Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) e-learning practitioner won the prestigious ‘Best Research’ award at a global conference for her innovative work in distance learning.
Lesley Robertson, who works as Distance Learning Coordinator and Content Designer within the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, presented her research at the Innovation in Built Environment Education (IBEE) annual conference in Birmingham in September.
Her research focuses on a novel approach to empowering postgraduate students to assess the work of their peers, moving away from the traditional process of lecturer marking.
An increasing number of postgraduate students, in combination with the growing demand and use of online learning environments and tightening constraints, has resulted in a need to identify innovative approaches to assessment.
Lesley’s pilot study, which worked with 194 students split into 41 groups distributed across the globe, resulted in close correlation of marks given by students to those given by the academics.
The summative peer-assessment model will now be implemented within selected online postgraduate courses in this academic year.
Lesley commented: “With the increasing uptake in online distance learning courses and the tightening of constraints seen across the Higher Education sector, we felt it necessary to look at ways to deliver an alternative to academic marking which maintained validity, whilst engaging students deeper in their own learning.
“Although generally there has been certain reluctance by the academic community to adopt a method of summative peer-assessment, our research has shown that the results can in fact be reliable and for separate groups of students assessing the other groups of peers we found the results were very significant.
“Obviously there will still need to be processes in place to address any major differences when the students are assessing, but with the right support, a thorough assessment rubric and academic moderation we feel this method of assessment is one which can be mutually beneficial for both the students and the academics.
“The grouped peer assessment approach offered the advantage of student collaborative judgement decision-making with the potential to strengthen reliability by levelling any individual bias.”
Lesley’s research paper has attracted interest from other universities in the UK, which are looking for creative solutions to an ever-increasing issue in the e-learning sector.
David Moore, Academic Strategic Lead and Postgraduate Programme Manager at RGU, added: “The changing nature of the lecturer role, along with quality expectations on the part of students, means that many of the traditional approaches to delivering material to, and assessing the work of, students are arguably no longer fit for purpose.
“Lesley’s research represents an innovation that provides an opportunity to go about things in a different, more effective manner. The benefits of this are potentially significant for students, in terms of embedding their learning, and lecturers, in terms of focusing on the quality of the student experience.”