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Blended Learning Examples

Formative assessment for seminar preparation and independent study

Formative assessment for seminar preparation and independent study

This course exemplifies the use of the Virtual Learning Environment, in particular eAssessment in Blackboard, as a complement to existing face to face seminar and lecture provision.

The course director prepared non-assessed (formative) quizzes for each week in the term. These quizzes tested student's acquisition of key knowledge appropriate to each section of the course, and also encouraged them to hone their study skills more generally such as through questions relating to exploring the library, formatting a bibliography, or using punctuation correctly.

Students were expected to complete a quiz every week as part of the process of preparing for weekly seminars. Each quiz consisted of three types of questions: questions testing comprehension and recollection of key points covered in the previous week's lectures; questions testing whether students had assimilated basic information required for that week's seminars; and further general questions on study-skills. Although the weekly quizzes were not part of the formal assessment of the course, students were told that they were required to complete each quiz at least 6 hours before their weekly seminar - ideally with a mark of 100%, but at least with a mark that showed that a serious effort had been made. Students were also told that failure to make a serious attempt at the quiz might lead to exclusion from that week's seminar, although the course convenor allowed flexibility in how rigorously seminar tutors imposed this condition.

Questions took various forms e.g. multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, map and picture questions. Student answers were marked automatically and instantaneously by Blackboard and students received immediate feedback on their progress, thus gaining a clear idea of both the content they were expected to know and the gaps in their knowledge.

Students were allowed unlimited attempts at each quiz, with the intention to encourage them to fill those gaps. The frequency of their attempts was, however, restricted to no more than one attempt per hour: this was intended to discourage students from simply making repeated guesses at the multiple choice questions, and to encourage them to take advantage of the enforced gap between quiz attempts to go back to their notes, or to the library and find out the missing answers.

In their review of the course, course directors noted a close connection between quiz completion and seminar preparation/attendance. Besides this correlation course directors felt that the use of quizzes in Blackboard helped students structure and focus their independent work more effectively, developing skills of self-study such as reflecting on how to target or structure their reading and research, as well as fostering the development of more generic transferable writing and research skills.


  • Supporting students preparation of seminars: using formative assessment to attract attention and engagement with seminar topic
  • Delivering key study and research skills support to students via the VLE without eating into contact hours which ought to be devoted to more intellectually challenging activities.
  • Helping emphasize to students the importance of regular, independent study as necessary complement to lectures and seminars
  • Providing students with regular and precise formative feedback on their progress, what they have learned and how well
  • Providing tutors with regular and precise feedback on the progress of their students
  • Using assessment to advance learning on core complementary skills such as responsible use of source material and study and research skills
  • Re-usability for future courses
  • Requires relatively low level of technical expertise.