the e-Assessment Association

University of Reading – The EMA Programme

University of Reading – The EMA Programme

In 2014, the University outlined a vision for summative coursework to be submitted, marked, and feedback provided electronically to improve the student and staff experience of assessment.

At that time, the University was experiencing pockets of online assessment and didn’t really have an institution wide approach. Also, a significant amount of the University’s assessment data was being managed using complex spreadsheets. These were time consuming to maintain and also meant that the University couldn’t collect more detailed information about the type, amount and timing of assessment and it didn’t have a record of all individual assessment marks in the student records systems for students to view.


In response, a new 3 year EMA Programme was created to run from 2017 until 2020 to deliver this vision and address existing challenges.

To successfully deliver, the team worked very closely with each school within the University to understand their different requirements and collaboratively map complex assessment journey processes-who does what, when and how-as assessments are submitted. The Team then worked
intensively with two ‘early adopter’ schools to introduce online marking in September 2017 and then across almost all other schools in September 2018.

Feedback was very positive. A survey of 419 students showed that 94% of responders were broadly in favour of the University’s move towards online assessment and 89% said that they were more satisfied with their experience of submitting assignments and receiving feedback online than if the process was done using paper.

We supported this with an extensive communications plan involving 26 different types of contact to really meaningfully engage with staff and students involved to make sure that we weren’t just ‘imposing a solution’ and could ensure ‘business as usual’ after Programme closure.

At the same time we completed a really complex piece of work to enable thousands of individual summative assessment marks to be recorded in our student records system for the first time, almost eliminating the use of numerous spreadsheets by administrators. Since we made this information available in January 2018, there have been 71,877 student views of this information and 49,415 staff views.

This work has enabled us to develop a new, sector-leading Student Progress Dashboard (see below) which uses the detailed information now in our student records system to show students and staff how much summative assessment students have completed, what their progress looks like in a series of
graphics and how this attainment compares to the goals that students can (optionally) set for themselves.

Mock student for sc


The team have also gone on to undertake successful, sector leading, work on integration between our Virtual Learning Environment, Blackboard, and our student records system (SITS) so that submission points are automatically created in Blackboard and marks can be transferred across from Blackboard to SITS.

Communications, training and support for colleagues have been hugely important to ensure we all understand the ways of working and make the optimum use of all the new data. We developed text and video case studies on our site, an innovative online map which orders resources around an assessment cycle and we’ve run over 200 in-person and online briefings and training sessions. We’ve also supported colleagues in other institutions, working, in person, with senior management providing advice, presented at 18 national conferences and ran our own national conference for 74
delegates from 34 institutions.

Overall, the EMA Programme has managed transformational change over the last few years within the University to support significant change to assessment practices and increases in access to assessment data for both staff and students.

To read more about the EMA Programme click here.

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