Saturday, February 29, 2020

Australian Government Guide for Online Education into China

A short Guide for delivery of online education into China has been released by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (17 February 2020), for international students who have been unable to get to campus due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. This reports that Australian "" websites are working in China, but if third party websites are also required there could be problems.

Also students access may be slower, for multimedia and large files in China. The guide suggests hosting of content in, or near China, such as Hong Kong, Macau or Korea, may help. Austrade provide a list of online platform providers. Before looking at onshore options, I suggest reducing the size of multimedia files. This can be as simple as saving a video with reduced resolution, reducing files to one tenth the size. Usually it it the video files which take up most of the space, but occasionally a poorly formatted PDF file can cause problems..

The Austrade report points out that China does not recognize foreign online qualifications. The acceptability of blended learning, a mix of online and classroom based, is unclear, and is being investigated. When I studied the topic of online education in China and India, I found there was a suspicion of this, even where such qualifications were officially approved. This is not just an administrative hurdle to be overcome but a cultural one.

In practice on-campus full time Australian university students, including international ones,  are already studying in blended mode. They spend more than half their time studying online. However this is a very fine blend, with the student in a classroom several times a week. Also major assessment tasks are face-to-face and proctored. Replacing more of the face-to-face instruction with online equivalents is likely to be acceptable. However, remote unsupervised assessment, is less likely to be accepted.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Educators Need to Plan for Infectious Disease Outbreak

This is to suggest educational institutions revise, or create, their Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan, now. Australian universities, vocational education and some schools have already had to make arrangements for international students who have been unable to get to campus due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus travel restrictions. However, much more may need to be done in the coming months, with remote education provided to students across Australia, on a scale not seen before.

Individual educators need to become familiar with the precautions they need to take to protect their own health, and that of their staff, so they are then able to help their students. Educators also need to learn remote education delivery techniques, in the event their students can't come to class. Also educators need to ensure they are equipped to work from home, in the event campuses are closed.

The Australian Department of Health has activated their Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus. This has little practical effect for the general public, as most health resources and powers are state based. However, it is an indication that federal health officials consider the situation with the COVID-19 Coronavirus in Australia to be serious, and  are indicating to their state colleagues to activate their emergency plans. The US CDC has issued Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

CDC now recommend employers actively encourage sick employees to stay home,those with symptoms should be separated and sent home immediately. Posters to encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene are recommended, and other measures are recommended.

CDC also recommended planning for a COVID-19 outbreak, with businesses considering how to reduce transmission among staff, protecting people at higher risk, while maintaining business operations, and minimizing effects on businesses in their supply chains.

At a Press Briefing, February 26, CDC highlighted some of the measures in the "Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza United States" (2017):
"Students in smaller groups or in a severe pandemic, closing schools and using internet-based teleschooling to continue education.  For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options.  On a larger scale, communities may need to modify, postpone, or cancel mass gatherings."

With a reliance on teleschooling and teleworking, there will be a need for technical and teaching staff to be able to support many more students and clients. Australian universities have already made adjustments to the way they teach to deliver courses to students not on campus. However, these adjustments have been made for some students, whereas plans now need to assume most, or all students are unable to be in a classroom. There also has to be provision for only a small essential support staff on campus, with teaching and administrative staff at home, online. Key to this, I suggest, is the use educational technology to train staff and students in in what to do. Education is not an essential service, like food, water and power, however it can have a very useful public health benefit in keeping staff, and students occupied.

Update 4 March: I was interviewed by Casey Tonkin, this morning: "Will coronavirus make you work from home? Remote working takes off as the virus spreads" (Information Age, 3 March).

Happy to talk more on this and how we teach students online who can't get to class due to the Coronavirus.

Previously I have had some involvement in planning IT for emergencies at the Department of Defence, and pandemic response. In my book "Digital Teaching In Higher Education" (2017), I warned that the flow of international students to Australia could be disrupted very quickly and set out the steps for e-learning. I have been teaching this way at ANU since 2009.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

ANU Needs a Team Leader for Staff Education

The Australian National University is looking for a "Team Leader, Staff Education", to plan and deliver professional development for teaching staff, including tutors and lecturers. It is an interesting time to be involved in Australian Higher Education, with the COVID-19 Coronavirus challenging assumptions about how education can be provided.
"Role Statement ...

