Innovation and change are embedded in the way Michael Vitale teaches. Currently a lecturer at The University of Melbourne, he takes an Entrepreneurship subject in the School of Engineering. The class focuses on learning-by-doing. “Students form groups around problems and work as a team to solve that problem throughout the semester. They learn the lean start-up model and report on their experiences through a blog”. Having founded start-ups himself, Michael understands the importance of students developing transferable and collaborative skills they can take into the workplace. “Students need to learn to solve complex problems by working together. They need to learn how to formulate a hypothesis and test their assumptions”.
Of these skills, he identifies self-reflection to be an important one. “If you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to learn how to reflect on what you’ve learnt, what you don’t know, where you can improve, and what you understand”. Students were initially asked to complete a 1000 word reflection on their experience in the unit at the end of the semester. “I chose one big assignment because I couldn’t figure out how to manage multiple smaller ones. It was very unsatisfactory”. Michael noticed that students weren’t very good at reflective writing, but given the structure and timing of the assessment, there was very little he could do to provide effective feedback the students could action. “Although students had done reflective writing before, many needed more practice and support to master the skill”.
By using Cadmus, Michael was able to shift from one major task to multiple weekly reflective assessments for the class. With Cadmus’ LMS integration and in-built class list features, what seemed like an impossible management task became simple. “When Cadmus came along, I could actually handle the admin”, he says. Using the class list in Cadmus, he was easily able to track how many students had submitted the weekly tasks, get an overview of similarity scores, and then quickly provide feedback on students’ work. With the Learning Analytics from Cadmus as well, Michael could also see if the class was engaging with the feedback, and how long students were taking to complete the assessment task. “That was good, useful information. If I found out students were taking 2 hours, I knew something was wrong with the assignment, and I would change it”.
Using Cadmus also made it easy for Michael to make any changes to his instructions based on feedback from students. He became more flexible in his teaching, addressing concerns as they came up. “I could fix errors in an instant and know that students always had the most up to date instructions to work off”. Michael’s students felt positive about using the tool as well. Everything they needed, including the extra readings he attached to the weekly tasks, were all available in Cadmus where they worked. “They liked the look of it, and it was easy to use. Everything was in one place”.
Across the semester, Michael found he was regularly getting submission rates above 90% for his assignment. “This was fantastic to see - it was really high, consistent engagement across the whole 12 weeks”. However, the most significant change that Michael saw was in his own teaching. “If students are consistently doing little assignments, you have the opportunity to get close to real-time feedback on student understanding”. Paired with the Learning Analytics from Cadmus, Michael was able to identify gaps in student knowledge and learning processes. He found he was able to be more flexible in his teaching, finding opportunities to step in throughout the semester to clarify understanding and settle student confusion.
“On a plain old admin basis, Cadmus is better. But at a higher level, more profoundly, the tool encourages you to think more often and more deeply about what you’re trying to assess the students on, and why you’re assessing it. And then it’s about figuring out if they’re really getting it”.