It’s Been a Year!

29th September 2023 will mark one whole year since I joined the University of Sussex as a Learning Technologist. I joined the fantastic Educational Enhancement team and was informed on day one that I would be supporting Media, Arts and Humanities (MAH) and Central Foundation Year (CFY), which I think has been a very good fit.

The Learning Technologist’s role is, as per my job description, to ‘help maximise the effective use of digital technologies and transform the learning experience at Sussex’, which is no small challenge! The verb ‘transform’ is a particularly interesting one: at what point can something be said to have been ‘transformed’?

Five weeks after joining the university, I became a Sussexian when we packed up our house in Surrey and moved to a short-term let in Worthing. The hat was knitted by Anne Hole of Educational Enhancement.
© Sam Morley, Husband Extraordinaire.

I had been at Sussex for two weeks when I was given my first project, an investigation into the cheating software available online. I know what you’re thinking but no, this was only October 2022, Generative AI was but a distant whisper and didn’t feature at all in the work I, and the brilliant Tyrone Knight, did on the topic. It was Ty, incidentally, who showed me what a great team I had joined: he sourced some of the heftier articles on online plagiarism and modelled excellent teamwork by setting up a Box folder for us to collaborate. The fact that he named the folder Beatin’ Cheatin’ was a bonus.

We presented our findings to Academic Quality and Partnerships and others and now, almost a year on, I still pinch myself that the work Ty and I did directly influenced university policy.

Digital plagiarism and AI have continued to be a key element of my work. I have the pleasure of supporting the Department of Language Studies who, due to the nature of their subject and the international reach of their students, were able to recognise the potential vulnerability of their assessments and were proactive in learning more. The department really impressed me with how open they were to trying new approaches, including using OneDrive during the online Pre-Sessional course to share live documents with students around the world so they could meet the requirement to have an example of spontaneous writing from all learners.

My second big project was to respond to student feedback regarding the Canvas template used in MAH. Should you wish, you can read all about it here in my blog post from February: Considering the user experience of VLEs: reviewing our Canvas templates.

The result of this project has been very rewarding. There has been positive feedback from the MAH Student Representatives who were given sight of it before rollout. I must say here how kind and generous those student representatives were, they all found something unique to speak positively about and raised queries in a way that showed they recognised the work that had gone into the product. Sussex is lucky to have them. Staff report they have found the set-up process this year intuitive, clear and less tricky than some had anticipated. I am grateful to the colleagues who have taken the time to share their experiences and ask questions and to those who reached out when they needed help. We do not pretend that the process for setting up modules for 23/24 is as straightforward as ‘rolling over’ and we recognise and appreciate the work colleagues are undertaking to ensure the new template is a success.

My third project was to complete the Fundamentals of Teaching and Learning in HE course. To my team and my line manager Dan, who couldn’t escape my discomfort at being back in the position of learner, I can only thank you for not losing your patience with me. It was difficult, as someone with two PGCEs already, to switch my thinking to university teaching: much was familiar but then there would be something completely alien which would throw me and I would become frustrated. I’ll tell myself it was useful experience to change role as uncomfortable as it was, and I 100% believe that getting insight into how we teach at Sussex is priceless. This year I will complete the rest of the Certificate and am looking forward to joining the Graduation ceremony in the Summer. Having seen the videos of previous graduates, I wonder what I’ll do when I got on that stage.

So, that’s my three significant projects from Year One. Of course, though, those projects are not how I spend my day-to-day. My day-to-day comprises answering emails or jumping onto Teams to explain a little niggle that Canvas has thrown up and put a colleague off their path; digging into Turnitin to find out how come a piece of work that shows as submitted is nowhere to be found; taking a lap around the beautiful library when I realise I’ve been sitting for too long; investigating possible solutions to exciting queries and then feeding back with options that would work; messaging other team members at least twice a week because I still don’t know the answer to something; popping into Arts office to say ‘Hi’; some pretty rotten data tasks that I don’t enjoy at all but know that the whole team is working on and we can grumble about together; playing with tools like Padlet and Poll Everywhere; working with the wonderful Learning Technologists on planning and resourcing all the workshops we run and will run; trying to keep up with all the developments in the sector; working with Sarah Watson (Academic Developer) and our MAH colleagues on the faculty’s plans; getting distracted by the course content on a lot of modules and wishing I could enrol (especially the CFY ones which are just brilliant) and much more than I could list.