1. Lead the Staff Education team in the design, facilitation and evaluation of transformative educational development programs and resources for staff that have teaching responsibilities or who support teaching, ensuring alignment with the ANU Education Fellowship Scheme.
2. Build and cultivate collaborative relationships and foster communication between College- and centrally-based staff in the University Education community to ensure programs meet current needs and strategy.
3. Inform the creation, development and management of high-quality educational materials and resources, including web and/or multimedia-based online courseware, in collaboration with team members across the CLT and with academic staff.
4. Lead the organisation and administration of activities such as staff education, training, workshops and information sessions in support of educational development initiatives and new or revised programs, in consultation with team members across the CLT and with academic staff.
5. Remain current with and potentially contribute to the latest educational research and good practices, including engagement with informed discussion on innovative teaching and learning approaches, pedagogy, technologies, software and learning environments locally, campus wide and externally. ..."
From: "Team Leader, Staff Education, Position Description", ANU 05/02/2020. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Online Teaching is Here Now

Casual teaching staff at some Australian universities are reported to be “panicking” over the implications of students who are unable to get to campus due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Last week I was helping teach one hundred tutors how to teach, and there were no signs of panic. Well, no more panic than any group of teaching assistants about to face their first class.

If students can't get to campus, then there will be less need for sessional staff to teach face to face (F2F). However, if some of those students are studying online, they may need more tutor support.

The same principles and techniques used in F2F teaching apply online. The practicalities are a little different online, depending on the communications technology available. But the same tools already used by Australian universities for blended learning can also be used for online learning. Staff and students are already familiar with these tools.

Universities are providing additional training and support for teaching online, to supplement that already in place. As an example, ANU provides Coffee Courses with short snippets of learning about teaching (not just for ANU staff: anyone can access these). Also, there are the usual self-paced courses on particular tools. For those planning to teach as a career, there are longer, more formal programs. As an example, ANU's "Principles of Tutoring & Demonstrating", starts on 3 March.

Relatively few Australian university courses have been delivered entirely online. More often courses are blended with materials delivered online, alongside face-to-face lectures, tutorials, and workshops. Students typically watch videos of lectures, submit assignments online, and may also do some quizzes. As staff and students are already using online tools for some of a course, a change to all online mode is not as difficult as it might first appear.

The tools already in use at Australian universities for blended learning can provide online learning. Typically a mix of tools provides announcements to students, materials for, and output from, students. Using multiple tools is more complex, but provides some resiliency: if one is not working, another can be used.

Asynchronous Tools

There may be one tool for general announcements, and another to deliver course notes and collect assignments, plus a tool for videos of lectures. These tools are used asynchronously: students work through the material in their own time, and then submit a response. This makes them  convenient to use, and communication glitches less of a problem. However, tutors do not get instant feedback from students, so they need to anticipate what students might need, and when they might need it. Also, students need to understand they will not get instant feedback from tutors.

As an example of the sort of forums, posts and FAQs for an online course, see the tutor guide for "ICT Sustainability" (offered by ANU and by Athabasca University in Canada) and the module Learning to Reflect (for ANU's Techlauncher program). Students read the course notes, watch videos, do quizzes, contribute to forums, and do assignments. They get text-based feedback from peers, and instructors (audio and video are possible, but text is simpler). The full notes, videos, and tutor guides are available online.

Synchronous Tools

Universities also use synchronous tools: live video lectures, and video tutorials. With these, the instructor and students are connected at the same time, simulating a lecture theater or tutorial room. These tools are occasionally used to supplement F2F sessions. However, these tools take considerably more effort by staff and students to use. Because everyone has to be online at the same time, any glitch with the software, network, or the student's computer, results in them not being able to take part.

Usually, a live sessions is recorded for students who could not take part. However, this is not as good as the real thing. As an online learner myself for seven years, I found I was unable to connect to about one-quarter of the live sessions. With the current circumstances, I expect international students will be unable to connect to a session at an Australian university about half the time. So each session should be offered two or there times.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Response

As some students may be unable to get to campus this semester due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, some universities have decided to offer remote access. Which of the tools will be usable, and what alternatives are possible, is being investigated by technical staff at universities across Australia. So far it appears the asynchronous tools already in daily use will work. These tools are also less susceptible to intermittent problems: if it doesn't work today, try again tomorrow.

