Student Interns: Assessing the Possibilities
With all that has happened in the past year, many of us have seen a whole new realm of possibility opened up to us regarding assessment. Our EDTL Interns take a look at their experiences of assessment this semester and what they hope to see in the future.
Eimer Magee – UCD
Reflecting on the hybrid learning experience throughout the past semester, some benefits and drawbacks come to light. I personally really enjoyed being back on campus for lectures, to engage with material and interact with lecturers and classmates. Online learning afforded students an opportunity to have lecture recordings available to help to study for exams. Unfortunately, lecturers may not always record lectures which can pose a challenge when we’ve become accustomed to reviewing content in this way.
Along with all other students at UCD, I felt anxious about the uncertainty surrounding end of trimester exams. With some lecturers deciding to move exams online and intending to keep their exams in the RDS exam hall, the directions are somewhat unclear. Personally, I’m grateful that my exams have moved online as I haven’t had an in-person end of trimester exam in over close to two years. We’ve all adapted so well to online exams; it begs the question will the change back to in-person exams be a smooth transition? It also poses less of a risk of catching COVID days before Christmas!
Jasmine Ryan – UL
It’s been the University of Limerick’s first entire semester back on campus. For some of us, it’s been a mixture of being on campus and awkwardly taking some of our classes in study halls and library spaces, plugging in our headphones just before the lecturer speaks. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth the challenge to navigate a semester with blended learning, trying to keep in touch with classmates despite different modules and different modes of delivery.
Here in UL, only specific exams have been moved online, causing a lot of contention across campus. Still, lecturers and administrators are actively working with students and student representatives to agree on how best to deliver exams, online and offline, tailored to individual needs and health guidelines. Despite all the worry, confusion, and uncertainty towards the end of this first semester back on campus – and how we’d be feeling that way regardless of the public health situation – it’s been an exciting and rewarding semester.
Stephen Thomas O’Riordan – UCC
The learning outcomes of online exams and teaching through the pandemic are, as of yet, seemingly not materialising in how modules are being assessed. There seems to be a worrying rush to return the way assessments are done back to the “good old days”. This is evident from the resistance of most HEIs to move winter exams online this year. The “good old days” were ones that created undue pressure on most students and boiled the entirety of a learning outcome from a module into 90 minutes.
Whilst there has been great discussion over the previous 20 months about a further emphasis on continual assessment this has not produced any effective change in examining methodology which I think is a critical adjustment that needs to be made. What I would like to see is a focus on examining critical thinking, problem solving, applying learned methods and a move away from rote learning. I think every educator should abandon the idea of a closed-book online exam as such a thing doesn’t exist and that’s NOT inherently bad. Online exams don’t have to differ from in-person ones and the traditional model of one final exam at the end of the semester is a model we should be now questioning.
Hannah Arthurs – TCD
Following four years of assignments and exams at an undergraduate level, I didn’t know what to expect for my postgraduate assessments. Despite my proven ability to ace my previous assessments, I have felt very overwhelmed adjusting to a new way of learning outside of my comfort zone. Over the last semester, my masters programme has involved many group assessments and presentations which has presented many difficulties in collective collaboration using remote tools. Further, due to restrictions, many deadlines and presentations have been rescheduled or moved online with very little notice. As such, going forward, I hope that group assessments will become more streamlined through a hybrid model of in-person collaboration and presentations, and online tools and resources. This hybrid model would allow for greater flexibility and accessibility for all students, and ensure in-depth learning and collaboration across modules and group assessments.
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