So, back to that job description: I think I do ‘help maximise the effective use of digital technologies’, although I know I still have a lot to learn. As for ‘transforming the learning experience at Sussex’ I have been honoured by how far my influence has been allowed to reach and am proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s been reciprocal though: Sussex has started to transform me too.

Posted in Uncategorized

Academic Developers September round-up

Get Ready for the Start of Term

Decorative image

If you’re not sure where to start with these updates or have any questions, get in touch with the Educational Enhancement team, who are happy to help.  

For the 23/24 Academic Year, the University of Sussex is continuing to deliver high quality Blended Learning. We will continue to prioritise delivery of teaching sessions primarily in-person, except for Online Distance Learning (ODL) courses.  

Our new Sussex Scholarship Programme 2023-24 supports academic colleagues to develop their Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), with a focus on both teaching practice and career progression. Sessions are open to all staff at the University, but are likely to be of particular interest to colleagues in Education and Scholarship roles. Scholarship case studies and articles are now available on the rebranded DARE blog, with a new name, Learning Matters.

Details on the latest schedule of workshops and other staff development opportunities can be found on the Education Enhancement website. New workshops include:  

We are pleased to announce Buddycheck, a new tool for peer evaluation, is now available for all modules thorugh Canvas. BuddyCheck is a platform for peer evaluation and can help improve outcomes from group work activity. For example, it can adjust group work marks based on contribution, or be used formatively as a prompt for reflection and a source of feedback. Speak to your Learning Technologist or Academic Developer for more information or visit our new BuddyCheck pages

Updated information, support and guidance on the use of Generative AI technology for teaching, learning and assessment is coming to help you navigate the complexities and the opportunities whilst maintaining academic integrity. There is also a new group set up to look specifically at how the University responds to such developments, ensuring accessibility, inclusion and academic integrity are front and centre. 

With the start of term just around the corner, now would be a good time to check over our updated module set-up guidance. Depending on the School you are in will depend on which guidance to follow, be sure to choose the correct one.

The Annual Course Review (ACR) process and associated guidance for 2023/24 is under review and will be updated in October and will be communicated via your Director of Teaching and Learning. The Course Leader Training Programme (Wednesday 6th December, 2-3:30) will focus on the new ACR process.

Finally – if you have 5 minutes, please fill in this short Skills Hub survey, to provide feedback on the use of the Skills Hub in your teaching. Thank you.

Posted in Blended learning, Events, Technology Enhanced Learning

Summer 2023 Conference Round-up

Educational Enhancement (EE) team members have been attending and presenting at a range of conferences over the summer months, to disseminating our own good practice and research and follow sector developments. This post summarises some of the events we have attended with reflections from the team.

ICT for Education

June 2023, Helen Morley
ICT For Education – Regional Technology Conferences For Teachers

ICT for Education support schools to deliver ICT, both in terms of teaching the curriculum subjects associated with Computing and in connecting educators to service and equipment providers. ICT for Education hold events around the country throughout the year.

In June, a regional conference for Sussex was held at AMEX. It attracted teachers from a variety of schools across the county and presentations covered topics such as how to reconcile the demands of the GCSE courses with timetabling constraints, how AI can support inclusive teaching, the need for all teachers in schools to have a high level of digital literacy and to expect students to demonstrate the same, and how to find opportunities to use the technology to add play to learning.

I was pleased to attend the conference and was particularly interested in the keynote on ICT across the curriculum: I spent many INSET days as a teacher witnessing colleagues’ reactions to being told we needed to embed literacy (the language skills often left to the English teachers) in all subjects and it was refreshing to see another subject in the spotlight. I spoke to delegates about the expectations university puts on learners to have strong skills in computing, not least the requirement to complete typed exams online which most were completely unaware of.