The synchronous tools are more of a problem. The usual tools may not work, or require workarounds, and may suddenly stop working. It may be necessary to conduct some courses with no synchronous communication at all. My approach for the last few years has been to design courses for online asynchronous delivery, then blend in add F2F, or synchronous, elements. This offers maximum flexibility for remote and on-campus students. Also I had in mind the possibility that international students would be suddenly unable to attend campus.

Being a student can be a very lonely and frustrating experience, and even more so for a distance education student. Tutors can give the students the sense you are there for them, through regular posts to the class. Staff time is limited, so messages to individual students have to be used sparingly. If they have the time and the technology, to provide video, staff can do so. However, research (and my experience), shows video is not necessary.

Technology-based distance education is not new, or a fad, it has been part of university education for decades. How to use technology for teaching is something all university educators should learn, as part of their basic training. Universities offer such training free. But those with ambitions of making this a career should be willing to undertake further formal study.

Equipment for teaching online is cheap and readily available. A web camera and a quality headset/microphone cost less than $100. This is something those who teach can have as part of their professional equipment, in their bag, with their laptop computer.

In ten years of teaching online, I have had deep and satisfying interactions with students around the world, who I have never seen, and never spoken to. As an international online student for three years, I was able to complete a degree from the other side of the planet, without setting foot on campus. It was not easy or fun, but being a university student is not easy or fun. This experience is documented in an e-portfolio, a blog post, and a book.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Alterative Assesment Processes for Students Not on Campus Due to COVID-19 Coronavirus

Yesterday I was asked about how to assess students who are unable to get to campus due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Many Australian universities still have an on-campus end of semester paper-based examination. These cannot be administered to students who are isolated for public health reasons.

Athabasca University (where I studied last), has proctored online examinations for undergraduate courses, via a commercial service, ProctorU. There were no examinations for the postgraduate program I took, this having assignments, quizzes, peer assessment, and a live online capstone presentation with Q&A.

It should be kept in mind that an examination is not required at the end of every course, nor is it a good way to assess real-world skills. Many Australian universities, supplement assessment with non-supervised assessment under the category of "take home examinations".

The usual approach with online course is to have regular small, assessment tasks. This is to keep the students engaged, provide feedback, and allow staff to check student progress. Some think this assessment should not count towards the final result and some do. I lean towards the latter, but the small tests should not count for much. It is possible to use an assessment scheme which encourages, or requires, students to do the small stuff, but so that it either doesn't count to their final result, or much. For example, you can make this a hurdle: the student has to do the small stuff, but it doesn't change their final grade.

For some versions of the course ICT Sustainability I set small assessment tasks which only count for a Credit, not a Distinction or High Distinction. This is described in the course notes (but keep in mind that is a graduate course):

With online courses there is always the worry that students had someone else undertake the assessment for them. That worry can be lessened by having assessment spread out through the course, making it harder for students to simply contract out a few big tests. An approach frequently also used is to have the student give a presentation and answer questions. The presentation can be face-to-face, or live online.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Reflecting on Reflecting on Learning

Learning to Reflect" blended module. This is the last assessed task for students undertaking the ANU Tech Launcher program before they graduate. Last semester the students read notes, watched videos, did an online quiz, participated in an on-line forum (with peer assessment), then a face-to-face workshop (run by Tempie Archer, from ANU Careers). They then submitted and assignment (with peer feedback), and repeated the process. That all worked well, but was seem by the students, and my colleagues, as too complex, and too much work. There was too much to read, too many assessment items, and too much peer assessment. Also the tutors, who the students have for face-to-face tutorials, felt excluded from the process.

Resources for New Tutors

I have been a preoccupied providing advice on how to quickly provide courses for online delivery, for students who are unable to get to class due to the Novel Coronavirus. But I need to get back to tutor training. I am finding the online course Contemporary Approaches University Teaching has some good material, but would take some pruning, as it is a 12 week, 24 hour course, not something a tutor can do in a few hours. Some useful resources for students I have found, mostly from ANU's Coffee Courses:
  1. LinkedIn recently predicted that the most in-demand soft skills with employers for 2020 will be creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.Tutoring can help you refine these skills and provide evidence to a prospective employer you are leadership material.

