Using Blackboard to Provide a Form of Continuous Assessment

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					  Using Blackboard to Provide a Form of
Continuous Assessment for Law Students in
         a Large Group Setting –
          Potentials and Pitfalls




   Dr. Gavin Barrett, Senior Lecturer, School of Law,
              University College Dublin
   The Context of this Experiment/Process -
    The Degree Course, The Particular Subject

   Rationale for the Process

   The Process Itself

   Evaluation of this Process: Lessons Learnt,
    Implications for Practice
          Context of this Experiment
            I The Degree Course
   University College Dublin
   Law School
   Bachelor of Business and Law (BBLS) Degree
   Students in second year of four year course
   Arduous programme of study  intensified by
    University-wide introduction of modularisation
    and semesterisation of most subjects
   Increasing emphasis on continuous assessment
     may be compulsory next year
            Context of this Experiment
            II The Particular Subject:
   The Law of the European Union
   A compulsory subject for all Business and Law
    students
       150 students
   Very large and ‘difficult’ course
       unfamiliar concepts, institutions and approaches to legal
        reasoning especially for second-year students
   Disadvantages to using essay for continuous
    assessment
       many other essays to do
       essay can cover only one part of the course.
       essay correction on this scale very time-consuming
The Experiment and its Rationale
                      The Experiment
   In-class examination which would not count towards students’
    grades this year

                           Rationale
   Useful formative exercise for this year’s students
   ‘Test run’ for compulsory ongoing assessment for next year’s
    class – in which the results may count toward student grades.

             Rationale for Using Blackboard
   All students have laptops.
   Lecture theatres equipped with wireless technology.
   Students familiar with Blackboard system because class page
    uses it.
          Reflection on the Process
   Creation of test involved considerable investment of time
   Ample advance notice given of test to class that the test was to
    take place but that it would not count towards examination
    results.
   Low turnout
   Results of the assessment not particularly positive: clearly many
    students had done little real preparatory work.
   Technical aspects:
       Most students had no problem accessing Blackboard…but it was hard to
        help those who did.
       For two students technology failed.
       The appearance of the test was peculiar
       The test took less time than expected.
     Evaluation of this Process: Lessons
      Learnt, Implications for Practice
Valuable lessons learned:
1.   Instant (permanent) results  enabling instant feedback to
     students
2.   Blackboard feature helped ensure no cheating
3.   Drafting a fair set of multiple-choice questions takes a long
     time
4.   Recent training in Blackboard necessary to success of
     experiment…and was only just about sufficient.
     Evaluation of this Process: Lessons Learnt,
       Implications for Practice (continued)
5.    Both the classroom geography and the class size should
      facilitate the lecturer walking around the class in order to have
      to help students in difficulty and prevent cheating
6.    Hard copy (paper) backup copies of the test are needed.
7.    Imagination needed to ensure multiple-choice questionnaires
      test correct kinds of skill or knowledge.
8.    Blackboard best confined to a formative rather than a
      summative assessment procedure in a large class. In a smaller
      class however, an eminently suitable summative technique
Thank you for listening.

Questions are welcome.