ICT for Education will be back at Sussex in February, where I will join the list of speakers.

EdTech World Forum

May 2023, Tyrone Knight
EdTech World Forum Conference

(c) Free Stock Photo (

This event was a chance to hear from education sector projects taking place all over the world. The event was well attended and allowed for plenty of time to network with specialist attendees, speakers and companies. The presentations included academics and organisations sharing their excitement and recent work around AI, the metaverse, career skills platforms, coding opportunities and much more.

Ai projects, including those around ChatGPT, covered work on writing assistants, making large volumes of content more manageable, assessment and feedback, translation, data collection and analysis, audio restoration, and academic support.

Playful Learning 2023

July 2023, Faye Brockwell
Playful Learning Conference

Playful Learning is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, it provides a space where teachers, researchers and students can play, learn and think together. A space to meet other playful people and be inspired by talks, workshops, activities and events.

Key themes from this year’s conference included discussions about building playful learning communities, the barriers that HE processes can impose and how embracing failure is key to playful learning. Faye Brockwell (Learning Technologist) attended and has written a blog post reflecting on her experience.

The next Playful Learning will take place on 3-5 July 2024 at the University of Sussex in Brighton. Follow #PlayLearn on Instagram or Twitter for conference news, and sign-up for notifications.

A colourful circular tool for slecting playful activities with interlocking circles made of paper, with Playful learning in the centre.
(c) Playful Learning and Jay Williams

Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning Conference

April 2023, Sam Hemsley
Interdisciplinary Teaching & learning conference

Held at Anglia Ruskin University, where all undergraduate students complete an interdisciplinary ‘Ruskin Module’ in their 2nd year, the 7th Interdisciplinary Teaching & learning conference , attended by Sam Hemsley (Academic Developer), provided insights into innovative approaches to teaching, assessment and building learning communities that can be applied to disciplinary and interdisciplinary module. These included approaches to enabling student choice, providing flexible assessments, encouraging reflection on learning through assessment and teaching with ‘wicked problems’. Sam’s former colleagues, from The University of Manchester’s University College for Interdisciplinary Learning, will be hosting the conference in 2024.

The conference programme and presentations are available online.

SEDA Spring Conference

May 2023, Charlie Crouch
SEDA Spring Conference

This spring, the SEDA conference focused on ‘the role of the Educational Developer in an ever-evolving landscape.’ Hosted online, the day began with keynote talks on the changing identities of academic/ educational developers (ADs). Caitriona Cunningham asked us to consider the depth and breadth of the role, especially as we often act as connectors across the university, and our expertise can impact policies and teaching programmes. Jackie Potter thought about how we work with individual teams, often across our institutions and sometimes, at a national or international level in the field of educational development.

Talks also focused on the unconventional routes many of us follow to become academic developers, and why imposter syndrome can be prevalent. Several talks considered how we can bring our previous experiences to the role; for example, Sarah Wolfenden provided an inspiring example of bringing coaching and contemplative practice to the PGCert. We also heard examples of how ADs can contribute to work on designing assessments, decolonising the curriculum and inclusive toolkits.

International Assessment in HE Conference

June 2023, Sam Hemsley
Assessment in HE

Held in Manchester, the conference welcomed over 280 delegates from 20 countries, including many of the ‘rock stars’ of the world of Pedagogy practice and research. This wonderfully collegiate conference provided lots of insights into great research informed practice from around the world, calls for collaboration and plenty of challenge and food for thought. The conference included over 175 presentations of research or innovative practice in assessment and feedback (the programme with embedded presentations is available online). Many included aspects of generative AI including products such as ChatGPT (GPT stands for ‘generative pre-trained transformer’) and the keynote speaker, Paul Kleiman, famously introduced a generic term for these AI products of ‘Chatty G’ which, despite the persistent attempts of Sam Hemsley (Academic Developer), has yet to gain traction at Sussex.

