What was the activity?
Foundation Year students were tasked with creating a five-minute vlog on the topic of war. In introducing the students to the task, we talked about why vlogging was a meaningful assessment for them. In essence, the assignment is meaningful because it helps them to develop their ideas and think about how they construct their own arguments, and from the perspective of inclusion, it enables students for whom speaking is stronger than writing to be able to be assessed by an alternative method. Furthermore, the cohort are all international students for whom English is a Second Language and so the assessment also enables them to practice spoken English. Finally, as Foundation Year students, the assessment is meaningful and authentic in the sense that many undergraduate courses now include non-traditional forms of assessment, and so this helps the students to build skills in preparation for their future studies. Arguably, the acquisition of IT skills associated with the task, as well as presenting, summarising and synthesising arguments orally, also helps inculcate employability skills.
The students were asked to choose an area of war that they wanted to discuss. This could range from Just War theory, pacifism, nuclear weapons, child soldiers to humanitarian aid. Suggestions were given for students to choose from and they were also invited to suggest other areas of debate linked to the topic if they wished. In the assessment, students were required to discuss the issue and assess different perspectives before coming to their own conclusion. Students were allowed to decide if the vlog would include graphics, pictures and if they wished to be ‘present’ on the screen or not. The task required students to reflect on learning in seminars and also conduct their own research. Students were given the option of which technology to use. They were not required to have editing or recording skills and many used their mobile phones for the recording. A technology support session was also put in place and students were pointed in the direction of free to use recording apps. In preparation for the work, students were given access to Flipgrid, where they posted one-minute videos at the end of seminars giving their personal responses to what was discussed. This was to accustom them to recording themselves and help them feel less self-conscious in front of the camera. I shared with the students a vlog I had created and we used this as an exemplar for them to mark and assess. Following this, the students also completed a formative vlog of two minutes in length in response to a specific article on war. This helped to further familiarise them with the technology as well as give them opportunity to try out their vlogging skills in relation to the mark scheme.
How did it impact students?
Informally, students reported that they enjoyed the task – they enjoyed having a “different” type of assessment to do that was not an essay and this increased their engagement with it. Many appreciated being able to do something they considered “relevant”. The activity also led to many students, whose voices I rarely heard, being heard. This assessment was designed to help students to build skills. Prior to this, the students’ first assessment had been writing in a forum, focussing on their evidenced view. In this assessment they gave their own view but were also responding to other academic arguments. This meant that when, later on in the course, they wrote essays, they were more confident in offering their views, supporting them with evidence and critically analysing the areas of debate. This led to better outcomes in terms of grades in the essays.
Any advice for others?
- Have a clear rationale for why you are using a non-traditional assessment – this helps to ‘sell it’ to your students
- Use an exemplar – you might need to create your own but in subsequent years ask past students if you can use their previous submissions. This helps students to understand any marking scheme and how to create the vlog
- Include a formative assessment so students feel more comfortable with the task
- Offer some technical support – most students are comfortable with the technology but there may be some who might need some help
- Think carefully about the mark scheme – will you focus on content, delivery, video editing? How does this fit with your intended learning outcomes and is it fair?
- This could be offered as an option alongside a choice of a written assessment for example, a blog or as an alternative to written forums – instead of typing a student could include a video response in a forum
- Offer choice as to the content of the vlog – students enjoyed focusing on something of their choice within the topic area
- It does not add to your workload – it takes no more time to mark than a piece of written work and indeed I found it a lot more enjoyable. The moderator also agreed!
Other contextual details
I teach on an International Foundation Year Programme. Students predominantly are second language learners and come from all over the world.