2. Designing activities for online collaborative design

This section looks mainly at the issues around having multiple institutions involved in the same course. We are presuming in this case that (as in the BIM Hub project) teams from more than one university are engaged in different modules (each at their own university) but have a collaborative exercise as part of all of those modules.

2.1 Make sure all the students get the same design brief

Have a single web-based location for all of the resources that the students need at all of the institutions, particularly the design brief. This avoids any issues with a single institution changing an element and other institutions not keeping up with the changes. It also means that, not only do the students see the information that they need, they see all the information that all the other students get too, which will give them a better understanding of their needs. In all cases, consistency (of e.g. task, language, instruction) is the key.

2.2 Allow students to see each other’s assessment criteria

If you have different demands on each set of students, it is useful for each set of students to know their team-mates’ needs with regard to their assessments. Encourage them to discuss this in their meeting.

2.3 Moderate students’ marks so similar scores accrue for students for the same results

Students’ concern about assessment was fairness of marks across the teams. Marking scheme should be agreed before the start of the semester. If an institution adopts different standard of grading system from the others’, multiplying the marks with a conversion factor may be considered.

2.4 Match schedules as much as possible

The biggest problem with running a single activity across multiple institutions is that semesters start and end at different times, and also that exams or reading weeks also have an impact on the time that students have to work on the activity. When designing the activity, with regard to submission dates, make sure that the schedules at all the institutions are made clear and are taken into account.

2.5 Design peer assessment activities so that they are equivalent

Building in peer assessment is useful when constructing teamwork activities as they enable any variance in overall effort to be recognised in the marking, in theory at least. However, students expressed concern that team members would be biased towards their teammates from their own institution. This is particularly a problem for them if one set of students gets more marks from peer assessment than another set. Setting the level of marks from peer assessment the same for all institutions at least introduces more apparent fairness into the system.

2.6 Include tasks outside of the specific subject disciplines of the contributing students

Because of the divisive nature of the task allocation along lines appropriate to their degree specialisms (see guidance notes for #4) students felt that including tasks that were on subjects that were unfamiliar would lead to tasks in which they were more likely to co-operate. They also felt that this would be a more authentic work-like experience.

2.7 Be aware of the limits to the authenticity of any task set within a degree programme

Although the design brief and the construction of teams did simulate an actual working brief that the students would experience in the workplace, the students still conducted some tasks as an exercise to gain marks for that section. Students will still be strategic about assigning tasks and completing them in order to meet the assessment criteria, rather than only focusing on those elements needed to complete the project.