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Preparing students for the workplace: why I introduced digital assessments

Dr Rikke Duus, UCL School of Management, explains how she challenged traditional assessment design in response to an increasingly tech-driven world.

30 November 2018

To respond to an increasingly dynamic and tech-driven world, I created a module to give students in-depth insight into the impact of digital technology on business, society and people.

As well as measuring the progress of their learning, the assessments are designed to equip students with the practical digital skills employers expect of business and information management graduates.

Business in the Digital Age

The module 'Business in the Digital Age' is comprised of ten sessions and each week features a specific area. It is a mandatory module for 3rd and 4th year students on for BSc Information Management for Business in UCL's School of Management. It is also an elective module for students across UCL. 

Each week students work in teams and complete varies activities: 

  • business model innovation
  • customer journey mapping
  • write a blog post
  • develop newscasts on emerging technology, and; 
  • use design future, networked organisations.

Introducing digital assessment

In addition to developing a critical essay on the impact of digital transformation, students also undertake two tech-driven assessments:

Video assessment

The video assessment was adopted to provide students freedom of expression in relation to how they use and are affected by digital technology and the future of organisations. 

It required students to take an introspective approach and search not for the ‘right’ answers, but rather reflect on their own experiences as members of the digital native generation.

Interactive website 

The second assessment was novel in its use of the interactive website format.

Developing a website is a creative process that requires students to focus not just on the content of their work, but also to develop a professional and impactful platform to present it on. 

What does the assessment look like?

The students are required to develop their digital skills in creating the website and video. 

The video should be no more than 4-minutes and students reflect on what they as 'digital natives' gain and lose from being connected to digital technology and then how organisations should (or should not) adapt to this generation joining the workforce.

The website is created as part of a team. Here, students act as digital transformation consultants for a chosen organisation. They analyse the organisation's current performance, then suggest initiatives explained in a 'what?-why?-how?' format. The creation of the website means that they can share the outcomes with their professional network. 

Connecting students with employers

This year, students heard from cyber security experts from Microsoft, Ian Farr and Chris Ayres, and Dr Geoff Goodell, Deputy Executive Director of the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies. Cyber security and blockchain technology are two current strategic areas for organisations and students benefit from listening experts from the field.

Responding to employer demands 

Dr Duus explains that “it is critical for us to develop a curriculum that facilitates and supports students to acquire the skills that will help them to work in a digital and disruptive future.”  

Organisations want employees who are excited about exploring how digital technology can help enhance the organisation’s operations, customer engagement, supply chain, marketing and communications – and even disrupt the entire business model.

This course design is intended to inspire the students and stimulate their thinking about the impact of digital technology and the new opportunities organisations can take advantage of, while also giving them the platform to adopt digital technologies as part of their coursework.

How long did it take to introduce new assessment?

This course has evolved over the last 4 years since it was re-designed and re-launched by Dr Duus with a critical focus on addressing the strategic, operational and resource-based challenges that organisations face. 

The success of the module assessment requires the provision of clear guidance and setting expectations against assessment criteria.

Providing support to students

Comprehensive assessment information is provided in the first lecture for all three assessments and support is extended to students through the weekly office hour.

Dr Duus says: “I have developed detailed overviews of the content/sections students should cover in their projects. I was very impressed with the confidence students showed in developing their videos and the great enthusiasm with which they took on the development of the website.”

What was the feedback from students?

A very high level of engagement was achieved during the 10 weeks of the module. 

Students appreciated the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their technology usage and consumption. For the majority, it was the first time they had had the chance to develop a video as part of an assessed submission.

The students also embraced the role of digital transformation consultants and worked intensely to identify the organisation’s pain-points and design a new impactful digital solution.

The results of the students’ work were overall very impressive and a real sense of accomplishment and excitement was observable amongst the students.

Students who took the module, said:

One project I particularly liked was where we had to choose an organisation and propose a new digital initiative. We chose Zara and focussed on how they could develop new digital queues so that customers don’t have to physically queue anymore. We were able to do a website which we also sent to a Zara senior manager who liked the project so much that he invited us to their Head Quarters. Sina Dupslaff, Graduated in 2018 from BA Arts and Sciences

It was a very different course to anything I have ever studied before. It was probably one of the most enjoyable courses I took during my 2nd year at UCL. It is a very applicable and dynamic course that focusses on key trends and challenges that businesses, large and small alike, are facing in this digital era that we are living in. It is very much an interactive course, discussion is expected, it is really required! Jan Berge, BA History, Politics and Economics

​​​​​​Impacting students across UCL

180 students take this module each year, with the majority from the BSc Information Management for Business programme and approx. 40-45 students from other faculties across UCL:

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • School of Slavonic and East European Studies
  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Faculty of Laws
  • Department of Mathematics

What are your plans for future development?

A very high level of engagement was achieved during the 10 weeks of the module. 

Students appreciated the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their technology usage and consumption. For the majority, it was the first time they had had the chance to develop a video as part of an assessed submission.

The students also embraced the role of digital transformation consultants and worked intensely to identify the organisation’s pain-points and design a new impactful digital solution.

The results of the students’ work were overall very impressive and a real sense of accomplishment and excitement was observable amongst the students.

Impacting students across UCL

180 students take this module each year, with the majority from the BSc Information Management for Business programme and approx. 40-45 students from other faculties across UCL:

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • School of Slavonic and East European Studies
  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Faculty of Laws
  • Department of Mathematics

What are your plans for future development?

Each year the course content is reviewed to ensure that it reflects the latest developments in a complex and tech-driven business environment.

The module will evolve to meet the new demands of organisations and continue to engage students in active learning, application of knowledge and development of new skills for the digital business environment.

What advice would you give for anyone introducing digital assessment?

  1. When using digital technology as a core element of an assessment, it is important to be familiar with the technology yourself so that students can be guided and supported appropriately.  
  2. Set clear guidelines for what the project assessment should contain, but give students creative freedom in terms of how they choose to present the work
  3. Emphasise to students how the work they undertake can be useful beyond the academic context, for example to showcase to future employers.