Posted in Events, External events

Am I having fun yet? Dipping a toe into Playful Learning

In July I was lucky enough to attend the Playful Learning Conference at the University of Leicester. This is where people who are passionate about incorporating play into Higher Education gather to share ideas, experiences and, most importantly, their failures.

Full disclosure: my notes from the train on the way up to Leicester read ‘I’m feeling nervous… I don’t think I’m very playful.’ But I always try to make my own teaching sessions as active for my learners as possible, and wanted to pick up some ideas to make my own sessions more engaging, so I grabbed my recorder, slapped some sparkly stars on my face and joined the party.*

To forge a sense of belonging, we were put into campfire groups. And I was lucky enough to be in a group with some amazing, supportive, inspirational, very playful people. Like Professor Pen Holland, who co-developed the Catastrophic card game at the University of York to support core Biology learning during the transition to Higher Education. And Professor Nicola Whitton, who has worked on several books and articles on Playful Learning (including ‘Using games to enhance learning and teaching : a beginner’s guide [1] which is available via our library). And Giskin Day from Imperial, whose conference keynote shared several wonderful ideas, my favourite being Imperial’s genius Breaking Bag, which is an escape room in a backpack designed as an engaging way for GCSE maths and science students to consolidate their learning. And… so many more inspiring people. And all of them seemingly so much more playful than me.

So, I got to thinking… OK. I’m not at their level. But what can I try to start me on my journey? What can I share with other Playful-curious newbies out there?

One of the conference sessions asked people to share their playful ‘breadcrumbs’: easily accessible ideas to add a dash of play to your teaching. These included adding photos of students’ pets to the bottom of Canvas announcements (students shared their photos with the lecturer and there was a real buzz as to whose pet would appear each week); adding silly things to the end of Panopto recordings, to reward students who actually watched the video; or hiding ‘easter eggs’ in online module handbooks.

A few of the speakers shared their ideas for adapting well-known UK TV shows for use in their teaching. Such as information literacy ‘Would I lie to you’, where students were presented with a statement and then asked to vote whether the statement was true or false. And a diabetes version of Play Your Cards Right, which asked whether the answer to a question was higher or lower than the number on the card. I’ve done something similar in the past to jazz up the dull but essential topic of data protection (so maybe I’m more playful than I think?).

With my Learning Technologist hat on, there are some easy ways to get a bit more playful using the digital tools we have to hand here at Sussex:

  • Explore competition mode in PollEverywhere to create your own version of your favourite TV game show, to check students’ understanding in an engaging way.
  • Play with the different formats in Padlet that could lend themselves to play, such as using a Wall with Sections option (previously called Shelf) for a simple card game (even better if your students develop it themselves).
  • Consider making an escape room in OneNote, as proposed by Nina Walker in the Active Learning Network’s 100 Ideas for Active Learning Even something as simple as the appear animation feature in PowerPoint can be used to make a trusty Play Your Cards Right game, should you too need to jazz up something as fun as data protection.

Whatever you want to try, I and my colleagues on the Educational Enhancement team are here to help you get started. You can contact us on

And what’s next on my own journey? Well, I’m going to start with the books written by my conference campfire mates. And I’d love to learn from colleagues here at Sussex who use a playful approach in their teaching, so please do share with me any examples you have. And make sure you watch the next video I make for marking in Canvas or module rollover… maybe there’ll be a hidden treasure for you.

*This year’s conference had a festival theme which involved face painting, campfires, cowboys and lots and lots of games.

[1] Whitton, Nicola (Editor) and Moseley, Alex (Editor) (2012) Using games to enhance learning and teaching: a beginner’s guide,

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Posted in Active learning

Academic Developers August round-up

four people sitting at a table, having a discussion at a workshop

New tool to support group work at Sussex 

Coming soon to Canvas – ‘Buddycheck’, a new peer evaluation and feedback tool, will be available from August. It can help make group work fairer, more transparent and reduce workloads for staff. It’s Learning Tech that dreams are made of!  Read our blog post to learn more about the application and who to speak to if you’d like to learn more. Sign up for a Buddycheck: Getting Started workshop in September.

