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Open Book Assignments

Dr. Cicely Roche is an Associate Professor in practice of Pharmacy and co-ordinator of online modules completed by students when on experiential placement in the final 2 years of the MPharm programme in Trinity College Dublin.

Here she talks about her experience of using open-book online assignments within a module on ‘Professional Practice and Public Health’, as part of the Five-Year Integrated Pharmacy Programme (M.Pharm)
Dr Cicely Roche photo

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

The assignment brief for the module Professional Practice and Public Health, completed over 5 weeks early in their final 8 month placement in year 5, would be similar to the following;
Once you have completed all of the tasks assigned for Weeks 1-4 of the module, you will then be in a position to complete the assignment in Week 5 as follows:

  • At the end of the video that you viewed in Week 2, Jack's mother was very confused about getting Jack immunised and she was wondering about what to do? and whom should she believe?
  • The assignment requires you to produce a video file in which you put yourself in the position of the pharmacist in the video responding to Jack's mother and advising her appropriately.  You must upload the video, and a transcript of the advice as spoken by you in the video, no later than [date and time].

This assignment accounts for 100% of the 5 ECTS module mark.  Detailed rubrics guide students and grading processes.

What are the main advantages of this assessment type?  

This assignment aligns with the real-world reality of students’ experiential placement, and as the student is the ‘actor’ in the video, it mitigates concerns related to plagiarism in open-book assessment. Students are encouraged to interact with their preceptor(s) and others in the placement environment.  Upload of a script of the voiceover, along with the video, accommodates TCD assessment integrity expectations that Turnitin will be used.
Feedback on the correct or incorrect answers can be collated quickly, and this information can be released as an announcement on blackboard in a timely fashion after the assignment has been concluded – thereby providing opportunity to clarify changing public health policy in ‘real time’ and increasing the likelihood that students will read the feedback. Release of marks on the grade column follows 24 hours later and includes individualised grading against the rubric - thereby providing further guidance to students regarding advising patients on important topics such as vaccine hesitancy, herd immunity and public health policy.

What are the main challenges for using this assessment type?  

One challenge in this type of open-book assignment is that concerns related to academic integrity must be managed by e.g. by using detailed rubrics that directly align with learning outcomes and content/activities, and incorporation of videoscript upload through Turnitin.
Students also need to be familiar with the technical issues involved in recording themselves on their phone or laptop, and uploading to Blackboard. A similar methodology is therefore incorporated to a module in Michaelmas term, when students are still ‘in’ TCD, and that process includes peer review of draft videos prior to submission for 35% of module marks in that Module. Students are thereby familiar with the assignment/assessment method prior to leaving TCD for the final 8 month placement.

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

This type of assessment/assignment enables confirmation that students have grasped important, fundamental concepts related to public health and vaccinations when early in their final 8 month experiential placement before registering as pharmacists.  It provides opportunity to ‘see’ them practising their profession and to provide feedback rapidly - thereby enabling immediate behaviour change by students in their patient-facing encounters.

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

It’s an excellent way to align activities with experiential placement, to mitigate some of the concerns related to integrity of open book assessment and to build students skills in what is likely to be a future means of communication as telehealth evolves. It is important to ensure that feedback on both correct and incorrect answers are provided rapidly – especially as they are already in patient-facing roles. 

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

For this type of assessment, Blackboard works extremely well.  

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