Friday, 22 May 2015

Seeds for Solutions, How does the past inform the future? Innovation projects from 2000/01 #KATS2015

Project Title: Programmed Learning to Replace UG Lectures
Project Leader(s): P.Chevins

The application is for funds to support a teaching development which is intended to enhance learning whilst ultimately producing savings in staff time. Funds are required to enable time to be spent on developing the teaching materials, to purchase software for computer assisted assessment (CAA) and to free time for learning its use.

The outcomes will be:
A teaching innovation that will be fully evaluated, and if successful, applicable to other modules and courses.
Software for CAA, also evaluated and available for other modules and courses.
A commitment to disseminate information on the above University-wide, if appropriate, via Keele Teaching Network (KTN) or other means.

The following proposal arises from a paper written for and approved by the Biology Teaching Team (meeting held January 10th 2000. The paper "Are Lectures a Waste of Time?" ).

Most of the lectures in a specific section of a module will be replaced with a programme of study from the prescribed text. The module selected is Animal Physiology (Year 2) chosen because it is a subject heavily laden with factual content. The beginning of the module will be conventionally taught. Halfway through (week 7) the selected section (on nerve, muscle and endocrinology) will be introduced with one lecture, setting out what is expected of the students and introducing the first topic.

Each student will receive a programme of study as part of the published module guide, setting out in detail what is assumed knowledge (the starting point) and which sections of the textbook are to be covered each week. In week 8, in one of the normal scheduled teaching times, all students will have a formative objective style test on the week’s work, with immediate detailed feedback. The next topic will be introduced by a single lecture at the appropriate time, and will be followed by the same schedule of private study followed by objective test. The same procedure will be followed until the end of the module, with a selection of the tests being summative (probably alternate weeks). Students will be informed that a selection of the questions from the formative tests will be repeated in the summative ones, thus providing a good incentive to learn from their feedback. Tutorial support will be provided, so that any failures of understanding can be corrected.

It is intended that the objective tests will be administered by computer, thus automating the feedback and saving staff time. It is recognised that the savings of teaching time will not be immediate. The planning, writing of objective assessments, and learning and setting up of the computer system selected will take a considerable investment of time. However, although this is an eventual aim of the project improvement in learning quality is the more important objective, and it is hoped that this will at least begin to be achieved the first year. Evaluation and continued development is planned for the future, with any worthwhile results disseminated within Life Sciences, and if appropriate, the University, perhaps via KTN.

A review of available software has been conducted using the following website recommended by Stephen Bostock at

The eleven systems listed here, and one other (Miranda from Strathclyde University) have been compared, and the choice narrowed down to the five most promising, which I have tried in demonstration or full working form, with the following results.
Hot potatoes is free of charge to HE, provided tests written are published to the web, but only supports six quite primitive question types.
Miranda is better, but has no graphics currently enabled, so is also limited in question format.
WebTest allows graphics in gif or jpeg format, and is an improvement on the above.
Question Mark Perception is better developed than any of the above, and has the advantage of sophisticated results analysis and reporting built in. It has been used at Keele in an earlier form in the Psychology department. It is a commercial product (in contrast to the other four) and is versatile and easy to use. The simplest solution for a single user would be to buy a licence and use it.
TRIADS is extremely impressive, and as the product of a tripartite university project (Open, Derby and Liverpool) is currently not for profit. It has even greater potential than QM Perception but the ease of question loading and results analysis potential cannot be evaluated from the on line demonstration. A number of its features are still under development. A full evaluation means entering into an agreement, whose general terms are copied below. (Graham Lees, Earth Sciences, has entered an agreement).
Software – Conclusions

TRIADS and Question Mark are in a league of their own, but TRIADS offering more features and development prospects. Cost comparisons are relevant. These show a great advantage of TRIADS, which I believe must be the system of choice now and long-term, for the University.

UK Higher Education Institutions or Departments who wish to become TRIADS evaluation sites receive full training in the use of TRIADS and are supplied with the TRIADS Engine. At the end of the formal evaluation period, Evaluation Sites would have free use of the TRIADS Engine for another year and a discounted upgrade charge for new versions after that date. There will be different levels of agreement for campus-wide & departmental sites. The small print also requires six monthly evaluation reports from course leaders, and other sharing of experience. Currently 28 UK HE institutions are evaluation sites.

Project Title: Programmed Learning to Replace UG Lectures - Final Report
Project Title: Programmed Learning to Replace UG Lectures - Presentation Slides

Creative Commons License
Programmed Learning to Replace UG Lectures by Peter Chevins, Keele University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.