COME 352: Media Effects is a course focused on the field of media psychology. Within the course, students learn about social scientific research, which also addresses core curriculum goals. One of the key formative assessments in the course is a series of reading guides that teach students about the topic of the week and how to understand empirical articles.
The way I conducted these assignments in previous semesters was by giving students a Word document, which they downloaded, filled out, and then uploaded to Moodle. After the assignment was turned in, I graded them in Moodle and we discussed the answers in class.
There were a few issues that I aimed to solve by redesigning the assignment. Some students inappropriately collaborated or copied from former students. Other students copied and pasted directly from the article rather than putting things in their own words (despite instructions to the contrary). Not only do these instances violate standards of academic integrity, but they undercut student learning. In addition, I suspected that I could enhance student learning by providing a more guided experience, especially early in the semester.
With these goals in mind, I looked for solutions across a variety of platforms, focusing on those that would easily integrate with Moodle. Ultimately, I hit upon two formats that I implemented during the semester, Google Forms and Google Assignments. Below is a summary of how each of these worked for my purposes as well as some of the pros and cons related to each that may be helpful to other instructors.
Phase 1: Google Forms
For the first few, I created reading guides in Google Forms that had multiple pages, each one focused on a particular aspect of the reading. On the article itself, I added different color stars that I then added to corresponding questions. I encouraged them to use these to learn about the structure of empirical articles.
Rather than sending students the Google Form to complete, I embedded it in a Moodle assignment. (This is easily accomplished by copying the embed code provided by Google and pasting it into the assignment description as html.) This way, the reading guide appeared in Moodle just like any other assignment with the article attached.
- Students are familiar with Google Forms and with the form available in Moodle virtually no technical support was needed.
- The Form provided a clear step-by-step process for students to follow.
- The Form gave students some idea of how much text was expected for each prompt.
- Students had to complete the whole assignment in one sitting. Google Forms doesn’t provide the option of saving your progress, and a few students reported that it timed out before they were able to submit their work.
- Grading had to be completed using Moodle in one window and Google Forms in another.
Phase 2: Google Assignments
For the later reading guides, I used Google Assignments. First, I created a Google Doc version of the reading guide. Then I created a Google Assignment in Moodle. The assignment description contained two links, a link to the article and a link to the reading guide with the instruction to “make a copy” of it. This way each student had their own copy of the reading guide as a Google Doc.
- Originality reports are fantastic. At a glance you can see each instance of unoriginal text. The student can see the same when they submit their assignment and make revisions before the due date.
- Commenting is easy, and comments are pushed to students. As with Moodle, you can create a bank of commonly used comments.
- Grades are automatically pushed to the Moodle gradebook.
- Students may need a bit of coaching on how to use Google Assignments, and with an instructor view very different from the student view, students often have to rely on each other or ITS for technical support.
- Grading is relatively slow. There’s a bit of processing that takes place between each student.
- Google Assignments don’t always load properly in Moodle. The most common issue is that they appear in a very small window, which the user has to try and scroll within to open the assignment.
- Google Assignment deadlines are not added to the Moodle course calendar.
I thought both versions of this assignment were superior to my previous iterations. The academic integrity issues I previously noted all but disappeared, presumably because the formats were more difficult to share and discouraged copying and pasting. Additionally, in my estimation the quality of students’ work increased over prior semesters, which reflects enhanced understanding of how knowledge is created in media psychology.
I also solicited students’ feedback on the assignments. The vast majority of the 28 students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that the reading guides helped them better understand social scientific articles. In terms of format, most students (54%) preferred the Google Doc version, some preferred the Google Form (28%), and a few had no preference (18%).
I don’t plan to use Google Forms again for reading guides because the Google Assignments were better in both my opinion and most students’. However, I have and will continue to use embedded Google Forms for other things. For example, during this semester of remote learning, I have used them to replicate in-class activities.