Research shows bias in AI detectors

We strongly advise against using AI “detectors” to check students work for personation.  In addition to serious concerns about the lack of reliability of such detection tools, and the ethical and GDPR implications of uploading student work to un-approved sites, a recent research paper exposes how AI “detectors” are biased against non-native English speakers who are more likely to have their work incorrectly flagged as being written by Chat GPT.

AI guidance being developed 

Educational Enhancement are in the process of developing guidance on responding to generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, in teaching and assessment. To ensure our recommendations are consistent with those from other PS teams at Sussex we’re working in collaboration with Academic Quality and Partnerships, the Academic Skills team, Library and Academic Regulations.  In the interim, keep up to date with the rapid developments in the sector, see the University of Sussex Teaching with AI collaborative padlet for resources and examples of the use of AI in Education.  

Scholarship at Sussex Programme 2023/24 

Over the summer we have been busy organising our Scholarship at Sussex programme (23/24). We are delighted to say that almost all the details are finalised and we have some brilliant facilitators running our sessions. The programme is tailored to colleagues on the Education and Scholarship track, but all colleagues with an interest in scholarship are welcome. See the programme. Register your interest by emailing Simona Connelly.  

University Pasts and Futures Symposium 

On the 15th September, Media, Arts and Humanities will host the University Pasts and Futures symposium. This event delves into the University’s pasts, reflects on its potential futures, and explores actions we can take forward in teaching and research. We welcome all staff, students, and alumni to join us in the discussions and activities of the day, which we hope will serve as an intellectual and communal start to the autumn term. See the programme and register via Eventbrite. 

New University of Sussex Guidance on the use of Content Notes and content advice in teaching

New guidance is available for staff on the use of content notes to support teaching and facilitate student engagement with sensitive topics.

Course Leadership Programme

Educational Enhancement are running a programme of information sessions designed for Sussex staff who are new to course leadership or who are already in post but would like further support. 

There will be five sessions in total, plus an informal coffee morning, and you can book places for the first two sessions now.

12 September 2023

14 September 2023

Education and Innovation Fund Round Three

We’re very pleased to announce results of the third round of the Education and Innovation Fund.  The winners, and their projects, are;

Carli Rowell – (School of Law, Politics and Sociology): A View from Within: Pedagogy, Practice & Possibilities

Jeremy Sheldon – (School of Media, Arts and Humanities): Sussex Innovative Teaching Film

Olivia Taylor – (School of Global Studies): The Sussex Climate Classroom: A Toolkit for effective and empowering climate education

Verona Ni Drisceoil – (School of Law, Politics and Sociology): Walk with me: Understanding, and Navigating, Community, Belonging and Inclusion in Higher Education

Steven Follen – (School of Engineering and Informatics): ‘Making it real’ – embedding sustainability and making into the curriculum

Xianming Tao and Josephine Van-Ess – (University of Sussex Business School): Dissertation Navigator: Steering Postgraduates to Research Excellence

Sue Robbins – (School of Media, Arts and Humanities): Develop Your English: with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

How enhanced technology has improved PS

Our Academic Enhancement Officer Simona Connelly recently published a blog recollecting her memories of the early days at Sussex, and how advances in technology have helped to shape Professional Services

Posted in Uncategorized

Global citizenship, technology and Collaborative Online International Learning

Global learning and citizenship are at the heart of Sussex’s Strategic Framework, and many educators are looking to online collaboration as a cost-efficient and sustainable approach to internationalisation in education. Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is one example of how virtual exchange and international partnership can be used to promote cross-cultural understanding and collaboration among students from different countries.  

In this blog post from the Academic Developer Laura Clarke and Learning Technologist Tyrone Knight who work with the Business School, we will briefly explain the concept of COIL as a high-impact practice and discuss how faculty can support students by providing specific guidance on how to use technology to meet COIL’s learning objectives. 

