BluePulse and continuous course feedback

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In this post, Graeme Ferris, a learning technologist in the Business School, describes a pilot project that uses a social feedback platform to engage students and staff in continuous course feedback…

Students’ experience of a course is a very dynamic process, which can be impacted on by so many things: the course design itself, but also, for example, interactions with peers and tutors, learning environments (physical and virtual) and even policies and procedures. Each iteration of a course really is a unique experience, with every cohort dynamically adapting to their own set of circumstances. How do we know whether students are having a positive experience of the course that they are engaged with?

Although potentially useful for future iterations of a course, end-of–semester feedback has a critical limitation in that any changes made won’t impact on the students who gave the feedback. Also, it doesn’t acknowledge the uniqueness of a particular cohort and how their specific dynamic and context has shaped that experience. Mid-semester feedback is a step forward, and issues may be picked up and addressed while the course is still in progress, which could have a positive impact on the student experience.

However, what if we could take that dynamic student experience and provide a mechanism for two-way, ongoing feedback throughout a course?

Bluepulse is a confidential and anonymous social feedback platform and is being piloted on a number of Business School courses. One tutor in the Law School is also taking part in the pilot. With BluePulse, feedback can be bi-directional and can be instigated by students or staff. This may include:

  • Quantitative feedback: Tutors can deliver scheduled Likert-scale questions or statements through Bluepulse and students can vote on them over the entire length of the course (e.g. “the pace of the lecture today was…”).
  • One-off polls on a particular question (e.g. “What do you think was the key learning point from the lecture today?”).
  • Qualitative feedback: Students can make anonymous and confidential comments, suggestions and open-ended statements at any time (limited to once per day).

It’s easy for tutors to follow up comments or to open a dialogue with students through BluePulse (maintaining anonymity), or to respond to feedback or suggestions more generally to all students on the course. Bluepulse is integrated with Learn, allowing easy access without the need for any other account. BluePulse mobile apps also provide an easy mechanism for viewing and posting course feedback. Tutors can monitor and respond to voting patterns, comments and suggestions over time through an easy to use dashboard. This has the potential benefits of:

  • Identifying issues with course content or delivery early-on.
  • Engaging students with the course, giving them a feeling that they are being listened to.
  • Identifying problems with students’ understanding of the course.
  • Positively impacting on the final end-of-course surveys.

What do staff and students in the pilot think?

It’s clear from the pilot that just providing a mechanism for ongoing feedback on its own isn’t enough. Although success has been limited so far, there is a clear correlation between how much a tutor promotes and uses BluePulse and whether students engage with it or not. Where that has happened, generally students have not only engaged with specific requests for feedback from the tutor, but have been more inclined to post their own unsolicited feedback comments too.

One tutor found BluePulse to be very valuable for her online course and another identified that on his course it didn’t naturally embed, but it was an effective way to engage with students. However, there have also been a number of tutors in the pilot who haven’t engaged with BluePulse much, and any activity through BluePulse on those courses has been minimal. Generally, feedback from students about the pilot so far suggests that they can see the potential of such a mechanism but that it needs to be more actively integrated into the course.

What’s Next?

A full evaluation of this year’s pilot will determine whether the use of BluePulse will be scaled up within the Business School going forward.

Further resources can be found here.

Graeme Ferris

Graeme joined the Business School as a learning technologist in 2013 and is currently the manager of the School’s Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team. Graeme’s primary role is to lead the TEL strand of the Digital Services team within the Business School, and help facilitate the School’s commitment to innovation in the use of learning technologies to enhance the learning and teaching experience of staff and students. Graeme has a particular interest in the intersection of complexity theory, technology and education.

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