The Electronic Management of Assessment Programme (EMA) was created to deliver the University's long-term vision for online assessment, while improving the underlying processes and supporting systems so that the University could achieve three core objectives:

  1. To enable a consistently good student assessment experience, not just in terms of delivering a more efficient process, but one that brings significant pedagogical benefits promoting effective student learning.
  2. To provide an improved and supported assessment experience for staff, with particular focus on the effective use of staff time.
  3. To reduce the administrative burden of assessment for the University, with a particular focus on the provision of technical solutions to ease staff workloads

Assessment and feedback involves a complex set of processes. Moving to electronic management of assessment brings a wide range of benefits to support and streamline these processes as well as promoting effective student learning. It also contributes to wider, strategic aims to meet rising student expectations and improve the student experience.

Please go to our Benefits page to find out more about the benefits of EMA from University of Reading colleagues.

Programme Overview

Interview: Programme Sponsor

EMA Programme Background

The EMA Programme ran from January 2017 until January 2020 and was sponsored by Professor Gavin Brooks, who is accountable for successful delivery. The Programme was led by Professor Emma Mayhew, Academic Director, and Shelley Connor, who led on programme management.

The Academic Director provided the interface between the Programme and the University, while supporting the work of the Programme Manager. The Programme Manager was responsible for the successful delivery of the whole Programme. Each work stream had a Project Manager who was responsible for the day-to-day management of the project(s) within their work steam. The EMA Programme Team was made up of colleagues brought in specifically to undertake the work, including experienced staff from existing teams. More broadly, the work of the programme relied on input from academic and student communities, as well as support from teams across the university, in order to ensure success.

To find out more about EMA colleagues, please visit the EMA Partners page.

What did EMA deliver?

At the end of the Programme, in January 2020, more consistent, effective and efficient approaches to electronic management of assessment were developed across the University to help improve the student and staff experience. This included, as standard:

  1. The majority of summative coursework (where practical) being graded, moderated and feedback provided online.
  2. Improvements to key systems and processes, including movement towards greater integration between Blackboard and RISIS, to allow information to flow between systems more easily.
  3. Individual assessment data (or sub modular marks data) being available online, to be used in a variety of ways to support the assessment and feedback process, including the development of a range of new assessment reports.
  4. A consolidated view of individual student progress being available to students and appropriate staff.

What happened during the Programme?

During the 17/18 academic year, the management of sub modular marks for each piece of summative assessment (for undergraduate students) was transferred from spreadsheets to the Student Record System (SITS/RISIS). In the 18/19 academic year, sub modular marks for Postgraduate Taught modules and Foundation modules were also moved, and are now managed in RISIS. New information screens for students and staff were made available, as well as the ability to track turnaround time in RISIS, online submission of extenuating circumstances, and an assessment deadline “heat map” to help identify busy periods.

Also during 17/18, the Programme worked closely with 2 early-adopter schools to identify optimum processes for electronic submission, feedback and grading (eSFG). During spring 18, planning sessions were held with the T&L Deans and senior colleagues in other schools to understand discipline-specific needs, followed by a series of detailed school-by-school process workshops.  Feedback has been obtained from these experiences to inform further adjustments, as well as drawing upon follow-up sessions with SDTLs/Heads of Schools and a detailed staff survey exploring the experiences of academic colleagues. A variety of training approaches have been provided using multiple methods to suit different needs, along with one-to-one sessions to support schools as they transition.

The 2018/19 academic year marked an important milestone in the achievement of the University’s long-term vision for online assessment, with the majority of remaining schools moving to increased electronic submission, marking and feedback from Autumn 18.

Increased automation between RISIS and Blackboard was introduced from January 2019, enabling a) the passing of assessment information from RISIS to Blackboard, and the automatic creation of submission points, as well as b) automatic transferal of the provisional mark from Blackboard/Turnitin to RISIS.

The increased amount of data now available has created the opportunity for better reporting and analytical capabilities to measure progress, to inform pedagogical practice and to enhance attainment and pastoral care. For example, academic tutors can now see individual tutee marks as they are available and support staff can view new reports which show which students have not submitted work.

Building on this, we launched a sector leading Student Progress Dashboard in November 2019 presenting students and staff with a series of screens displaying core student progress data. It shows how much summative assessment students have completed, what their progress looks like in a series of graphics and how attainment compares to goals that students can (optionally) set. The Dashboard has been designed to encourage students to engage and self-reflect on their progress by visualising attainment data and to enhance staff-student support conversations.

Timeline