Introduction to COIL 

COIL partnerships develop collaborative projects for students to work on across time zones and countries using easily accessible online tools. COIL can be incorporated into any discipline and allows students to explore course concepts from different cultural perspectives. The amount of integration between partner modules is decided by participating faculty. COIL can take place throughout a whole module or, more commonly, as a smaller part of the module over two or three weeks.  

Diagram modelling how a module at one institution is partnered with a module at an institution in a different country, which may or may not be in the same discipline. Instructors collaborate on planning and design and students collaborate on a project. Instructors only allocate marks to their own students.

COIL Partnerships 

In an effective COIL partnership, teaching staff develop a collaborative project-based activity that encourages active learning and teamwork and incorporates metacognitive reflections to support the development of intercultural competency. Deardoff & Jones define intercultural competencies as ’a person’s ability to interact effectively and appropriately in cross-cultural situations based on his or her intercultural attitudes, knowledge and comprehension, and skills,’ and studies have shown that participating in COIL can enhance students’ global learning and foster cultural understanding. Studies include Enriching students’ engaged learning experiences through the Collaborative Online International Learning Project and The effectiveness of collaborative online international learning (COIL) on Intercultural Competence Development in higher education). COIL expands students’ global perspective by providing opportunities to solve problems in different cultural, social, and economic contexts. 

Global citizenship and Cultural awareness 

Developing global citizenship is an important goal of education, but under-represented students in higher education are less likely to participate in study abroad programmes. Thus, COIL is an inclusive and accessible way for all students to deepen their cultural awareness. It not only offers all students an international experience, but it also signposts faculty respect for international and multicultural learning. Borger notes that ’Where educators have established an appreciation of culture and actively demonstrated responsiveness toward diversity in the classroom, minority students have improved feelings of value, are more proficient in learning, and demonstrate increased engagement and achievement.’ 

Technology requirements to support COIL 

Academics need to clarify the processes, outputs and evidence students need to demonstrate across the project early on to inform what tools the students could use. This should avoid unsuitable tools being chosen, and realised late into the project, for example to capture evidence and logs, or share materials. These technologies need to work for the partner school, based on any global restrictions. Exploring institution paid solutions benefit from wider feature availability and less product restrictions, as seen in this web conferencing tools post

Technology good practice and providing examples 

Providing generic good practice advice or examples will help inform students on how to use their chosen tools, including guidance on how to run effective virtual meetings, and its importance. 

Academics could suggest that will support students working with international students, and provide guidance on how to use them. This should be a tool you are familiar with, and that your institution already supports, which also supports safer data practices as mentioned below. At Sussex this is likely to be Zoom

Accessibility, data protection and censorship 

Academics could refer to important factors students need to think about when choosing and using these technologies with others, including accessibility and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) / data protection. 

It is also key to raise the importance of tools and features that support their peers needs, like captions, transcriptions, and saving/ exporting the chat. For example, this Zoom accessibility page refers to features to enable all participants to contribute to a meeting. 

Convenors should encourage students to use the institutions ITS approved platforms and solutions, which are compliant with Data Protection legislation. Students should be aware of what companies do with their data, including what needs considering and how private data could be minimalized. Student data may be less secure and used for other purposes and kept for a long time. 

It should also be remembered that institutions will have no access to files and emails in the event of a complaint or misconduct.  

Internet censorship is another factor when collaborating globally, and the maps on this study show how this varies. 

Reference links 

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Posted in Learning Design

How technology has helped deliver better professional services

This blog usually concerns itself with learning technologies, but this week I am looking at some of the advances in the technology that Professional Services staff use to support teaching, learning, assessment and the general student experience.

I know we all complain when the systems don’t quite do what we want them to, but when I think back to all the paper we used, the time spent handwriting everything, even just the hours we spent folding documents to be posted to students I’m amazed and gratified at the amount of progress in technology in the last 30 plus years, which was essential to streamline and improve the work we do, and the service we provide to students as part of Professional Services. When I joined Sussex in 1990 it was as a clerk/typist in the Undergraduate Admissions office in Sussex House. In those days we had one typewriter, and a temperamental machine attached to a dial-up modem, which had a direct link to UCCA, so that we could record any offers made to potential students.

