website

Resources are available to help staff prepare for the semester 2 assessment period, including: 

Exams

Assignment set up 

  • Guidance is available on whether to use a Canvas Assignment or a Turnitin Assignment
  • It is important that module teams agree which assignment type to use before it is set up in Canvas, and that marking is done in the correct tool. SpeedGrader (link to Canvas Orientation course) must be used for a Canvas Assignment, Turnitin Feedback Studio (link to screencast) must for a Turnitin Assignment. 
  • When an assignment is created, the maximum number of marks available (for example 100) must be entered in the Points field.  The points should never be set as zero, as this causes technical issues. 

Marking and moderation 

Further help 

Digital exam system usability testing

Are you a member of academic or professional services staff interested in digital exams?

The digital exam system procurement process is going ahead as planned, and we are making adjustments to enable staff to participate in usability testing while remote working. 

We appreciate that this is a very busy time for colleagues across the University. However, it is necessary to go ahead with usability testing now to support the digital exam system procurement process.  If you are interested and have capacity to participate in usability testing your contribution will be very valuable. 

We are looking for volunteers to test digital exam systems, to help assess how user friendly each one is.  Testers’ feedback will be a key part of the evaluation stage of the tender process, and have a direct impact on which digital exam system the University introduces from next academic year.   

Usability testing is open to all University staff.  You can choose to test from the perspective of either: 

An exam administrator testing how to create exam settings, and manage marking and moderation processes.  Approximately 90 minutes per system. 

An academic testing how to create exam questions, and carry out marking and moderation.  Approximately 2 hours per system. 

To participate you need to commit to test all of the systems that meet the University’s mandatory requirements, which we estimate may be between 2 and 4 systems.  This is required to ensure that the evaluation process is fair, and we’ll be able to confirm the number of systems being tested the week before the testing begins.   

Full instructions and video demonstrations will be provided for each testing task. You can complete the testing tasks at any time that suits your schedule over the usability testing period from Monday 1 June to Monday 15 June. 

To register your interest in doing usability testing please complete this form by 12 noon on Tuesday 26 May 2020.  Please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk with any queries. 

Student views on feedback forms

Group of students

To find out more a student intern, working with staff in LTDS,  evaluated existing feedback forms and gathered opinions from students to identify what works and what could be improved. The project considered a total of 66 forms from 19 different schools and included focus groups and interviews with individual students.

What did they find?

These are a few key findings and you can find full details in the project report.

Form Design

Have clear, separate sections showing:

  • Strengths and areas for improvement
  • Clear advice for future work

Only use tick boxes for objective areas of the marking criteria, such as grammar. When tick boxes were used for subjective areas, such as argument, students found this unhelpful.

Look at your feedback forms and consider whether these should be redesigned. Consult with the students in your school as part of the process.

Utilising the form

Type feedback, wherever possible.

Introduce structured opportunities to help students understand:

  • expectations of the marking criteria
  • the ways in which this is reflected in the feedback sheet

Discuss how you use marking sheets with your colleagues. Try to develop a consistent approach to:

  • the volume of feedback
  • the use of notes in margins

For more information get in touch with LTDS@ncl.ac.uk

Peer Mentoring: Feedback Sessions

With the Peer Mentoring Scheme well underway across the University, mentors have been meeting with convenors to check how things are going.

Alison Graham convenes the Peer Mentors in the School of Biology.

feedback-session-peer-mentoring
Students in Peer Mentoring feedback session

She meets with Peer Mentors in the school in week 2, week 4 and week 7 or 8, just to check how students are doing and make sure that mentors and mentees are getting the most out of the scheme.

‘What I’ve started to try to do is to incentivise the meetings, so the students feel that they are getting something out of them, as well as just catching up.

‘I came up with the idea of tying them to the Graduate Skills Framework, so I often work through how the mentors will be able to use their skills in applying for jobs.

‘We go through how to evidence the skills that they’ve gained in applications and at  interview.’

Alison hopes that this approach will make the scheme more lucrative for second and third year students who may be unsure about giving up their time.

‘It’s really about making sure that students can see and really use the skills they are gaining form being a Peer Mentor, in addition to helping other students.’

Alison says the scheme has proved popular in the School and that students have described it as useful but that often the whole experience relies on engagement from the mentors.

‘We have some excellent mentors who establish a real social group and relationship with their mentees by organising trips and events.

‘We try to encourage that and encourage teamwork within the groups – for example, we organise a treasure hunt in week one where they all have to work together.’

She says that the amount of engagement with mentors depends on individual students and often to circumstances.

‘But it depends on them. Some students only really liaise with their mentor in the first few weeks but some need a little bit more.

‘They also tend to turn to their mentors around exam and assignment time.

‘But it can also be really important for some students who are struggling.’

As a convenor for the programme, Alison points out that its important for the mentors to be trained and supported so that they know what queries they can answer.

‘We have to be quite careful to make sure that they know how much help they can give students with their academic work.

‘Obviously they can provide some advice but we don’t want people sharing assignments or anything, so that’s something we have to train them for.’

As well as the feedback meetings, Peer Mentors have all been invited to a Thank You party, taking place on 5th December in the Great North Museum.

