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Student Voices: The Response To A Web Based Learning And Assessment Tool In Electrical Engineering

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Using Technology to Enhance Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1320.1 - 12.1320.16



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Paper Authors


Chris Smaill University of Auckland

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CHRIS SMAILL holds a Ph.D. in engineering education from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and degrees in physics, mathematics and philosophy from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. For 27 years he taught physics and mathematics at high school level, most recently as Head of Physics at New Zealand's largest secondary school. Since the start of 2002 he has lectured in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at The University of Auckland, New Zealand.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Voices: the Response to a Web-based Learning and Assessment Tool in Electrical Engineering


Increasing class sizes make it harder to provide students with effective skills practice, assessment and timely feedback. Computers and the Internet can help solve this problem, and to this end a Web-based tool, OASIS (Online Assessment System with Integrated Study), was developed. OASIS delivers individualized practice and assessment tasks, marks student responses, supplies prompt feedback, and logs student activity. Although the software was created to manage increasing workloads, it also appeared to be enhancing student learning. Consequently, in 2002, an action-research program was initiated that had two aims. The first aim was to develop and implement OASIS so as to best support student learning. The second aim was to confirm that OASIS did enhance student learning and to investigate the extent to which learning was enhanced. The research program involved the analysis of an extensive body of data collected by the software itself, course surveys, written responses from both present and past students, and recorded interviews with both instructors and students. The data show that students found OASIS easy to use and judged it helped them improve their skills and understanding. Instructors also noted a clear lift in student achievement. The research findings have led to ongoing, informed modifications in the software, its implementation, and teaching and assessment practices.


Forty years ago, in the UK, the average lecture audience size was 19 1, while the average discussion group size was just four 2. By contrast, present-day University course sizes of two hundred or more are routine. Funding has not increased sufficiently to match this increase in student numbers 3, 4. Consequently there has been a significant increase in instructor workload, one that threatens the quality of education.

Assessment takes an increasing percentage of instructor resources as course sizes grow. It has been suggested 5 that for courses of more than 100 students, preparing and marking just the final examination requires more instructor time than all teaching duties combined: lecturing, lecture preparation, tutorials, etc. In the author’s own department, for a year-two course of 200 students, the lecturer’s time was allocated 65% to assessment and 35% to lecture preparation and delivery. For a year-one course of 600 students, the corresponding figures were 78%and 22%. As course sizes grow, it is clear that the area of assessment provides the best opportunity for workload reduction. However, reduced assessment is likely to be matched by reduced student effort: assessment largely determines how students approach their learning, what they focus on, and how much effort they make 6-8. Reduced assessment also entails less feedback, and less-timely feedback, to students. Yet prompt feedback is of critical importance 9-11. One landmark study asserted: “formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work... We know of no other way of raising standards for which such a strong prima facie case can be made” 12. Overall, the research literature presents an overwhelming case for providing students with regular assessment and prompt feedback. Thus we are faced with a dilemma: while spiraling class sizes make a reduction in assessment attractive, the reality is that reduced assessment is almost certain to reduce student learning.

Smaill, C. (2007, June), Student Voices: The Response To A Web Based Learning And Assessment Tool In Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1986

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