Dissertation dash panic and sorting scripts

By 1996 I was in the Exams and Student Progress team. Everyone now had a PC, and a rudimentary email system. However, most of our work was still done manually. Once a year we had a whole week devoted to taking in students’ essays and dissertations (the origin of the famous ‘dissertation dash’), which took place on Mandela Balcony.  Students would queue up at desks with a sign showing their module code, hand in two physical copies of their work, and sign a paper ‘submission sheet’.  Students had to make sure that they had correctly completed the cover sheets (pink for finalists, yellow for second year, and grey for first year), and a title form signed by their tutor.  When it came time for the doors to close there would be a lot of panicked, anxious students trying to fill out the cover sheets and attach them to their work. Part of my job at that time of day was to walk around the room with a one-hole punch, helping them put their work together, and reassuring them that as they were already in the room they could relax and would be able to submit.

The work would then be taken into a back room and sorted by hand into a pile for each module, in candidate number order.  The next day the scripts would be separated into two piles by pairs of staff, who would check them against the submission sheets, and bundle each pile of scripts up, for collection by the first and second examiners.

A vast improvement to the submission process came when we started to work with scanners, which would scan the barcode on a student’s registration card, so we could log their submissions directly into CMS, this really sped up the process, and also meant the submission were recorded with more accuracy.

Plotting the Exam Timetable by hand and inputting marks

My then manager, Jackie Marsh, who was in charge of Arts-based exams, would book a room with the manager of the Science-based exams, Tony Durrant, for a week, and together they would create the exams timetable. This would be written out by hand on A3 sheets of paper, and once it was finalised it would be typed out into a Word document, and then hard copies would be posted out to all students taking exams. Eventually we had access to WCM, so the timetable could be posted on our website instead, which cut down on a huge amount of work and paper use. Now that we have so many more students and modules the exam timetablers use the computerized system Optime, which has its own challenges but has brought the process into the 21st century.

One of my jobs in those days was to print out the mark sheets for all submitted assessments and exams.  The mark sheets for submissions would go with each pile of scripts collected in Mandela Balcony, and also with the scripts returned to the office from the exam rooms.  Either the examiners or Subject Secretaries (as the Course Coordinators were then called) would write the marks for each piece of work on the marks sheet and return them to the Exams Office, where we would type them into CMS.  Each mark had to be entered twice, and this was a long, labourious process, not made easier by the amount of missing marks we had to chase, and the quality of some examiners’ handwriting!

After the marking process was completed, the Schools would return all the scripts to us (submissions and exams) and we would take them to our archive room in Arts D.

Things are very different today with most tasks being managed digitally. Canvas (and its predecessor Study Direct) have been used to enhance the students’ learning experience and the e-submission and feedback systems provide new tools and challenges for Professional Services staff, but the days of piles of paper are a thing of the past.

Posted in digital skills

Buddycheck: Get ready for a new peer evaluation tool to support group work at Sussex

Coming soon to Canvas – Buddycheck is new peer evaluation and feedback tool that can help make group work fairer, more transparent and reduce workloads for staff. It’s Learning Tech that dreams are made of!  

View of five people working on laptops from above
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash 

Here I explain what it can do, what you can do now to find out more about the app, and the guidance and training we will be offering in September.  

Why a peer evaluation tool? 

Learning how to work effectively as part of inclusive groups and teams is a vital skill and one we need to help our students develop. The improved integration of group work at all levels of the curriculum, will contribute towards meeting Learn to Transform strategic priorities, and those emerging from the Curriculum Reimagined project, to put skills development and employability at the heart of the Sussex curriculum.  Also, emerging best practice in assessment in response to the emergence of generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, highlights further the need for an increased focus on curriculum design which embeds and expands the use of such authentic assessments. 

