Online portfolio exam

Degree programme: ICT-based Educational Design Course: Digital Media. Study level: Master’s degree programme. Size of class: Approximately 25. Link to course description.

Motivation for the activity

To create a more dynamic exam form which works online as well as focusing on formative evaluation, the writing process and the academic genre. 

Central learning objectives for the course

The purpose of the course is to enable the students to communicate and interact in a reflected manner using digital media, as well as analysing online communication and interaction. This is done by having the students use digital media and reflect on the use of digital media in a learning context, and by having the students form relevant relations and present academic knowledge using digital media.

Central learning objectives for the activity

The exam consists of a portfolio which includes four compulsory assignments, the last of which is a theoretically based assignment chosen by the student reflecting on the three previous assignments. Each sub-assignment consists of 2-3 standard pages. The key learning objectives for the exam activity are:

  • The student should learn to participate in the teaching and learning process in a constructive manner that encourages learning, and to consider their own participation and the participation of others in this process
  • The exam consists of a small-scale summative assessment in which the students receive repeated formative feedback and are given the opportunity to improve their drafts and skills throughout the course.

Description of the activity

The teaching takes the form of an intensive online course which is divided into four phases of approximately one week’s duration. Each phase is based on different activities, and the products of these will be part of the portfolio exam at the end of the course.

The activities are carried out in groups and will be presented and discussed in a blog with feedback in the form of comments from fellow students and teachers.

Each phase consists of the following parts:

  • The assignment is set (a theoretical theme and often a case which the students find themselves)
  • A period in which students read texts from the course syllabus and watch videos in which I (or a fellow teacher) discuss fundamental concepts within the theme or the like
  • First deadline: the students must hand in a one-page draft containing a proposal for a thesis statement using Google Docs
  • The teacher comments on the individual drafts using Google Docs
  • A one-hour online Q&A session using a video link in which the teacher summarises and answers questions, especially about formal requirements
  • Second deadline: the students must hand in the final portfolio assignment of approx. three pages
  • The teacher comments on the final assignment and informs the student whether or not the portfolio part has been approved (the exam cannot be passed until all the sub-assignments have been submitted)
  • Third deadline: In the meantime, each study group writes a blog post on the shared blog consisting of (for instance) a discussion of one of the cases they have found or their thoughts on the process

Each group must comment on one of the other blog posts, and the teacher can also comment and participate in the discussion.     

Outcome of the activity

The students get the opportunity to discuss many issues related to formalities and argumentation with the teacher and fellow students in a manner which is highly text oriented. The students’ progress becomes very clear to the teacher when they write several assignments in a row and get feedback on drafts from the teacher. This gives the teacher a clear impression of the level of the class, and of whether there are any problems in understanding specific theories or formal requirements for exam assignments which can be solved straightaway.

The students have shown great enthusiasm for this format, in which there is a lot of focus on their specific assignment and the provision of feedback. We are under the impression that the students learn a lot by reading each other’s assignments and the comments attached to them, resulting in great openness throughout the class. 

Useful tips

  • In the weeks in which you do this course, you should be aware that providing feedback often takes a lot of time
  • We are under the impression that this process is demanding for the students, so it may be an advantage to collaborate with teachers from parallel courses so that assignments can be timed as conveniently as possible
  • Some students may not feel comfortable with the level of openness on the course. However, it has been possible to deal with such cases by accepting draft assignments and giving feedback in some other way. 

Anders Hjortskov Larsen

Development ConsultantCentre for Teaching Development and Digital Media