Saturday, 7 December 2013

Is Internal Moderation lagging behind on the technology front?

I admit defeat.  I'm sorry to say that this term, I've submitted work for internal moderation in the traditional, paper based format.

I teach Photoshop and Web Design classes in an adult education / community education based setting.  I've been teaching various web design classes since 2008 and or so, and when I first started teaching them, I always submitted learner portfolios as printed sheets.  These rapidly became very cumbersome and didn't truly reflect the student's skills.

So for the past 3 years I've been using electronic portfolios.  This makes perfect sense to me - yes, the internal moderator can look at printed code and check to see if there are the expected tags in a document, but the real test of whether a website does what it's supposed to do is to look at it on a browser.  I've tried to make these portfolios as accessible as possible, getting the learners to put their work together in an overarching website, with clear links to all the criteria.  Where the work has been done, but the portfolio isn't clear in it's signposting, I've added tutor links to help guide the internal moderator through the sites to find the criteria. The files has been submitted on a memory stick, with simple printed instructions on how to locate the first file.

It has always caused problems.  The first stage of internal verification isn't too difficult, as I can be on hand to answer any questions.  However, it's when the files go to formal internal moderation away from our teaching centre that the trouble starts.  Firstly, we have to request a lap top and sometimes a network connection if a learner has uploaded work to a live server.  Should we really need to request a lap top at these events?  Surely in the digital age, the need for at least one lap top is without question.  Then, the moderators take the portfolios for assessment.  I have seen instances where my files have been collected, and then returned to the in trays, unmarked, once the memory stick has been spotted.  On occasions where I have not been at the event, I have had the work return unmarked, with comments such as 'the files couldn't be accessed', when I know darned well that they could be - having asked a colleague to see if they could 'find' the files on the memory stick.  I have even witnessed portfolios being signed off without the memory stick even being put into a computer because it was clearly just too much trouble to look at the electronic version.

So this term I've printed all the paperwork out.  I suppose in many ways it has been easier.  I've marked up the criteria with a pencil, and added the page numbers manually to the criteria list.  I've sat at a desk and reviewed all the work, and I can flick through the mountain of papers and check each and every criteria without leaving my chair.  Furthermore, I know that the portfolios will go off to moderation without any issues whatsoever.  I won't be waiting with baited breath to see if they got moderated at all, and if they did, were they successfully accessed.

What is sad is that I don't believe the moderators are getting a true flavour of what my learners have achieved.  A paper printout of website or digital graphic is no substitute for the online version in all it's multicoloured, interactive glory.  The moderator cannot comment on how great the drop down menus were, or how professional a website looks if they only see the static, black and white printout.

Does the moderation process need kicking into the 21st Century?  Should we, as tutors, be able to expect that IT facilities will be available for viewing IT projects at moderation events, without having to make special requests for such facilities?  In an age where, as tutors, we are encouraged to embrace digital literacy, and to encourage our students to do the same,  we are surely letting them down if we then get them to print out all their work, just so that someone less digitally savvy can sign it off at the end of the course.

I'd be very interested to hear others comments on this topic.  In the meantime, I apologise to all those trees for failing to hit my eco targets this term, and to the poor tutor who has to lug all those heavy files to moderation.


  1. The issue is not just in IT based subjects. Students are experts at adding content to website in may ways due to social media etc. then teachers ask them to create electronic content and expect printed copy for marking. VLE's have very tried and tested assignments submission methods and tracking systems but lack of support for these systems still sees most assignments created in some form of Microsoft Office format and printed to satisfy the quality processes.
    This year most of my work has been introducing electronic submission of work across all subject areas and am pleased with the progress, especially in Construction and Care. We are slowly getting to a process where marking is do online. City & Guilds have made great headway with their ePortfolio systems and I am working with Community Eduction to promote Moodle as a method of assessment submission. The systems are there how ever the answer to the question you posed is still a resounding yes. The Moderation systems are old fashioned and need to change.
    Before I started my current role I taught in Community Education. My External Moderator was very digital literate. We shared files and communicated electronically from a far. The quality was never questioned. We met once. That was 6 years ago.

  2. Thanks for your comments Neil. I’ve always been really pleased with my digital portfolios, and it seems a really backwards step to start printing them again, but until moderation catches up, I can’t risk the work being returned over and over again, as it was last year. I'll keep encouraging the learners to build portfolios, but I will print them out at the end of the course, ready for moderation.

    Interestingly, I was chatting to a colleague who had the same issue with ECDL Advanced a few years back. A whole year's worth of online work was returned from moderation without being passed as the moderators wanted it printed out.

    The question is, who is responsible for promoting online portfolios to the moderators??