Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Cambridge (2008) Proc Physiol Soc 11, C36

Oral Communications

Use of innovative online self- and peer-review software to allow undergraduate students additional practice at short answer exam questions in human physiology

G. R. Christie1, N. J. Part1, D. J. Walker2, H. Whaley2

1. School of Life Sciences Learning & Teaching, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom. 2. The Learning Centre, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom.


Human Form and Function (HFF) is a Level 2 (year 2 of a 4 year BSc(Hons) degree) undergraduate module offered by the School of Life Sciences Learning and Teaching, University of Dundee. This 11 week module serves as an introduction to human physiology, with lectures (33) and lab-based practicals (4) covering the major physiological systems which complement a self-directed study component in anatomy and histology. Class size is 160 and includes students registered for a number of Life Sciences degrees (e.g. Physiological Sciences, Forensic Anthropology and Biomedical Sciences). Although in-course assessment grades have been good, students do not perform as well in the end of module written exam. Here we report the use of innovative software (devised in-house by The Learning Centre, University of Dundee) designed to easily create and automatically manage online self- and peer-review assignments. We have used this software to allow HFF students additional practice at answering exam-style short answer questions (SAQs). The self- and peer-assessment software is embedded within the existing module virtual learning environment, so is easily accessed and familiar to students. Students were first asked to prepare answers to two SAQs (covering cardiovascular and respiratory physiology; 15 marks each) and upload these answers during a submission phase. At the end of the submission phase, model answers and a marking scheme to the set SAQs were made available and the software automatically allocated each student the answers of two anonymised peers to mark along with their own submission. As well as providing marks for each question, students had the opportunity to leave feedback comments which were available to view at the end of the marking phase. At the end of the exercise students were able to view average self and peer marks and anonymised feedback. Finally, they were then invited to complete an online feedback questionnaire covering aspects of the exercise. Student participation in both the submission and marking phases was excellent (89% and 83%, respectively), comparable to other compulsory in-course assessments. Although there was a slight difference (P=0.003, two-tailed unpaired t-test) between mean (±SEM) self (21.2±0.4, n=132) and peer marks (19.6±0.4, n=133), there was no significant difference (P=0.382) between mean marks awarded by peer 1 (18.3±0.6, n=133) and peer 2 (17.5±0.7, n=133). Response to the online feedback questionnaire was good (49% of the class completed the questionnaire) and feedback outcome was most positive (mean response out of a maximum of 10 (±SEM)=7.39±0.13, n=25 questions). Overall, this has proved a popular learning exercise with this cohort of students. It was easy to implement and manage and has obvious time-saving benefits to comparable hand-marked assessments.

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