The Wider Context (B) Policy


The institution’s learning and teaching services are governed by the Learning and Teaching Assessment Strategy (LTAS) and the Regulatory framework. In relation to LTAS in my position as co-chair of the eteam group for the university we decided to implement the Gold, Silver, Bronze (GSB) block within Moodle. This allows for the monitoring and encouragement of staff engagement within modules, which ties into the LTAS objective of ‘'all eLearning modules will have an active component”.  The GSB block monitors the activities that have been included within a module and allocated a medal based on which criteria have been met. For example a Bronze medal may require that a discussion forum is available and that students have accessed the module a set number of times. The Silver medal may then be allocated if the Bronze criteria have been met plus there is a Quiz and a Glossary available. The decision was made to override the automatic nature of the block for Gold in order to prevent the allocation of medals being simply a checkbox exercise. For gold, members of the eteam ensure that the appropriate activities are available but also that there is evidence that the students are actively engaging. Beyond this is a Platinum level where students must recommend the module and a staff member from another discipline is required to check the quality of the provision against a prescribed set of criteria. The specific criteria is agreed by a VLE Development Group on an annual basis. This initiative was been piloted over the past year and has now been implemented across the institution.

Monthly GSB statistics are sent to the Heads of School (now Deans) which allows them to see which modules have achieved a medal. Some schools have opted to align annual S.M.A.R.T targets to achieving a particular level of medal. For example all modules within Science must achieve a bronze medal as the minimum standard whereas many of the Business modules are required to reach Silver and it has been recommended that distance learning modules aspire for Platinum. This expands the usage of the GSB block as it not only aligned to the LTAS achievement but will also aid in enhancing the students learning experience by having the lecturer reflect on their resources and activities within their module.

Regarding the Regulatory Framework, it is institutional policy that Turnitin is used for any assessment submission that would benefit. Despite being introduced to UWS in September 2009, staff queries and issues in relation to Turnitin are still an ongoing concern. Staff queries range from Moodle/Turnitin setting issues to discussions on the benefits of Turnitin and its suite of components (GradeMark, PeerMark). Despite it being an institutional policy, some staff are taking a minimalist approach which is resulting in the benefits identified in a recent LEAN investigation not being realised. This has resulted in assessment submission becoming less efficient due to some lecturing staff requesting students submit both on paper and electronically. This ongoing issue is being slowly addressed through the delivery of bespoke staff development by our team (including myself) and representation to the Subject Development Groups and Learning, Teaching and Assessment Board. In order to monitor progress, statistics are reported regularly to these groups.

Reflective Comment

My role as the co-chair of the eteam group has resulted in me gaining insight of not only our departments overall objective but the institutions as well. I now have an appreciation how much policy can influence the direction of the university and create change not only for the staff but for the students as well.

The introduction of the GSB block policy has resulted in us having a mechanism in which module engagement can be monitored; this in turn will provide lecturing staff with the information required for them to reflect on and see if they need to refine their module materials and learning. This will of course benefit the students, as they will have module materials that further enhance their learning experience.

 In relation to the GSB policy, the one major lesson I learned was;

 Have people external to the eteam involved in making the decisions for medal criteria and how they are awarded. Staff fill out an online form when applying for a module Gold medal, initially it was solely members of the eteam (including myself), who reviewed and awarded Gold medals to modules. Some staff questioned if this was wholly impartial, to resolve this it was decided our VLE Development group would be involved in designing the medal criteria with us and a member from this group would also be involved in awarding Gold medals to lecturing staff modules. By doing this the policy remains impartial and the marking criteria and policy are reviewed by both groups every September (before the start of the academic year) to ensure it is both relevant and up to date.

One significant concern is that while it is gratifying that some Schools have decided to build GSB within their SMART targets it is not the aim that this tool be used for a management purpose which may drive staff to simply go through the motions to get the medals. It is hoped that it can be maintained for the purpose for which it was intended which is to have staff re-examine their provision in order to provide the best possible student experience.

 Like the GSB policy, the Regulatory Framework in relation to Turnitin is very much an ongoing process. One that will involve the continued delivery of staff development and addressing issues that staff raise with the software. The LEAN investigation which identified significant efficiency gains that could be achieved will hopefully reinforce to staff the benefits of utilising Turnitin instead of paper based submissions. This is an example of possibly the most difficult area to be involved and that is a change agent. The tool and the technology are not particularly complex and staff with little technical capability have been able to adopt it whereas some staff who could adopt it easily appear to find difficulties at every corner. This appears to be simply a reluctance to change their existing methods immaterial of the evidence that supports such a change. As a change agent it has been necessary to be patient but also resolute.

The PEER project ( also identifies the significant advantages in learning that Peermark (one of the Turnitin suite of tools) could bring if staff can be convinced to supply greater control in the learning process to the students.

 In the case of the Regulatory Framework in relation to Turnitin, staff perception, engagement and mind set will have to be addressed if this policy is looking to be fully realised within the university. This can be hopefully done through bespoke staff development sessions and presentations and in conjunction with documentation that highlight the benefits of these policies and the technology associated with them.

Whatever the future holds in relation to these policies, I look forward to be involved in their direction and I am convinced they will influence the institution in a positive way.


I have highlighted the objective that the GSB block relates to.

Meeting notes VLE development group

VLE group meeting 12_12_2013.pdf

2MB | Monday, 18 August 2014 | Details

Please note, I have focused on the section of the meeting notes relevant ot the GSB policy and VLE group.

Assessment Handbook

Assessment Handbook 2013-14.pdf

56KB | Tuesday, 05 August 2014 | Details

Please note in the Assessment handbook, I have taken out the sections that were not of relevance to the use of Turnitin within the university.