    See: The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2020, Bruce Anderson, LinkedIn Talent Blog, January 9, 2020. URL
  2. "... authentic real life assessment tasks should contain the challenges of a real life work context.
    From: Principles of authentic assessment, from Assessment and Feedback, Jill Lyall and Mandy Tutalo, ANU Coffee Course, 2019 URL
  3. In Small Group Teaching: From: Good practice examples in Module 3: Teaching practice, Enhancing Student Wellbeing, 2016. URL
  4. Seven Learning Concepts
    1. Deep vs Surface Learning,
    2. Extrinsic vs Intrinsic motivation
    3. Taxonomies of knowledge and learning
    4. Characteristics of Adult Learning
    5. Constructivism
    6. Student-centred learning
    7. Active learning
    From: Why learning theory? Seven Key Concepts for University Teaching and Learning, Jill Lyall, ANU Coffee Courses, 2018. URL

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ten Tips for Educational Institutions Coping with Off-campus Students

Yesterday I was asked for some tips on how to provide courses for online delivery, for students who are unable to get to class due to the Novel Coronavirus. Here are ten tips, added to those previously provided.
  1. This is Not About China: Procedures should not refer to "for China". Instead "students who can't attend campus". By referring to China, this will stress the students and may make officials less cooperative. Also, it may well be that other countries will be affected, as well as domestic students.
  2. Don't stress funding implications: While there may be a cost to educational institutions, the emphasis should be on helping students, not ensuring cashflow.
  3. Educational standards still apply: Government regulators may have indicated that some rules for international students are being waved. However, principles of quality education still apply, as do professional ethics and the law. A university can't graduate someone who the public depends on in a life and death situation, until that person is fully trained, and tested. The training and testing may be carried out differently but must meet the same standards.
  4. Distance Education techniques are available: There is no need to make stuff up. Some educators have been refining techniques for education remotely over the decades. You can draw on this experience, tools, and techniques. There are likely people at your institution trained and experienced in how to do this.
  5. Contact your overseas colleagues: This is not just a problem for Australia, but educational institutions around the world. You may be able to offer help to those in areas impacted, as well as request assistance from others. This would also be useful for reassuring students, family, friends, and government officials in those countries, that your institution is respecting their local customs and laws.
  6. Do not attempt to circumvent national security restrictions: Nations restrict what services work on-line across their borders. It is tempting to circumvent these restrictions to allow your usual online tools to work for remote students. However, this may be considered a crime. Check for alternatives.
  7. Don't handle this as a "special consideration": Large numbers of students are unlikely to be able to attend campus for an extended period. So you need to design courses, materials, and assessments for this. It is not practical, and is unfair, to have each student apply for special consideration of their circumstances. There will still be a need for such special consideration, in many cases, but educational institutions need to be able to offer an alternative routine for most students.
  8. Deliver clear messages: Students, staff and parents will be stressed. This makes it more difficult for them to understand instructions. Also, rumors will spread. Put out simple clear messages. Have senior staff appear, to provide a human face to the institution. This doesn't need videos, a text statement with a photo is sufficient.
  9. Keep domestic students informed: Domestic students need to feel their education is not being neglected, and excessive resources, and special consideration given to international students. Tell all students what is happening, and offer all the new flexible education options, such as online lessons, to them. Offer virtual mentor and tutor programs to domestic students to help their international colleagues on-line.
  10. Look after yourself and colleagues: Online students expect instant replies from administrative and teaching staff 24 hours a day, and can be scathing in their criticism. Give students reasonable expectations of how quickly they will receive a reply and ensure there is sufficient staff to do this. Try to answer common questions via a forum, rather than to each student individually. Do not reply to intemperate language from a student in haste, or anger.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Ten Tips for Quickly Converting Courses for Online Delivery

