Summary
Bachelor students studying business studies have the possibility of independently reviewing the contents of the course "Human Resources Policy" using Blackboard tests. With this they can evaluate their individual level of knowledge. 
The Blackboard homework for "Human resources policy" were developed and implemented in the winter semester of 2017/18. During the semester the participants were provided with self-tests in Blackboard on certain topic areas. Here question types were used that could be automatically evaluated in Blackboard (closed questions). Thereby it was possible for the course participants to receive a comprehensive as well as individual feedback right after they had submitted their answers. Working on the tests is voluntary. The solutions to the questions are discussed in the tutorial. 


Course

Course title

"Human Resources Policy"

Course type

Lecture and tutorial

Department/Institute

Business Studies, Management 

Degree program

Business Studies, Bachelor, (plus elective module for various other subjects)

Lecturer

Prof. Dr. Markus Helfen

No. of participants

approx. 540

Phase

During the entire semester

Duration

One semester

SWS/CP

4 SWS / 6 CP

Tools

  • Blackboard tests

Realization

The aim of the project was the consequent introduction of online-supported self-learning formats that backed-up the tutorials and seminars (focus was on: self-learning competencies).
Background: In order to support the students with a changed tutorial and study concept for their independent learning activities, the lecturers looked for possibilities regarding online-supported practice formats. The cause was the unexpected and short-term increase in the number of participants taking the course (from about 180 registrations in the WS 2016/17 to over 540 registrations in WS 2017/18) with at the same time limited human resources (1 part-time professor, 1 part-time academic staff member, 1 student assistant) and funds (for external teaching assignments to accompany the tutored groups). 
The new strategy envisaged the following changes:

  • The tutorial (in the past: a lecture, individual group work during the face-to-face session) has been changed to a worksheet concept in which the students individually work on tasks between the actual tutored sessions. Their solutions are documented in Blackboard on solution sheets. The tutorial itself then served the purpose of presenting the solutions and discussing all questions that cropped up here (approx. 60-80 participants). This means that there were several tutored groups.
  • The second step was to set up online test modules with which the students are able to check their knowledge with questions of various different formats (multiple choice, true-false, matching). Every test sequence contains direct feedback on the individual questions, including the result as well as a short explanation of the right answer (see Illustrations 6 and 7).  
  • The test series and the worksheets were then incorporated into Blackboard as a self-learning unit that included individual tasks focusing on open question formats (transfer tasks) in a web training session. This is made up of the combination worksheet-test-solution sheet for every single lecture unit ("a clear structure").  
  • The whole thing is complemented by a discussion forum in which the students can post open questions on the contents of the course which are then answered in a timely manner. All in all, the online course offers the test module, the worksheets as well as solutions in addition to the traditional provision of the lecture slides.

Preparation: The lecturers took part in, amongst others, the CeDiS training course "Blackboard for experts: Tests and surveys". Afterwards they mutually selected fitting question types that could be used and developed individual homework tasks on certain set topic areas.
Activating the tests: The homework tasks developed were provided to the course participants on a successive basis. The activation of each individual unit that had to be worked on orientated itself on the contents taught in the tutorials. It always occurred after the same content-related course of a certain week had taken place. If there are any technical or content-related problems, questions or criticism then the students could at any time contact the supervising teaching assistant via e-mail.   
Currently there are 8 self-learning tests available that all contain between 10 and 15 questions. Thereby various different types of questions are used (Illustrations 1 - 5).


Illustration 1: Test unit and exercise in Blackboard 

















Illustration 2: Testpool WS 2017/18

Illustration 3: Question formats (true/false) 

  











Illustration 4: Question formats (multiple answers)


Illustration 5: Question formats (matching)






















Illustration 6: Example feedback test (test question) 


Illustration 7: Example feedback test (essay question)


Illustration 8: Blackboard grade center. Evaluation of the individual tests


Illustration 9: Blackboard grade center. Evaluation of the individual tests (essay questions)


The exam takes place at the e-examination center and contains a high percentage of multiple choice questions so that there is no difference (format-wise) between the tests on Blackboard and the actual final exam. 

Experiences made by the lecturer

All in all, the lecturers have had positive experiences with the suitability and usability with the instruments that were implemented. This allows for working directly with the test module in the next upcoming course. On the one hand, the existing test questions can be used again and, on the other hand, further improvements and tweaks can be undertaken. These modifications are easily done as there are extensive evaluation possibilities when it comes to the quality of the questions.   
In the current course the online assignments are an "emergency solution" as there is only a limited number of staff resources that can cater for the course. The concept was therefore introduced during the ongoing course. 8 out of 12 units were able to be produced and therefore not all of the content of the lecture is available yet (the focus of the course - human resources policy and fields of activity - has, though, been produced). During the trial phase a lot of advantages were shown that can be used for the improvement of the basic course on a long-term basis. If enough staff and preparation time is available the concept can easily be extended and can, for example, be directly intertwined with the contents of the lecture. The binding character of the test completion can be increased which was voluntary during the test phase. Due to this resources for high-maintenance learning support (question time, group work) and other teaching formats are set free.    
From a lecturers' point of view, the basic concept has become well-established with regard to the content-related structure, didactic realization and with a view to the format. The concept was, after a very hesitant starting period (the first evaluation of the lecture if such an offer was preferred to the traditional tutorial resulted in only a dozen students selecting the new model over the old), accepted on a very positive note. What helped here was that the web training was promoted during the lecture by regularly placing questions in the format of a direct survey (http://invote.de/) in order to introduce the students to the online format. What was also important was that the test units were closely oriented to the lectures taking place. At the same time, the online tests allowed the students to test their knowledge during the preparatory phase for the exam. Also, during the teaching phases there is more flexibility when it comes to working on the test units than in the limited time and space of the tutorial. 
The pivotal learning points for the lecturers were the selection of suitable question formats that are fitting for an online test (true-false questions, simple selection of the right answer) and the usability of the direct feedback that is immediately posted to the participants. In addition, the quality of the questions being posed (simple, medium level, expert) and the suitability of these was also evaluated which was of a big help for setting the questions for the final exam. 
A positive side effect was also the fact that the quite deserted discussion forum of past days was reactivated (altogether 21 posts in comparison to 0 beforehand!). A negative point: the possibility of working on the essay tasks in an open format for everyone to see was only used on a limited basis (5-8 tasks) even though there was a solution sheet provided here as well. In the future we will have to consider other formats for the tutorial (i.e. mid-term exams) or if the correct answer is only displayed if the test has actually been completed. Here we have to see how this can be stemmed and worked out (it is a comparative high level of work being undertaken, if there is an evaluation or feedback given or none at all). 

Further information

Support offered by CeDiS

  • Consulting services for the implementation of digital solutions in teaching: The Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) has extensive experience of many years when it comes to the implementation of digital media and systems within the fields of teaching, learning and research. We offer a wide variety of consulting services on the implementation of these tools and systems within the entire academic scope and especially at Freie Universität Berlin. 
  • Training courses and workshops: For lecturers at Freie Universität Berlin (professors, employees, tutors) as well as lecturers of other universities CeDiS offers training courses and workshops on the topic of teaching and learning with digital media. These course enable participants to implement online elements within their own sphere of teaching.
  • The Executive Board of the Freie Universität supports e-learning initiatives: With the e-learning funding program financial resources are provided to lecturers that enrich and improve their courses quality-wise by implementing technological and media-related support. All of the academic staff teaching, the lecturers or even the institutions of the Freie Universität - without the Charité-Universitätsmedizin - can be supported within this program. 
Write a comment...