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Engineering Summative Assessment Online

Prof Ciaran Simms is a Professor in Biomechanics in the Department of Mechanical, Manufacturing & Biomedical Engineering

Here he talks about his experience of using an Engineering summative assessment online as part of the 3rd year Mechanics of Machines and 4th year Multibody Dynamics.

What might an ‘assignment brief’ look like for this assessment type in your context?  

A typical question would be framed around a real-world scenario and students would be asked to state reasonable assumptions and then calculate certain relevant quantities such as forces in a particular link, or angular acceleration of a component et cetera. Some of the questions are very similar to previous tutorial questions, but at least one question involves a previously “unseen” component. This is the most time-consuming part for me to set, but it usually ultimately strengthens my own understanding of the subject.

What are the main advantages of this assessment type?  

I think that the key for online summative engineering assessments is to have problem-solving questions rather than recall questions, and the timeframe allowed should be short enough that students are under a little time pressure so they are discouraged from conferring.

What are the main challenges for using this assessment type?  

It is time-consuming to produce novel questions for which a graduated set of responses are achievable by the students. Given that there will be issues with internet connections for some, I think a take-home exam rather than something where students need to stay connected to the system for the duration of the exam makes more sense. Annotating the exam scripts is more complex than for physical face-to-face exams.

Why do you use this particular assessment type in a digital context? 

We are not able to run face-to-face examinations at present.

What advice would you give a colleague thinking about using this type of assessment?  

See responses to 2 and 3 above

Do you recommend any resources or technologies to support this type of digital assessment?  

Virtual learning environment such as Blackboard as a means to time the release and submission.

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