Yesterday I was asked for some tips on how to provide courses for online delivery, for students who are unable to get to class due to the Novel Coronavirus. Here are ten tips (plus a video), added to those previously provided.
  1. Don't panic: Courses have been delivered online by universities around the world for decades. This includes the Green Computing Course from Computer Science at ANU since 2009 (also offered by Athabasca University in Canada). ANU has a series of short Coffee Courses on how to do this.
  2. Focus on student communication, not content: I spent three years as a postgraduate international online student, learning how to provide online education from Australia to China and India. While there were frustrations with ebooks and videos, the major problem was the crushing loneliness. Being an online student amplifies all the worries students have at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. We need to give students the sense there is someone out there worrying about them. Also, we need to encourage them to communicate with each other. You can build such teacher-to-student and student-to-student communication in as part of a course.
  3. Learning To Reflect VideoIt is Not About Video:  The easiest, but least important thing you can do, is to convert face-to-face lectures to recorded video. Students like having recorded video lectures available. However, don't waste time making high-quality videos: it makes no difference to learning. Provided students see a still image of you occasionally, you do not have to appear in the video lectures: powerpoint slides with audio are fine. Unedited recordings of live lectures are also okay. For the "Learning to Reflect" module of ANU TechLauncher last year, I used video automatically created from the course notes, with a synthetic voice.
  4. eBook for Green Computing Course
    Text-Based Notes Are Key: Provide students with notes detailing what they have to do, and when they have to do it. Ideally, provide this all at the beginning of the course. You will be sending them reminders and updates, but students feel more secure if they have everything at the start. My preference is an e-book, but the format doesn't matter as much as the student being able to download everything, easily.
  5.  Target Smartphones: Students are increasingly using smartphones for study, so make sure your material is suitable. Learning Management Systems, such as Moodle, now supports smartphones, but make sure the formatting you use does not stop this working.
  6. Prompt students to study: Students will be distracted and so you need to tell them what to do, and when to do it. Don't assume the student can find the relevant material, or resource: give them a link directly to what you want them to look at. You can start with subtle nudges, such as "Thank you to the 49 students who have already completed the quiz", them more direct: "You have until 1 pm Canberra time, to complete the quiz, for 1% of your grade". Peer pressure, and marks, are very effective ways to motivate students.
  7. Rationalize assessment: Consider what assessment you can reliably deliver online, and in what size chunks. Are you providing the assessment for formative purposes, to help with study, for summative purposes (the final grade), or both? Consider simple short assessment items and make them easier to mark. Make use of the automated assessment delivery and marking options built into the Learning Management System. I particularly like short regular quizzes (with questions drawn from a bank at random, to make it harder to cheat).
  8. Provide Asynchronous Communication, Supplemented by Synchronous:  I was an online graduate student of education for seven years. Of thousands of hours of study, only a couple of hours were real-time (synchronous) communication with a teacher or other students. Most communication for online courses is asynchronous: you post a message and someone reads it later. This is partly due to the difficulties of getting people together at the same time. It is also due to inevitable problems with online communication. So focus on the asynchronous posts to forums. These can be supplemented with short video recordings. If you have the resources, then add some live webinars, but record these sessions, for those who can't attend.
  9. Use the tools your colleagues use:  Educational institutions provide learning management systems, video recording, webinar, and other tools for online teaching. There may also be other tools in use by your colleagues. These may not be the best tools, but you can get help with them, so it should be your first choice.
  10. Look after yourself and colleagues: Burnout of online teachers is very common. Online students expect instant replies from staff 24 hours a day, and can be scathing in their criticism. Give students reasonable expectations of how quickly they will receive a reply and ensure there are sufficient staff to do this. Try to answer common questions via a forum, rather that to each student individually. Do not reply to intemperate language from a student in haste, or anger.
This presentation contains images that were used under a Creative Commons License.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

TARDIS to Record for Off-campus Students

ANU One-Button-Studio
If educational institutions need to record audio podcasts or videos, due to the Novel Coronavirus, they can use a TARDIS, as ABC Radio refer to their small soundproof recording booths. Educational institutions can purchase such booths in kit form, or build one in a small store room, lined with sound absorbing panels. The booth may have recording equipment installed, with easy to operate controls, for a One-Button-Studio: insert a flash drive, push the button, and start talking. But before building a booth, or studio, look around your campus and see if there is one already set up.

Live Video for Tutorials and Laboratory Sessions Remotely

If educational institutions need to conduct tutorials and laboratory sessions remotely for off-campus students due to the Novel Coronavirus, there are video conferencing and webinar tools for this. Before going out and purchasing a tool, first check if your institution already has one, either bundled with your Learning Management System, or from your network suppler. Examples are Echo360, Adobe Connect, Zoom and Big Blue Button.

