Revolutionising History Assessment using Reflect (WordPress)

Revolutionising History Assessment using Reflect (WordPress)

Reflect is a blogging platform provided for use by students and staff at UCL. It is UCL’s branding of the WordPress platforms: CampusPress and EduBlogs, and is what this blog, the Digital Assessment Team blog is written on. Reflect facilitates various educational purposes such as reflection on study experiences, portfolio building, project collaboration, knowledge sharing, and assessment.

In the following video case study Dr Jon Chandler, Associate Professor (Teaching) in History talks about how his students use Reflect to delivery part of their assessment in the Making History (HIST0008), a compulsory module for the entire first-year cohort, focusing on group research.

What we did and why

Jon ChandlerThe Making History module aims to introduce historical research, London’s history, and public communication. Students work collaboratively on projects that cover various historical aspects, culminating in two assessments: a website and a report to the Mayor of London. The website part of the assessment moved to UCL Reflect during the pandemic. Reflect offers both security, students have control over their project’s visibility, and simplicity, WordPress is so intuitive minimal guidance is needed. Dr Jon Chandler offers a brief 15 minute instructional video at the start of the year and a digital skills session but technical issues are rare and are usually easily solved with the help of the Faculty Learning Technology Lead. The module’s format fosters student autonomy, with clear expectations regarding content duration and format. Marking guidelines suggest a 20 minute  ‘content’ limit, and students receive guidance on estimating project length to ensure fairness.

Jon, as the module leader, has access to all student blogs and can monitor their progress throughout the term. Postgraduate Teaching Assistants (PGTAs) working within the team have limited access to just the students they mark, but students can decide to make the site public if they’d like to share more widely. While some students may leave things to the last minute, overall, there aren’t many issues with missed deadlines or extension requests. Blogs are frozen at the deadline, streamlining the submission process and reducing the need for extensions. This approach has been effective over the years, with generally positive student feedback. Students appreciate the hands-on experience with technology and the authentic learning it provides. Continuous feedback is facilitated through a formative progress review where students present their work, keeping the teaching team informed of any issues (such as problems with group dynamics).

The whole idea is that this is reflecting what academics do and what historians do in terms of communicating our research to the public. We all use the internet as an important way to communicate, whether that’s social media or whether it is project websites. We want to recreate that in this module.

The module aims to simulate real-world communication of historical research to the public, emphasising the importance of relevance and audience. This experience proves valuable for students when applying for jobs, demonstrating their ability to convey complex ideas to broader audiences. While WordPress remains a great tool due to its prevalence, Jon remains open to using evolving technologies, potentially integrating new formats or skills like AI into future assessments.

Jon’s top 5 tips for those wanting to use Reflect for assessment:

  1. Scaffold the process carefully.
  2. Provide guidance on research and marking criteria, ensuring students understand what is expected.
  3. Give students to opportunity to present work early as a formative task.
  4. Involve your Faculty Learning Technology Lead.
  5. Start thinking about how your students can use AI in the design process.