On-line assessment in a masters-level policy subject

Participation in an on-line forum as part of assessment

John Casey
Charles Sturt University

Discipline Area

Public policy development

Key assessment issue addressed

  • Use of assessment to create better contact and dialogue between students and staff in a distance/online learning environment.
  • Use of online forums for peer review
  • Use of online forums for assessment based on discussion of current events.

The initiative

Instead of the traditional essay for Assignment 3 in my distance education Masters subject GPM502 Politics, Power, and Public Policy, I required students to post work on the Online Forum. The students had to post the following:

  • A critical review of one of the readings in the Module;
  • A commentary on how a current event reflects changes in how policing and crime polices are being developed;
  • A response/review of another student’s review of a reading
  • A response/review of another student’s commentary on the policy process.

After having put all their work on the Online Forum, the students were required to print out a single compendium of their postings and submit that through the normal assignment submission channels.

The following observations can be made about the initiative:

  • I found the students’ work to be of higher than normal standard. The fact that the students’ work would be public meant that they spent more time and care in preparing postings. Students were surprisingly good at responding to each other’s work.
  • For many of them, it was the first chance they have had in the Masters program to see each other’s work.
  • Because the quality of the students' work was high and there was a sense of cross-evaluation between them, I found that the compendiums the students submitted were actually easier to mark and took less time than more traditional papers. This was also perhaps because they were submitting four shorter answers.
  • Given that all the students’ work was online, I was able to indicate to them which students got the best mark (I did this with the permission of the student involved). This allowed all students to “benchmark” against an HD student.

The reason for the initiative's effectiveness

I regard the online assessment trial as an unqualified success that increased student interaction and improved the quality of their work, while at the same time reducing the burden on the lecturer.

Further details

Dr. John Casey
Senior Lecturer,
Australian Graduate School of Policing
Charles Sturt University


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