S. Warwick, M. Blackburn, L. Booth

Sheffield Business School (UNITED KINGDOM)
There is a growing trend in higher education for assessment to be innovative, address students employability and leverage the use of new technology, whilst being delivered at a reduced cost / staff workload.

This paper introduces how we addressed some of these challenges in a level 4 group assessment for students studying on BA (Honours) in Business & Human Resource Management. This module was 100% coursework assessed, and the students collaborated to produce an intranet site with its own ‘house style’. They were then individually tasked with developing and uploading content for different HR topic areas, which continued to reflect the house style.

This approach was novel, as Sheffield Business School (SBS), like most institutions, has a history of students submitting hard copy versions of their assignments. Lengthy hand-in queues, lost postal submissions, financial and environmental costs are some of the problems this approach can cause. SBS has been working with academic staff to encourage online submission / assessment using the institutional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Blackboard. To reinforce this SBS recently set a target of full online feedback on assignments by 2015 and while not challenging submission requirements, this target suggests the organisational overall online ambitions.

Part of encouraging this institutional change is looking at new approaches to assessment tasks, whilst also increasing the real-world influence and nurturing employability skills. The focus on employability was on students gaining work placements in an increasingly competitive environment (eg. high flyers research 2013 p31). The site could be used to show potential placement employers, to sell themselves. Google Sites, as part of a wider university pilot, was chosen as the tool for this project as it gave the students transferable skills, greater learning and a greater creative element to the assessment, and as Barlow (2008) writes using Web 2.0 tools allows the learning to take place independent of location and time. As Chang (2001) discusses - students agree that web-based portfolio systems help them learn. Carini et al (2006) further advocates this by stating that online tools are considered to be one of the best predictors of learning and personal development.
The assessment was conducted externally to the VLE as it offered greater flexibility and creativity, as well as giving the students an option to share / use to present to future employers as proof of the skills they have learnt.

The teaching team had a varied skillset, and although there was some experience of Google docs, it was a very steep learning curve. The students, whilst being tech-savvy, had little idea how to apply this knowledge to an educational context, a view shared by BECTA (2008a).
The assessment allowed students complete creative control over their assignment, whilst also training them to be conscious that anything produced should be done as if it was going to be publically available. It also allowed the students to be trained in basic web and multimedia skills, which can feed-forwards into the rest of their studies.
This paper explores the delivery of the module, with recommendations for future iterations of this approach, including student outcomes / feedback.