Technological change as a force for good: when the Jedi get working

Kantirou, Maria and Rossade, Klaus-Dieter (2021). Technological change as a force for good: when the Jedi get working. In: Proceedings of the Innovating Higher Education Conference 2021 (Ubachs, George; Meuleman, Stefan and Antonaci, Alessandra eds.), EADTU, The Netherlands, pp. 386–400.



The implementation of a new digital assessment system at the Open University (OU) marked the start of an ambitious programme of work that put the student experience at the heart of its vision and structure. Assessment design, operations and policies, the user experience of students, markers, and the development of technology became key drivers for the design and structure of the programme, and a future operating model. UNIwise was chosen to provide the technical solution.

This paper discusses the work of the Exams and Assignment Impementation programme since January 2020. Changing the way we assess 175,000 students on 500 courses, with close to 750,000 assignments marked by over 4000 tutors in a year, is complex, and requires careful stakeholder engagement and sensitivity to established practices. Two further university large-scale change programmes running simultaneously, and the Covid-19 pandemic, added to the challenges.

We share some of the obstacles and how we addressed them. We explain the vision, structure and communication strategy and their impact so far. We also discuss how we built partnerships with key stakeholders, while developing a ‘true’ partnership with our technology provider UNIwise to enhance the possibilities of the new system. This is likely to deliver win-win solutions within a multi-stakeholder context with students at the centre, and, in time, also new ways of assessment at the OU. In the process, we are creating communities of practice, starting with a group of “WISEflow-Jedis” who will, we hope, tap into the ‘force’ to make digital assessment a lasting success.

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