Publication Details

Bedford, S. B. & Price, G. J. (2007). A study into the use of computer aided assessment to enhance formative assessment during the early stages of undergraduate chemistry courses. Proceedings of the 11th CAA - International Computer Assisted Assessment Conference (pp. 57-69). United Kingdom: Loughborough University.


A Virtual Learning Environment (WebCT and latter Moodle) was used to provide students with instant, meaningful feedback on their study of chemistry units during their first semester at University. Short multiple choice questions (MCQ's) were written covering each segment of material delivered in lectures and made available to students over the University computer intranet to allow "24/7" access. The most important aspect of the work was the feedback offered to students within the questions, which was written by undergraduate students to ensure its usefulness. The vast majority of the cohort used the MCQ's, most to gain formative feedback and some as a revision aid prior to summative examinations. During the evaluation, students reported that they found the ready access useful and helpful in learning the material. Some students used the MCQ's in preference to visiting tutors face to face (f2f) but most expressed a preference for the usual tutorial programme over such CAL methods. Most of the cohort used the feedback from the MCQ's to guide their revision, but again were not prepared to use CAL to replace f2f contact with tutors. Our work meets a number of the published conditions for effective feedback to occur. For example, it is immediate, timely and allows students to receive frequent feedback at a level which means that it can be used to inform further study. In the first year of using the MCQ's, there was a significant increase in the average marks in the end of unit examinations and a decrease in the drop-out rate during Semester 1. Although firm conclusions cannot be drawn from one year's data, these results together with the very positive reaction from the students encourage us to further develop the approach into the open source VLE Moodle, which allowed us to address some of the issues.