What was the activity?
The meaningful assessment exemplified in this LinkedIn® case study was inspired, in 2017, by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Scotland Enhancement Theme, Student Transitions, which helped to instigate the introduction of the module, ‘Work Experience: Employability Skills Development’ and its allied authentic assessments. Since its inception in 2018 at the University of Aberdeen, this 15-credit module has been rolled out to penultimate year students in a range of academic subject areas, including Psychology, Biological Sciences and Business.
An underpinning part of the work experience module is encouraging students to reflect on their professional development and to make meaningful connections between their degree programme and the world of work. Students are assessed via a range of summative and formative assessments, including a LinkedIn® profile used mid-way through the module as ‘assessment for learning’. LinkedIn® was chosen owing to its proliferation as a platform for developing and promoting a professional identity, and its increasing use by employers as a means of researching and recruiting candidates. It thus directly supports employability skills development in meaningful and authentic ways. The assessment comprises four stages as follows.
(1) Assessment Briefing: The Module Co-ordinator explains the rationale for this authentic assessment, while encouraging student dialogue regarding the assessment task and criteria. This approach helps students overcome any perceived assessment challenges and provides an opportunity to answer their immediate questions regarding the assessment task.
(2) Assessment Instructions: Students are supplied with written assessment guidance regarding how to create an online LinkedIn® professional profile and the assessment criteria used. Specifically, the assessment requires students to add three skills relevant to their internship or volunteering position, connect with three professional contacts and follow three organisations that align with their career aspirations. Students download their final online profile as a pdf file and submit this to the module virtual learning environment for assessment. Students are also signposted to the LinkedIn website, which offers helpful guides, checklists, and tips for students to help them establish their online professional profile.
(3) Assessment Feedback: Students receive personalised feedback, as they present their own experiences, skills, and qualities in their LinkedIn® profile. Written feedback typically covers areas such as, the strength of their profile, the conciseness and clarity of the information provided, evidence of skills development, the use of endorsements, and the importance and value of professional connections.
(4) Module Feedback: This involves evaluating the content, delivery, and assessment via the module feedback form. It is an important mechanism, alongside students’ informal comments, to help identify any ongoing enhancements for the LinkedIn® assessment.
How did it impact students?
Overall, initial student evaluations are encouraging regarding this innovative LinkedIn® assessment. Students indicate that this experiential learning and meaningful assessment approach is helping to raise their awareness and understanding of the many benefits of the LinkedIn® platform. Specifically, the importance of creating a high-quality, online professional identity and its use in career development learning, often feature in students’ informal feedback. The impact and value of this assessment in developing student employability and online professional networking, are further illustrated through the following comments:
“The use of a LinkedIn profile should be a first year must do for all students and disseminated across Aberdeen University as a priority for students’ future careers – they should be developing their profile from the start, as so many people will get jobs this way in the future.” External Examiner 2020-21
“The aspect that I particularly appreciated and found very helpful to employability was the LinkedIn profile. In this, I achieved great/most helpful feedback.” Undergraduate Student 2021-22
Any advice for others?
It is important to build in time to explain the LinkedIn® assessment approach to students and the rationale behind why it is included in the module assessment. Given students often consider LinkedIn® as a platform for use in their first graduate job, it is important to explain to them that they do have relevant and meaningful content at this stage in their studies for creating an undergraduate online profile. An important message to convey is that potential employers welcome student LinkedIn® profiles as part of their talent acquisition processes. Highlighting these points can help to reduce student assessment concerns and foster their assessment literacies.