All Systems Go (Online): Rethinking Education and Assessment

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All Systems Go (Online): Rethinking Education and Assessment

This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders  from around the world and all parts of society  address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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There has never been a time when so many educators have spent so much time rethinking their pedagogy as right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of United States colleges changed their assessment practices after courses shifted online according to a new report. The Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology (FSET) at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, however, took a systematic approach to prepare academics to rethink their teaching through a techno-pedagogical lens, well before the pandemic hit.

Read Schooling Disrupted, Schooling Rethought and other OECD Policy Responses on our COVID-19 Hub

The engagement with techno-pedagogy in FSET has primarily been to support the reinvention of lecturing to no longer use a face-to-face didactic approach to teaching delivery, encourage the redesign of practical and laboratory activities to embrace the benefits of technology and rethink assessment beyond large-scale invigilated written exams.

Many professors have worried for months about how in-person instruction during the pandemic would work (see a Twitter thread). But the faculty was better prepared than most by engaging staff with techno-pedagogies focusing on student-centred learning (Firmin, Sheard, Carbone, and Hurst, 2012) through a series of developmental workshops prior to the pandemic onset. These included:

  • Video creation and unit enhancement workshops (2018). These workshops provided academics with the opportunity to create videos using a variety of methods and cater for a diverse student group. Academics created mini-lectures using visual aids; performed interviews with their mobile devices, and presented online demonstrations. In addition, the unit enhancement activities focused on advanced features of the Learning Management System, Canvas, to improve the students’ online experience, collaboration, engagement and feedback.
  • Digital Learning Lunchboxes (2019). The lunchbox series was designed to support STEM academics to transform learning using technology and support Swinburne’s Digital First Delivered by experienced academics, the lunchbox workshops provided practical tips and experience on how to integrate technologies such as Collaborate Ultra, H5P, Lightboards, Echo360 and Portfolium into their pedagogical practice.

By 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the faculty was challenged to swiftly move into online delivery from primarily being a face-to-face teaching faculty. Academics embraced these technologies and we were able to capture their sophisticated techno-pedagogical use through a collection of 10 online interviews known as the COVID-19 STEM Educator Interview Series.  

Click here to access Professor Angela Carbone's YouTube channel and watch all the online interviews

The COVID-19 STEM Educator Interview Series highlights how lectures have been re-invented: engineering laboratories have been re-designed for asynchronous delivery and assessment rethought. The interviews cover lecture delivery methods that embrace technologies such as H5P and light boards; labs that are delivered virtually, simulated and remotely, and different forms of authentic assessments including personalised evaluation and simulated case studies.

 A sample of two mini-cases below provide an overview of the techno-pedagogical approach adopted, covering new delivery methods for lectures, labs and assessment.

Using Lightboards

Dr Smitha Jose teaches Introduction to Physics. She added a more personalised experience to her online teaching via the introduction of lightboard videos. A lightboard is a glass board between the video camera and the presenter and in the recording the instructor faces the audience while they write on the lightboard. Students can see the hand gestures and body and eye movement, of the presenter, making the experience more personalised.

“I think it (Lightboard videos) helped in visualising the problem because there were diagrams and explanations provided”. (Student quote)

“I found the use of body language and being able to see a face helpful when you were conveying your points. Especially pointing to certain parts of problems, which we could not always see when just using the mouse cursor. Watching you do the working out was good”. (Student quote)

LEGO MASTERS inspired assessment

Dr Jessey Lee teaches Mechanics of Structures. Inspired by LEGO Masters, she transformed her final assessment from a 50% exam to a hands-on final assessment activity. Rather than students using the specialist equipment or resources in the lab, Jessey adopted a unique approach in which students constructed a bridge spanning 50cm and able hold a load of at least 1kg, made from materials easily accessible at home and unique to each individual. In addition, each student prepared a video presentation demonstrating the load test and ways to improve their design.

“I’m stoked about the bridge design replacing the exam, makes the content more engaging and in my opinion helps tie all the content together as its being understood by hands on work. Lecturers are really good and everything is organised. It’s easy to follow, work load is very manageable as well and well-spaced”. (Student quote)

Until recently, these videos had been shared only within the faculty, and in this short time we have had over 510 views with 258 unique views as at 24 Aug 2020. I hope you enjoy hearing what is happening down under through this series.

  • Jankowski, N. A. (2020, August). Assessment during a crisis: R esponding to a global pandemic. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.
  • Firmin, S., Sheard, J.I., Carbone, A., Hurst, A.J., 2012, An exploration of factors influencing tertiary IT educators' pedagogies, Proceedings of the Fourteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference, 31 January 2012 to 03 February 2012, Australian Computer Society, Sydney NSW Australia, pp. 157-166.

Related Topics

Tackling COVID-19

Future of Education & Skills

Digital Inclusion


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Go to the profile of David H. Deans
over 2 years ago

Here in the United States, I predict we'll see the higher education sector change significantly. The cost of attending college and university has grown exponentially and burdened many young adult graduates with huge debts to repay over many years. Meanwhile, remote online learning options have increased during the pandemic, but most traditional institutions have not restated their tuition fees. Besides, more students have discovered the numerous sources of no-cost or low-cost online educational courses that can be combined to create a customized -- and often, more pragmatic -- learning experience that will better prepare them for employment opportunities in today's Global Networked Economy. In summary, COVID-19 induced disruption will transform the legacy U.S. education sector. This was much-needed rapid progress, in an environment that's typically been resistant to progressive thinking and meaningful change management.