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Augmented reality and formative feedback together? Here’s how…

23 Feb 2024 | Rachel Dodd A first for Advance HE at the Teaching and Learning Conference 2023, Rachel Dodd showcased a teaching model with embedded formative feedback and assessment points via an augmented reality poster. What’s that? It’s like interactive images and information floating in three dimensions!

At our 2023 Teaching and Learning Conference, Rachel Dodd, Teesside University - with Mark Andrews of Adobe - shared their work on an Active Research project to embed formative assessment and feedback into a production-based practice. Objectives delivered were improved student experience, attainment and progression. Bonus achievements were increased student engagement through partnership and co-creation and improved efficacy of marking and feedback for colleagues. We invited to Rachel to tell us more...

So, what is this all about?  – Research Applied Practice or research in real life! – applying research on formative feedback and assessment in a live environment as part of an Active Research Project to create a practical case study. Our case study and results were presented in a novel way; via an Augmented Reality (AR) poster at Advance HE’s Teaching and Learning Conference 2023: ‘Shaping the future of HE’ .

What does it solve? – This active research project solved a number of potential issues:

  • Ensuring L5 learners new to a 40-credit interdisciplinary module could fully engage in a meaningful way, pass and progress to L6.
  • Structure the teaching schedule such that learners could orient themselves within a large cohort, while working in small interdisciplinary groups
  • Helped address anxiety by creating a step-by-step scaffolded experience with three clear check-in points where students could assess their own progress.

How readers can engage with this AR experience

  1. Firstly, read an outline of the project, then either access the results via a link to a web page or via a QR code to an Augmented Reality poster
  2. The QR code will take you to the AR posted in Adobe Aero (for Android phones you may need to download Aero first)
  3. The Aero app will prompt you to find a horizontal surface, click to anchor on this surface, and then the AR elements should appear through your screen. 
  4. Need more help? Contact Rachel and she’ll show you how!

What’s in it for the students?

“It’s like floating on a really calm river, with you gently nudging us along.” Student J D.

Let’s get to the core of it – what’s in it for the students? Answer, a clear step-by step phased module plan, with three balanced phases (research and planning; content creation; refinement) to maximise their output. But doesn’t that already exist? It would seem common sense, but not common practice. Module teaching plans don’t necessarily equate to a student work plan…

Translate academic content into student-friendly terms.

Talking of translation, here’s what we learned:

  • Translate what academics would call a module/teaching plan into a student plan or schedule
  • Create clear balanced phases, ideally three (3 x 4 weeks for a 12-week module) with defined targets for each phase
  • Provide a check-in point at the end of each phase (they prefer that to ‘Formative Feedback or Assessment’ – less scary and more amenable)
  • Adding a self-marking element (formative assessment) really crystalised the assessment criteria and indicated potential marks to students four weeks before submission (they loved that!)
  • Create a visual plan so they can see their progress on the journey and can orient themselves.

Results of this model

The Active Research project worked just as we hoped, which, considering it was the first time these students had experienced a non-compensable 40 credit module, it had to. Here are the headlines:

  • 100% pass rate
  • 100% progression to L6
  • 80% student satisfaction*
  • Students were ‘less stressed’ and on track ‘we knew exactly where we were’
  • Attendance and engagement were high
  • Two students who took part in 2022 supported this module as co-teachers and co-creators when this module ran a second time in 2023.
“I don’t understand why all modules aren’t like this.” Student JD

We’re running this Active Research Model a third time (Semester 2 2024), we’re thrilled that our live client is back for a third time, as is our industry partner who delivers masterclasses.

(*not all students completed survey)

What’s in it for the teaching team?

There were unexpected benefits for the five module tutors:

  • Less time needed for marking, second marking and moderating
  • More visibility of student work due to regular check-ins
  • Better insight of group and individual progress due to check-in points and student self-marking exercise
  • Reduced marking pressure as colleagues had a higher familiarity with student’s progress (due to regular exposure to work)
  • This module was lauded as an exemplar example of adherence to assessment and feedback policy, especially around reducing bias, because of interdisciplinary feedback points and marking method.

In comparison to teaching alone, team teaching and marking was not only a more enjoyable experience, but it was also more productive and efficient.

Why was the research done?

As an industry professional, I drew on best practice where projects are developed in an iterative way, based on subject specific skills in a project team environment with clear tasks, targets and regular check-in points for progress. I couldn’t find that such a module schedule existed for students, so applying common sense to something that wasn’t common practice, the three-phase delivery model was born. Building upon digital learning PGCLTHE research I focused upon formative feedback in practice. It turns out there are not many relatable case study examples, so I decided to create one.

Coincidentally, L5 students were embarking upon their first 40 credit module – ‘No pass, no progression’. This reality would land for them in January 2022 where their first year had been affected by a lack of on-site collaboration due to pandemic restrictions so, we had extra work to do to support them.

How was it done?

With approval from our School L&T team and SLAR, targeted planning, preparation and support documents were created. The module team briefed and coordinated by the module leader (me) and regular feedback surveys run with the students during and after the results were released. Students were filmed to capture their feedback and the results speak for themselves.

Where does AR come into it?

Well, Teesside is an Adobe Creative Campus, the first in the UK (and EMEA), so already trailblazers in that space we’re keen to stay there. Hence an opportunity – presenting a poster at the Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference 2023 – a poster with a difference…

Imagine the usual A1 or A0 poster crammed with words and diagrams. Anathema to a graphic or visual designer and not an effective means of communication, so I designed an AR poster instead aiming to:

  • Stand out boldly among other posters!
  • Be a memorable way to raise awareness of formative assessment delivery model
  • Provide a managed journey through the research project findings.

Medium or message?

Everyone loved it! Everyone was taken with how they could see and read information that appeared to float in the air before them. I really enjoyed the excitement of colleagues interact with new elements that didn’t really exist. Or did they? Advance HE’s Charles Knight even tweeted about it!

Everyone loved it! Everyone was taken with how they could see and read information that appeared to float in the air before them. I really enjoyed the excitement of colleagues interact with new elements that didn’t really exist. Or did they? Advance HE’s Charles Knight even tweeted about it! 

There was one memorable question from the conference; Does AR have anything to do with formative feedback? Not directly, however in this case the medium helped me get the message across. As Marshall McLuhan said, “the Medium is the message” so try the AR poster; watch McLuhan in an animated video here (or read his book) and decide for yourself. 

What next?

We’re evolving the delivery model with colleagues and students as co-creators. I’d love to hear of how other institutions are doing similar things, so please get in touch – (and if you need help with the AR poster too!) 

Reader take-away.

There is more information, student testimonials and templates you can use for your teaching.

Here’s the link to the full research activity summary and student video referenced above.


Rachel Dodd FHEA, MFA, Principal Lecturer (Learning & Teaching), SACI Art

Centre for Culture and Creativity, Teesside University.

Join us at  the Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference 2024 : Future-Focused Education: Innovation, Inclusion, and Impact, Nottingham Trent University City Campus 2-4 July, to discuss how we can work together to overcome challenges, learn from the work of others, and look to the future of teaching and learning in higher education across the globe. 

Join the conversation #TLConf24.


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