Claire Burnham, the University’s Peer Mentoring Coordinator said: ‘We’re very excited about the event.

‘The Mentor of the year award will be presented on the night and we’ve already had 400 nominations from students across the University.

‘It’s a great way of rewarding our mentors and our convenors for all of their hard work.’

 

VLE Feedback Sessions April 2016

In April, the Learning and Teaching Development Service and the Student Union ran some pop up feedback sessions in the Business School, the Robinson Library, the Student Union and the Medical School asking students one question, ‘What one thing would improve your experience of Blackboard or the LSE?’ The same question was also added  to the Blackboard My Institution page to which students could give an online response.

In total, 434 students gave feedback, 402 about Blackboard and 32 about the LSE. The student responses were collated and categorised into main themes. Some students covered more than one theme in their answer.

Few students had issues with the functionality of Blackboard and 20.65% of comments were very positive where they felt staff engaged with it. From the small sample of students who commented about the LSE, 43.75% of comments were positive and found it very clear and easy to use.

The main Blackboard issue students raised was regarding organisation and consistency of module content with 22.64% of the students who responded recognising this as a problem. In answer to the question, student comments included, ‘All lecturers using the same way of organising. Everything in the same place!’ and ‘Same layout for every module. It would make it so much easier if all modules had the same layout.’

Other key themes included the mobile application, Blackboard Learn and the availability of lecture materials and ReCap recordings.

This feedback gave us a very useful snapshot of student opinion on the VLE. You can read the full report that was shared at the HaSS and SAgE FLTSEC meetings this month and view the student comments by Faculty, School and Stage.

If you would like any tailored Blackboard training or would like us to work with you to reorganise your modules or come along to your school meeting to discuss creating a school, or discipline, specific template , please contact LTDS.

 

If you go down to the Robinson Library today…

Psst! Do encourage your students to get down to the Robinson Library today for some Easter treats!
All they have to do to get a free creme egg (or a £1) and to be in with a chance of winning £20 is to visit the NSS Student Awareness table between 11.15 and 14.45.

Elliot Chapin (BA History and Archaeology) won £20
Elliot Chapin (BA History and Archaeology) won £20

Final Year students can fill out the NSS there and then if they wish.
There’ll be more opportunities for students to take part across campus over the next few weeks: Continue reading “If you go down to the Robinson Library today…”

STAR CASE STUDY: Feedback Foghorn

Would you like your students to be able to see all of their feedback in one place?

Do you feel like you’re pouring useful advice and feedback into the void?

You need the feedback foghorn!

Lindsey Ferrie

Lindsey Ferrie in Biomedical Sciences has been piloting the scheme in Biomedical Sciences which allows students to use e-portfolio software to compile, track and store their feedback across their course.

The system allows them to track their academic progress across software such as Grademark, Turnitin and PeerWise in order to analyse areas of strength and weakness and to see clearly  their academic progress. Continue reading “STAR CASE STUDY: Feedback Foghorn”

STAR CASE STUDY: Using Industry Professionals in Law

Law School Lecture

Lecturers in the Law School are making use of industry professionals to teach students about ‘real-life’ as a legal professional.

The school makes use of professionals from local practices to assess first year’s interviewing techniques and invites Law Lords and senior judges to meet students in order to help them to establish contacts and feel comfortable in the formal and often cliquey legal world.

Jonathan Galloway, just one lecturer making use of professionals in both law and economics as part of his Competition Law module, thinks that regular contact with those working in the profession gives Newcastle students the edge.

Dr Jonathan Galloway of Newcastle Law School‘Not only is it great to hear from someone who can tell you in a more anecdotal sense how the theory you learn about during your degree works in real world situations, it also builds students’ confidence.

‘For many of them, the world of court, particularly places like the supreme court or Parliament can seem completely out of reach. Meeting a senior judge or law lord can help them to feel more comfortable and confident in applying for jobs or placements at these types of places later.

‘For some Newcastle students, they may never have met a barrister or a judge before. Having people who work at some of the most prestigious firms or in the top jobs deliver elements of their courses helps them to see that these sorts of professions are within reach for them and hopefully encourages them to aim high after they graduate.’

For Jonathan, this works both ways: ‘It also works the same way for the firms themselves. Although many of the most prestigious firms in London, they come into regular contact with students from London-based Law Schools, many may not meet many students from Newcastle.

‘Inviting them to speak means that they already have a sense of what Newcastle students are about and how much they could offer their firm as a graduate.’

The Law School makes use of professionals to assess interviewing techniques in the early stages of the degree and to deliver some lectures on modules such as Competition law and Human Rights law.

Although much of this takes place later in the course and Jonathan is keen to stress that students always already have a theoretical grounding in the area which professionals come to discuss, he thinks it is inherently valuable for the students:

‘We’ve had some really excellent people, not just lawyers but economists too to help the students get a more rounded sense of how wide-ranging legal studies is and how many different sectors the law touches upon.’

To read more about what Law is up to see the Case Study Database.

Or if you have an example of really effective teaching practice in your School do get in touch with Katherine.cooper@ncl.ac.uk.