These tools do much the same thing. You use a web browser, or downloaded app to send live video from a web camera, and whatever is on your computer screen to students. The students can use a text chat window to reply. There can also be quizzes. All of this can be recorded for later replay. Students can also talk, be seen, and perhaps send what is on their screen, but that gets complicated), especially for large classes. You will want to at least have a moderator to look after the chat, while someone else does the talking.

I suggest using these synchronous tools sparingly, as a supplement to asynchronous online learning. That is, students should be able to watch a recorded video, read some notes, do some sort of exercise step, by step, in their own time. There can then be some synchronous (real-time) activities to help them.

What also helps are activities to connect students to each other online and carefully worded announcements from staff, to the class, to give the sense someone is out there. This is all part of the conventional approach developed for distance education over the last few decades.

The "Learning to Reflect" module I designed  is an example of this approach. The students read the notes, watch the videos, do the quizzes, post to forums, and reply to other students, before the live part. The student gets all the notes at the start of the course. There are also suggested regular posts for the tutor.

Online Exams for Students Off-campus Due to Novel Coronavirus

If educational institutions need to conduct examinations for off-campus students due to the Novel Coronavirus, there are tools for this virtual invigilation, or remote online proctoring. The student has to sit in front of their computer with a web camera pointed at them, while they undertake the test. I have not used such a product, but Athabasca University use ProtcorU. I see the occasional grumble from students on the AU support group, but overall it seems to work.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Role of the PhD in the Modern World

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network for the launch of
"PostAc", to help PhD students into non-academic research careers. Professor Keith Nugent ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, explained that the ANU was redefining the PhD for wider roles outside academia. Professor Elanor Huntington, ANU Dean of Engineering and Computer Science, pointed out she had a Masters of Computer Science as well as a PhD in the more esoteric area of physics. Also she pointed out that the PostAc service will also collect information on PhDs and jobs. Dr Mewburn mentioned they were open to offers from companies, such as LinkedIn, to purchase PostAc.

One option I suggested to Dr Mewburn that PostAc might consider is auto searches. The student may not know what to search for.  Perhaps the tool could read the student's thesis and suggest a job based on that, and whatever else is publicly available on them. This might include hobbies: an academic in a job interview once told me that had no leadership skills, but then mentioned the lead the university alpine climbing team (if you can get people up a mountain, that shows leadership).

PostAcc is a clever hack to overcome a public policy failure. Unfortunately none of the speakers directly addressed this policy failing: universities produce many more PhDs than there are research jobs for. While someone who has an advanced research degree might be able to find a non-research job with PostAcc, it would be better if they enrolled in a degree which suited those jobs. In most cases a coursework masters is a suitable postgraduate qualification for a job. If more specialized skills are needed, then there is the option of a professional doctorate. These are at the same academic level as a PhD (with the title "Doctor"), but the focus is on skills for industry, rather than just research. PostAcc can provide a palliative for the failure to direct students to these more useful degrees, but not cure it.


Pitt, R., & Mewburn, I. (2016). Academic superheroes? A critical analysis of academic job descriptions. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 38(1), 88-101. URL

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Top Five Factors Associated with Student Success

The top five factors associated with student success identified by meta-meta-analysis by Schneider and Preckel (2017), were: 1. peer assessment, 2. self efficacy, 3. teacher preparation, 4. teacher clarity, 5. grade goals. The first of is reasonably clear, if difficult to implement. Having students peer asses is not difficult to set up, particularly if you have a Learning management System, such as Moodle, to look after the administrative details. However, it can be difficult get some students, and many staff, to accept that students can provide quality assessment.

Self efficacy is easy to recommend, but how do you build students’ belief in their ability? The obvious ways are to state clearly what you want them to do, and give them steps along the way (scaffolding). Teacher preparation and clarity seem obvious, but I see many cases where teachers have produced overly complex lessons, and then compound the problem with long complex explanations of the lessons.

I don't quite understand the point on grade goals. Presumably students are attempting to pass their courses, or where some higher level of achievement is needed, to reach that level. What does worry me is where students have set unnecessarily high goals. As an example, some students will ask for a regrade on the basis they are aiming to get a high distinction (80%) for all assessment items. There are ways to counter this with the assessment scheme, for example having just a pass/fail grade for some tasks.


Schneider, M., & Preckel, F. (2017). Variables associated with achievement in higher education: A systematic review of meta-analyses. Psychological bulletin, 143(6), 565. URL