Currently, there is a major emphasis to produce graduates who are “workplace-ready”. Within departments of science and health, this emphasis can truly be described as a sense of urgency, particularly within practical sessions. During these sessions, the development of technical (hard) and soft skills is of utmost importance to ensure student learning and employability. However, from an educator’s point of view, this is a practical session that must be assessed and the student’s capability within this setting quantified and measured in a scholarly context. These practical sessions are however educator based as the mode of content delivery and the session itself are subjective to the facilitator. This expository, or guided, approach to teaching strips the student from any form of reflection, critical thinking and true engagement with the content (Bennett et al. 2009; Hofstein and Lunetta 2004). Within the field of teaching and learning “formative assessment” is often suggested and has become a common theme at education-based conferences. This is a method whereby educators look to re-mould the classroom setting and/or the delivery method to improve student attainment (Bennett 2011). While this approach has been applied in a classroom setting, it has not yet reached practical sessions. This causes particular concern within the science discipline where summative reports are still dominant, meaning that students are focused on the number of submitted reports as opposed to the quality of their work. This again stresses points such as lack of contextualisation and removal of the learners’ critical thinking, engagement, and true understanding. This form of over-assessment, which is one of many across all disciplines, calls aspects of learning such as authenticity and skill development into question (Bree et al. 2017). To counter-act this degradative mode of teaching alternative avenues must be explored. In 2015, the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education released a document detailing various learning strategies. In this document, it states that the exploitation of digital platforms to support teaching would aid in the creation of vibrant learning scenarios in which the student is engaged.
Technology has the potential to serve as an educational support tool (Daniela et al. 2018). It can be used as a platform to provide digital learning materials, support learner development and acquisition of knowledge in specific fields as well as promoting critical thinking, civic engagement and allowing learners to see their full potential (Molina-Carmona et al. 2018; Visvizi et al. 2018). The application of technology-based assessments and teaching can be used to enable a collaborative and engaging social setting in order to facilitate teaching. Additionally, this designed task space will allow students to critically think and consider action, communication, and understanding of given topics (Webb and Gibson 2015). Roblyer (2003) stated that technology integration into education provides a plethora of resources for educators to access as well as introducing dynamic and interactive learning strategies into educational workspaces.
However, the introduction of technology-enhanced learning methods for teaching is just the first step. The educator must also become familiar with various forms of technologies and digital platforms and to select which technologies to use that will best meet the learning needs (Liaw and Huang 2013; Nami and Vaezi 2018). Several digital platforms can be used in both practical sessions and class-based settings across all disciplines to monitor and track student development and understanding. For example, pre-practical videos and quizzes whereby information regarding the upcoming practical session can be delivered before the session. In doing so, students can engage both visually and analytically with the content. Thus, enriching student learning. Within the science and health disciplines, lab reports make up the bulk of the assignments. The use of electronic lab notebook or e-portfolios is one way to both assess student understanding of practical sessions while also providing a tangible document of technical experience (hard skills) which the student can refer to when seeking employment opportunities.
One common report from students in third-level education regards the timely wait for constructive feedback which is unique to a given assignment or report (Havnes and McDowell 2008). Through the use of digital platforms, such as Moodle™, educators can provide students with easy to access feedback which is unique to their own assignment (Bree et al. 2017). This method of providing the student with online feedback, which will be available all-year-round (as opposed to written feedback which can be easily discarded), will, therefore, encourage students to implement feedback to future assignments. Through the application of feedback to future work, third level institutes employing technology-based learning and teaching can be on track to meeting the over-arching goal of producing graduates who are workplace ready.
In conclusion, technology-enhanced assessment methods and technology-enhanced learning encompass a multi-purpose method with an abundance of digital resources and platforms. Through the utilisation of this emergent area of teaching and learning, students can be afforded with unique and individual feedback, student learning can be promoted through easy to use applications, learner engagement can be promoted, as well as highlighting the extended skill-sets students have which cannot be seen through traditional assessment/teaching methods. However, educators also benefit from this approach. For instance, digital platforms provide educators with a space to upload all content for students to access at any given point, space where all assignments can be graded in a time-efficient manner while also eliminating re-writing the same points on multiple assignments.
- Bennett, R.E. (2011). Formative assessment: A critical review. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice. 18(1), 5-25.
- Bennett, S.W., Seery, M.K., Sovegjarto-Wigbers, D. (2009). Practical Work in Higher Level Chemistry Education. Innovative Methods in Teaching and Learning Chemistry in Higher Education. 1st ed., Eilks and B. Byers, London: RSC.
- Bree, R., Healy, E., Maguire, M., Faller, D., Harding, N., Mulvihill, A., Brazil, D., Dowling, D., Kavanagh, Y., Noonan, G., Akande, A., Doyle, D., Bird, J. (2017). Introducing Technology Enhanced Assessment Methods (TEAM) to Health and Science Practical Settings; Bringing Digital Skills to Laboratory and Clinical Skill Sessions. European Science Education Research Association Conference. Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland, 21st-25th August 2017.
- Bree, R.T., Dunne, K., Brereton, B., Gallagher, G., Dallat, J. (2014). Engaging learning and addressing over-assessment in the Science laboratory: solving a pervasive problem. The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 6(3).
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- Havnes, A., McDowell, L. (2008). Balancing Dilemmas in Assessment and Learning in Contemporary Education. Balancing Dilemmas in Assessment and Learning in Contemporary Education. New York: Routledge.
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- Molina-Carmona, R., Pertegal-Felices, M., Jimeno-Morenilla, A., Mora-Mora, H. (2018). Assessing the impact of virtual reality on Engineering Students. The Future of Innovation and Technology in Education: Policies and Practices for Teaching and Learning Excellence (Emerald Studies in Higher Education, Innovation and Technology). Emerald Publishing Limited, 171-185.
- Nami, F., Vaezi, S. (2018). How ready are our students for technology-enhanced learning? Students at a university of technology respond. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. 30, 510-529.
- Roblyer, M.D. (2003). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Integrating educational technology into teaching. 3rd ed., Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hill.
- Seery, M.K. (2013). Harnessing Technology in Chemistry Education. Pedagogic Directions. 9(1), 77-86.
- Visvizi, A., Lytras, M., Daniela, L. (2018). Education, Innovation and the Prospect of Sustainable Growth and Development. The Future of Innovation and Technology in Education: Policies and Practices for Teaching and Learning Excellence (Emerald Studies in Higher Education, Innovation and Technology). Emerald Publishing Limited, 297-305.
- Webb, M., Gibson, D. (2015). Technology Enhanced Assessment in Complex Collaborative Settings. Education and Information Technologies. 20, 275-295.