However, when talking with academics, student dislike of group work is often cited as a reason not to include group work in the curriculum.  This is in part due to concerns about group assessment being unfair or unrepresentative of group member’s contributions. It likely also reflects that fact that group work is just difficult. However, this doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Instead, we should strive to develop curricular that build our students’ skills and confidence over time.  

To support group work and mitigate such student concerns, peer evaluation and scoring of individual contributions to group work is already used extensively at Sussex. However, existing approaches have several challenges:  

  • Where students are asked to agree and allocate a share of marks amongst themselves the lack of anonymity can be stressful and put pressure on students, e.g. to allocate equal marks to peers 
  • Staff are not party to the reasons for the decisions made within groups, or by individuals, about peer scores 
  • Approaches that seek to preserve anonymous evaluation and scoring, eg by asking students to email scores for their peers to be collated by staff, are immensely time consuming 
  • Students rarely receive feedback on their contributions to group work or how they might improve in the future 
  • The approaches used for peer evaluation and scoring can be idiosyncratic and inconsistent over a course of study 

How can Buddycheck help? 

Buddycheck is a simple to use peer evaluation and scoring tool, which will be integrated into Canvas from August this year. It will help you to: 

  • Collect your students’ scores and feedback on their own and their peers’ contributions to group work  
  • Provide your students with automated yet personalised feedback on contributions to group work.  
  • Use peer scores to calculate and apply individual weightings to marks awarded for group submissions. 

It can be used formatively or linked to summative assessments. You can ask students to respond to pre-set questions on their contributions to a group project, or devise your own.  You can also decide on the level of peer feedback and anonymity, and can adjust how peer scores are weighted and used to calculate individual marks.  Other features include:  

  • Automated reminder emails  
  • Full integration into Canvas meaning it is easy to find, and updates easily when changes are made to group memberships 
  • The instructor dashboard labels flag high, low performing or over confident students  
  • You can choose how to use peer feedback, I..e. for the tutors’ eyes only or as peer-to-peer feedback 
  • Instructors can view all scores and feedback given and received by peers  
  • You can ‘play’ with applying self-scores and adjustment factors and weightings before finalising 
  • You can preview as student  
  • If applying individual weightings you can overwrite the group marks in Gradebook, or create a new column 

An extract from a Buddycheck ‘personal report’ for a student user is provided below. Note how the spider plot demonstrates, to a somewhat overconfident student, the difference between how they rated themself (Self), how their teammates rated them (Received), and what the average rating was of the entire team (Team Avg). The personal report then breaks the scores by question with feedforward comments on how students might improve.  

An extract from a Buddycheck ‘personal report’   Presented as a spider diagram
An extract from a Buddycheck ‘personal report’

We road tested Buddycheck in Semester 1 of 2022/23 with four Module Convenors from 3 schools, on modules with between 25 and 950 students, covering Levels 4,5,6 and 7.  All four had a good journey and told us they found Buddycheck easy to use, that it simplified their peer assessment processes and they are happy to recommend it to colleagues. 

“… a very user friendly tool that greatly simplifies my peer assessment process. The best point is that it integrates into Canvas very well, so each student receives a private and personal request to complete the evaluation. In this way, there is no longer ‘the pressure to give equal peer marks’ that I observed in the past years when I used my old peer assessment method, and I believe it has made the peer assessment fairer.”  Hsi-Ming Ho, Lecturer in Theoretical Computer Science (Informatics) 

What support is available? 

Buddycheck will be available from August along with ‘how to’ guidance and workshops from Educational Enhancement from September, along with guidance you can use with your students.  

We also plan to enhance our current guidance on planning group work assignments to include insights into how to encourage inclusive and productive group work, including using peer scoring and evaluation.  

However, if you would like to know more about Buddycheck now, e.g. to inform your curriculum development over the summer, you have three options: 

  1. Take a look at existing guidance: 
  1. Join a 30 minute online briefing session for Sussex staff: 
  1. Or, just drop me a line and I will happily talk you through it.  
Posted in Learning Technologies, Marking and assessment, Technology Enhanced Learning

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We are the Educational Enhancement team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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