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Optimising the flipped classroom and group assessment at Monash University

Nhi Nguyen
|
November 4, 2022
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Context

About the institution

Monash Business School represents all Australian-based operations of the Faculty of Business and Economics, operating on three of Monash University’s four campuses in and around the city of Melbourne – Clayton, Caulfield and Peninsula.

About the instructor

Dr. Jess Mitchell currently works as a lecturer in the Department of Management at the Monash Business School. Dr. Mitchell has more than 25 years of university teaching experience specialising in management, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation across universities in Australia

Course information

  • Name: Introduction to Management
  • Size: 650 students
  • Course design: Online
  • LMS: Moodle

Constructive alignment

Learning objectives

The challenge: A decrease student engagement and interaction with asynchronous materials

Since 2019, Dr. Jess Mitchell has been in charge of running the first-year Introduction to Management course, (MGC1010) at Monash. Even though this course is designed for freshmen, second- and third- year students taking double degrees usually make up about half of the class, leading to great variation among students’ disciplines, levels and backgrounds. Dr Mitchell remarked that this “builds up the level of complexity in delivering the unit to the students”.

The flipped classroom was used to model the redesign of this introduction unit, as this approach was seen to be most fitting with the learning objectives. The course involves students working on a case study to develop analytical, research, and report writing skills. Collaboration also remains a key learning skill, being integrated into both assessment and weekly activities.

Before the pandemic, the course was conducted face-to-face, with instructors distributing case studies for students to download and annotate on their computers. In-class group discussions were then organized following the preparation stage for students to exchange thoughts on the study materials. During these sessions, instructors would evaluate students’ participation and contribution during the group discussions based on a rubric. With all the input from prior reading and discussion, students worked together to complete worksheets detailing questions or tasks related to the case study.

The emergency remote transition took the module online, as the group discussions were facilitated via Zoom, with students interacting with each other in breakout rooms. Unlike face-to-face settings, the lack of physical contact in the new setup resulted in a significant decrease in student engagement. This prompted Dr. Mitchell to search for an innovative solution that would help activate students during both the asynchronous and synchronous phases of the course. FeedbackFruits Interactive Document and Group Member Evaluation were chosen.

Learning activities

The solution: Incorporating FeedbackFruits Interactive Document and Group Member Evaluation

With Interactive Document, Dr. Mitchell took advantage of several functionalities to stimulate active interaction with pre-workshop content. At the same time, Group Member Evaluation was used to facilitate group assessment and self-reflection. Here is how the tools were incorporated throughout the unit:

In Interactive Document, teachers annotated case studies with explanations of terminologies, MCQ questions and discussion threads, allowing students to make their own annotations, make connections between a specific detail with a theoretical concept, and exchange thoughts with their peers. Grading distribution was enabled to allocate for certain steps being completed, like reading the document or answering all the questions.

With Group Member Evaluation, the instructor designed and issued a weekly group feedback activity. Students were required to evaluate their teammates’ performance and contribution based on a rubric. This activity aimed to let students learn from the received feedback and improve their work accordingly.

Assessment of learning outcomes

The outcome: A much more engaging and interactive learning experience

Using FeedbackFruits tools throughout the course greatly enhanced the engagement and performance of the student. According to Dr. Mitchell:

“I think this works better than the Forum in Moodle. Students don’t engage like this is discussion content in Moodle, but they do in FeedbackFruits.”

The in-line questions and discussion threads significantly encouraged students to go through the case study and actually ‘read’ the content. Furthermore, they were able to associate the relevant concepts “based on what they get from FeedbackFruits activities”.

“I don’t actually consider the scores students get from the questions or discussion points. For me, it is actually important that they went through the case study. I find that compared to last semester, this semester the students coming to the workshops are a lot more prepared in terms of the quality of the answers they provide to the questions.” - Dr. Jess Mitchell

After the course, the instructor conducted a student survey to measure the impact of Group Member Evaluation. The majority of respondents noted that the received feedback helped adjust their performance during the group activities, and provided valuable insights into how their work was perceived by others. This, as remarked by Dr. Mitchell, critically “stimulates critical self-reflection” among the students.

Since students develop in-depth understanding of the content and consciously monitor their group performance, and team worksheets completion is much much better as well.

Besides positive feedback, the responses revealed room for improvement, namely that students needed more instructions and guidelines on how to conduct effective peer evaluations. Most importantly, instructors should emphasise the importance of delivering objective, unbiased feedback based on the feedback rubric. Teaching good feedback practices remains a critical element of future-proof education.

Notable outcomes

Dr. Mitchell shared 6 key takeaways from integrating the FeedbackFruits tools

  1. Incentivise students to engage in the learning process through grades
  2. Nag, nag, and nag: Students need constant reminders of what needs to be done. Instructors can use the first week as the trial week to help students get the hang of the tool and the learning activities.
  3. Provide clear instructions of using the tools and how this would impact their grade.
  4. Think of the worst-case scenario and how to work around that. It is always helpful to configure grading for different steps of the feedback.
  5. Consider how the tools can enhance your synchronous lessons. “We found that the group evaluation gave students learning control and autonomy as they are supposed to evaluate themselves and their teammates.”
  6. Set it up right and forget it. If you make all the activity setups correct in the beginning, it will run smoothly afterwards.

You can watch the entire presentation by Dr. Mitchell here.

Conclusion

Keeping students engaged in a course, especially in online education, requires a high level of interactivity with course materials and assignments. Where courses rely on transmissive and traditional delivery approaches, such as long-format zoom lectures or passive reading exercises, student dissatisfaction, isolation, and dropout, are more common.

As a result, designing an engaging course requires creating space for students to actively participate with course material. Even activities such as text-reading or video-watching can be completed in a collaborative space where questions and discussions are encouraged. This can result in a level of interactivity with course material surpassing even physical classrooms, hence developing essential collaboration and critical thinking skills - the basis of career-readiness and future student success.

Further resources

Read more success stories in which instructors successfully leveraged the power of pedagogical technology to elevate education quality:

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