Seminar: Assessing Group Work in Distance Learning

Assessing Groupwork slide

Assessing Groupwork presentation slides (ppt, 2.44Mb, click to view)

These slides are from the recent free seminar presented by Dr Sansom is based on her experiences working at the Open University. During the seminar Dr Sansom described some of the challenges involved in setting up group work assessment for a distance learning MSc in Medicinal Chemistry and some of the solutions found. The seminar was followed by a more general discussion about assessment of group work in distance learning.


“The Open University’s MSc in Medicinal Chemistry explores topics linking knowledge of organic chemistry and biochemistry with the design and development of medicinal drugs. It aims to teach a wide range of skills and techniques that are of practical relevance to graduates working in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug development is a collaborative process that involves work in multi-disciplinary teams. One of the compulsory modules in this course includes an assessed exercise in which the students work in small groups to design a drug molecule and then present it as a candidate for further development, as if to senior managers in a pharmaceutical company. The students work in groups of 4-7 to develop their drug, with each researching and/or predicting one aspect of its properties. The findings are then combined to form a group presentation which the students give using the e-conferencing system OU Live (a variant of Blackboard’s Collaborate). As this is the main part of the examinable component of this course, it is essential that we assess students on their individual abilities: ‘free-loading’ cannot be tolerated. Collaborative work is, however, one of the abilities assessed, and some very good students find this hard. Other challenges for assessment include differences between the students’ ‘role profiles’ and practical ones such as technical glitches and incompatible time zones.”

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