• Three ways to build sustainable change in Higher Education through the use of technology.

    by Sarah Chesney

 

Three ways to build sustainable change in Higher Education through the use of technology.

~ Sustainability ~

JANUARY 29th 2019· by Sarah Chesney

 

SMART CHOICES FOR CHALLENGING TIMES

In late 2017, we published what has turned out to be a hugely popular Thought Leadership paper based on our analysis of the strategic goals of 50 universities from across the globe. Throughout 2018, we published a number of blog posts offering ideas on how universities can use technology to address the challenges identified in the paper, covering strategic goals in areas such as:

  • Student-centred learning
  • Employability and graduateness 
  • Student engagement and retention
  • Supporting opportunities for real world learning
  • Educating the whole person
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While the term ‘sustainability’ may conjure thoughts associated with the green agenda, here at PebblePad we prefer to think of sustainability in broader terms. For us, sustainability is about making smart choices in our everyday practice and implementing change to benefit a range of stakeholders.

 
 
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And now, in this blog post, we take a look at sustainability, since one-third of university strategies highlighted sustainability as being a core strategic ambition. While the term ‘sustainability’ may conjure thoughts associated with the green agenda, here at PebblePad we prefer to think of sustainability in broader terms. For us, sustainability is about making smart choices in our everyday practice and implementing change to benefit a range of stakeholders. And so, as the paper points out, while large-scale environmental projects like solar power and sustainable building design may seem like the most obvious green initiatives for universities, it’s also the cumulative effort of smaller initiatives that can make a big difference to student and staff wellbeing. When you factor in today’s challenging Higher Education climate, the use of clever technology to build sustainable practice is not a ‘nice-to-have’, but a strategic imperative.

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Below, we expand on the ideas proposed in our Global Trends in Higher Education Paper by identifying three areas in which technology can positively impact on everyday practice, supported by examples of practice from our wonderful PebblePad Community.

 
 
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THE ROLE OF GOOD LEARNING DESIGN

In our Global Trends in Higher Education Paper, we pondered the following … Does good learning design have a role to play in positively impacting the sustainability agenda? We think it does. Below, we expand on the ideas proposed in the paper by identifying three areas in which technology can positively impact on everyday practice, supported by examples of practice from our wonderful PebblePad Community.

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IDEA 1: OFFER STUDENTS THEIR OWN DIGITAL LEARNING SPACE

Provide students with their own online space to develop work over time, where they can receive ongoing formative feedback. By doing so you can significantly reduce the need for paper, improve assessment efficiency, and mitigate the risk of lost work.

Image shows a user's Asset Store in PebblePad

A user's Personal Asset Store in PebblePad

 

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IDEA 2: ADOPT THE PEBBLEPAD PHILOSOPHY WHEN IT COMES TO ASSESSMENT

Make it easy for any assessor (whether internal or external to your university) to assess and provide student feedback electronically, significantly reducing the need for travel and paper-based practices as well as improving responsiveness.

Image shows collaborative working and feedback in PebblePad
Collaborative working and feedback in PebblePad


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IDEA 3: EXPLOIT THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE QUALITY ASSURANCE AT SCALE

Use technology to provide an efficient administrative process that supports learning and quality assurance with the benefits of security, verifiability and cost savings. 

Image shows a snapshot of a PebblePad digital workbook

Competency Assessment in PebblePad

 

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EXAMPLES OF PRACTICE

All of the ideas highlighted above are deployed successfully, and in diverse and different ways, by the many universities across the globe which make up our terrific PebblePad community. Below we call upon a few examples of practice, which support the ideas discussed.

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Sheffield Hallam reported significant savings in staff costs by making the switch to PebblePad, estimating a reduction of 50% in costs to manage their OSCEs.

 
 
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SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY

VIDEO ASSESSMENT OF CLINICAL SKILLS [AWARD-WINNING]

Using a digital environment to assess students allows for greater creativity, along with the ability to support authentic assessment practices. In PebblePad, video and audio files are straightforward to upload and can even be recorded directly into a student’s account via the PebblePad App, PebblePocket. Online access to PebblePad's integrated assessment space, ATLAS, means that multiple assessors can grade student work simultaneously and speed up the marking process. This can significantly reduce the need for travel and paper-based practices, as well as improving responsiveness. Sheffield Hallam University state that the benefits of using PebblePad for their Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) in paramedic education mean:

  • Assessors can seek remote clarification from other assessors, resulting in a more robust assessment process.

  • Staff can internally moderate all the referrals and a percentage of passes. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of appeals from trainees.

  • Staff have experienced significant time savings by not having to be present in time-consuming observations, which can take multiple days to complete.

A concern for many organisations is, quite rightly, how to ensure robust and auditable quality assurance processes are in place when assessing at scale. Sheffield Hallam tell us their OSCE process, managed through PebblePad, improved governance and moderation of the assessments. There was a reduction in appeals against assessment decisions as trainees, especially those who have been referred on assessment. This reduction was attributable to their work being available to view in video – making the reasoning behind the referral clear and transparent. Sheffield Hallam also reported significant savings in staff costs by making the switch to PebblePad, estimating a reduction of 50% in costs to manage their OSCEs.

 

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Sheffield Hallam's project has allowed a transformative approach to assessment at scale while also increasing the quality of student skills.

LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES 2017 JUDGING PANEL

 
 
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UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

DISSERTATION ASSESSMENT AND PEER REVIEW AT SCALE

At the University of Edinburgh, PebblePad’s assessment engine, ATLAS, helps support assessment process at scale to ensure efficient, sustainable workflows. The University of Edinburgh's Business School uses PebblePad to support the process of double blind marking 500 post graduate dissertations and 250 undergraduate dissertations. The process is outlined in brief here:

  • Multiple PebblePad assessment workspaces manage the entire workflow

  • The administration team has a clear overview of progress, and can manage permissions for the various participants to ensure security

  • Reconciliation discussions take place within an ATLAS workspace between markers

  • Once reconciliation is complete the marks are locked down

The university, through the department Edinburgh Global, also uses ATLAS at scale for peer marking of applications for funding to study abroad. The challenge lay in finding a sustainable process of selecting 200 successful applicants from around 1,100 entrants, with a heavy anonymous peer review component underpinning the process.

  • Students submit their applications into a secure, online PebblePad workspace 

  • As peer reviewers, the students use a standardised feedback form to anonymously assess five randomly-generated application submissions.

With almost 1,100 applications, generating over 5,000 completed assessment templates, the reporting capability of PebblePad was vital in automating much of the work – allowing the entire process to be completed in just one week. 

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MURDOCH UNIVERSITY

BLENDED LEARNING IN NURSING [AWARD-WINNING]

Murdoch University, winner of a 2018 Platinum LearnX Impact award described multiple benefits to using PebblePad. Using a PebblePad portfolio for learning and assessment is more secure than a paper-based portfolio. Student nurse (as well as teacher portfolios, for example) potentially contain confidential information and by using a secure, password-protected digital portfolio, the risk of losing confidential information is eliminated. 

If there is any question about the validity of student work, PebblePad enables time and date stamping, plus the feature to lock work once signed off by an assessor or mentor, meaning that you can be assured tampering is virtually impossible, especially compared with a paper portfolio. Murdoch University find this a particularly useful feature for when their students are on clinical placement using the PebblePocket app on a mobile device. Your course team can be in control of who signs off on a competency through our external accounts option – a feature that we are particularly proud of.

 
 
 

The whole-of-course eportfolio approach has had a significant impact on students and this work represents a best practice model for us here at Murdoch.

KYLIE READMAN, PRO VICE CHANCELLOR EDUCATION, MURDOCH UNIVERSITY.

 
 
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Students on placement usually receive several visits from their tutors to check on progress and see if there are any concerns. By using PebblePad to support students while on placement, tutors can have an ongoing view of how a student is faring and only visit if necessary. The student keeps an ongoing relationship with the organisation while at a distance. And of course, there are savings to be made if staff aren’t claiming mileage for unnecessary trips.

Murdoch University made substantial savings through eliminating the need for printing paper-based portfolios and through a reduction in stationary resources used in their simulation labs.

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As an academic, PebblePad enables me to keep track of the students’ progress throughout the tutorial and keeps costs down as there are minimal paper-based charts for the university to print and laminate. PebblePad has also made marking a breeze with its built-in marking rubric and ability to mark assignments from anywhere with internet access. It has moved nursing education into the 21st century. 

MURDOCH UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC TUTOR, 2017. 

 
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FINAL THOUGHTS 

I started this blog post talking about the PebblePad view of sustainability and how we believe it's the culmination of small changes that can lead to more sustainable practice. And while the ideas and supporting examples of practice included in this post illustrate how these small 'technological changes' can improve sustainable practice, they also show how they can lead to significant cost and time savings. If further proof were needed of how technology like PebblePad can lessen a university's environmental footprint, you only have to look at our top 10 biggest customers (in terms of their scale of use). These customers have a combined total of 53,000 external assessors using PebblePad to support student learning – that's an awful lot of assessors not having to print out student work or travel to support students on placement.

And looking beyond the practical measures, our Global Trends Paper pointed out that many universities cited the need to develop an inherent awareness of sustainable practice in their students as a core ambition. Our purpose here at PebblePad is to help universities make the smart choices highlighted in this post. It's these choices which we believe will not only develop an awareness of sustainable practice across campus, but which will also better support the delivery of a well-resourced, high quality, value-for-money student experience.

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FREE RESOURCES

Our free guides, papers and resources have been downloaded thousands of times by higher education strategists, teachers and technologists across the globe. We've included links below to a number of our most popular guides, including the Global Trends Paper referenced in this post.

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PRODUCT COMPARISON CHECKLIST

If you'd like to learn more about the kinds of features and functionality used to support the examples of practice included in this post, our free Product Comparison Checklist is a great place to start ...

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Image shows a snapshot of PebblePad's eportfolio checklist
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Download the free guide
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THE GLOBAL TRENDS PAPER

If you'd like your very own copy of the Global Trends in Higher Education Paper referenced throughout this blog post, you can download a free copy here ...

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Image shows a snapshot of PebblePad's Global Trends in Higher Education Paper 
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Download the guide now
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Author

Sarah has worked in educational and staff development for 13 years; first as a senior lecturer in e-learning at the University of Cumbria, and since then as both a consultant and associate lecturer. Sarah is a keen advocate for using eportfolios for staff development and professional recognition and has written several articles on this topic. The good news for Sarah (and for PebblePad customers) is that she now gets to spend even more of her time innovating in the eportfolio space in her role as an Implementation Specialist. 

 

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