Case study: Moodle quizzes in large-class teaching

Summary

Moodle is used to facilitate large-class assessment through regular quizzes. The students receive two forms of feedback on their performance: feedback on their performance immediately after the quiz closes, and class-wide feedback two days later. The students learn to identify areas they are struggling with, and engage in continuous learning through the academic year.

Key points

College: College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Sciences
Class size: Extra-large (> 301)
Technological competency: Moderate (Requires some specialised knowledge, but otherwise accessible)
Administrative support: General
Required resources: Moodle
Suitable for online/distance learning: Yes
Corresponding contact: Chris Finlay, Mary McVey

Course details

Course title: Life Science
Level: Level 1
Module title: Biology 1A and 1B
College: College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Sciences
Instructor: Chris Finlay
Implemented since: 2011

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Objectives

The Biology Level 1 course has a class size that fluctuates between 650-800 students. To accommodate this number of students, each lecture is given three times a day and there are a maximum of 16 lab sessions each week.

To minimise the administrative workload, the majority of the assessments for the course are managed electronically through Moodle. Several assessments for the course are in the form of Moodle Quizzes.

This form of assessment encourages students to:

  • regularly engage with the course material
  • monitor their progress during the academic year
  • direct their learning to address areas where they score less

Implementation (what was done)

  • The students are given two timed online quizzes through Moodle, one mid-way through the semester, and one at the end. Each quiz is worth 5% of the overall grade.
  • In preparation for the summative quizzes, the students get formative quizzes as practice and feedback on how they are performing.
  • The quizzes consist of multiple choice questions, image labelling, short answer questions, calculation questions and problem solving questions.
  • The students complete the quizzes in their own time before the deadline.

The students then get two different forms of feedback:

  • As soon as the quiz is closed the students are given a grade of ‘excellent’, ’very good’, ‘good’, or ’satisfactory’. The students get feedback on what that grade means, and guidance to encourage reflection and how best to improve their learning. The students get this grade before moderation, and it is made clear that this grade might change as a result of moderation, but that moderation will only ever improve the final grade.
    • This gives the students immediate feedback. The grades relate to the 22-point scale, so a ‘very good’ will equate to the B grade on the 22-point scale. A ‘good’ grade indicates that some of the topics could be improved on. ‘Satisfactory’ suggests that improvement is necessary across the board.
  • A few days after the quiz closes the students get class-wide feedback. The quizzes cover specific content, so the class feedback is broken up by content and the students are given feedback based on these areas.
    • Moodle can quickly analyse responses and highlight the areas that the students are doing well in, and where they are struggling (as a class). This is released to the student forum on Moodle, so everyone has access to the feedback and the overall class grade. The students are advised on the common areas where everyone is doing well and areas where they could improve.
  • Following this is the moderation phase, which is the most time-consuming part of the marking process. The moderation aims to pick up any areas where Moodle was unable to automatically grade the quiz, due to question type and spelling variations.
  • In addition to the two quizzes above, the students sit a third quiz through Moodle that follows a slightly different format. The third quiz is built around the lab, but has an online component through Moodle. The students first engage with a practical lab (in this instance comparing mammalian skulls), and try to determine what kind of mammals they are. Afterwards, they go on to the Moodle quiz which has images of the same skulls they saw in class, and the students have to answer questions based on their examination of the skulls in the lab. This quiz is also worth 5%.

Considerations (and what worked well)

  • The quizzes were designed with the moderation process in mind, particularly in relation to the short answer questions (which are limited to 2-3 words), which Moodle is not very well suited to picking up (due to spelling mistakes, for example). It is therefore necessary to manually check the marks to make sure that no one is unfairly awarded a zero grade for a question if they gave the correct answer but made a spelling mistake or presented it in a way that Moodle did not recognise.
  • The limited question bank means that the students are not told answers to individual questions to prevent answer-sharing. This is a check against the questions getting out and the assessment becoming meaningless.

Scalability and Transferability

Approach could be scaled to different class sizes.


Approach could be used in courses where the quiz format is appropriate.


Benefits

Student benefits 
  • Students are able to get regular feedback and monitor their progress.
  • Students get instant feedback on their work. The feedback is very general but it is immediately telling them where they fall within the 22-point scale.
  • Students are able to work with different question types, so they develop a broader skillset.
Staff benefits 
  • Students have a better understanding of the areas they need to improve, so they are more likely to self-direct their learning.

Challenges

Student challenges 
  • Limited question bank means that the students are not able to get correct answers to the quizzes to avoid sharing of answer sheets between years.
Staff challenges 
  • Moderation can be a time-consuming process, depending on the class-size.

Supporting material