Robot markers and online submissions: what will exam assessments look like in the future?

Article by SA Mathieson, Guardian Labs, (Transforming the student experience series paid for by Jisc), 20 February 2020

Throughout their study, students today routinely use virtual learning environments, online resources and other digital services. But at the end of their courses, many will be assessed using an old-school method: answers written with pen and paper in a few high-stakes hours.

“We’ve got quite an old-fashioned assessment system that hasn’t kept pace with student expectations,” says Chris Cobb, pro vice-chancellor of the University of London. “I don’t think I could write a start-to-finish essay with a pen nowadays. I don’t write like that any more.” Continue reading “Robot markers and online submissions: what will exam assessments look like in the future?”

How to build democracy with technology away from elections

There is a lot to be said for a British general election. It is brutally fast in delivering the people’s verdict. It uses technology that everyone can understand and is impossible to hack remotely. And in returning to Rick Wakeman’s prog-rock classic, the BBC has given it back its theme music.

But elections alone are a pretty thin form of democracy. Those who shifted from Labour to vote Conservative did so because of Jeremy Corbyn, because of the party’s far-left manifesto, because of Brexit, because they like Boris Johnson or a mix of these and others. The reasons will come out in surveys and interviews, but aren’t a formal part of the results and the government can ignore them. Continue reading “How to build democracy with technology away from elections”

How cloud computing helped one university to digitise the student experience

Article by SA Mathieson, Guardian Labs, (The Connected University series paid for by Staffordshire University), 4 December 2019

Until recently, a university that wished to remind students about lectures, answer their questions around the clock and provide personalised suggestions on which societies to join would have needed a call centre of support staff working shifts. Staffordshire University is now providing all of these services and others through its app, Beacon, a digital coach for students available on mobile devices accessed through voice and text. Continue reading “How cloud computing helped one university to digitise the student experience”

Mr Robot: will androids ever be able to convince people they’re human?

Article by SA Mathieson, Guardian Labs, (The Connected University series paid for by Staffordshire University), 29 November 2019

In his quest to build robots that can pass as human, Carl Strathearn has drawn on various fields including prosthetics, materials science, computing and animatronics – the last by talking to John Coppinger, designer of the Jabba the Hutt animatronic puppet used in the 1983 Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. “He helped me out in my master’s when I was doing research in advanced animatronics and gave me plenty of inspiration in my PhD,” says Strathearn. Continue reading “Mr Robot: will androids ever be able to convince people they’re human?”

Searching for specialist search services

General search engines are an amazing free service that participants in one piece of research valued as being worth US$17,530 a year. (Not sure about that, although DuckDuckGo did help me find said piece of research in seconds.) But as I write for Computer Weekly, professionals can benefit from more-focused search services.

Several of these specialist search services are aimed at journalists. Krzana focuses on recent material, linked to geography and subject to minimise time wasted by journalists in Birmingham sifting out news from the city of the same name in Alabama. The Inject Project aims to provide related but different material, such as similar stories in another country. (More on both these services from the NUJ Freelance newsletter here.) Image library Shutterstock has launched services that let users search for images with images. Continue reading “Searching for specialist search services”