Improving university students’ assessment-related online work

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Introduction: The purpose of this study was to examine how university students read their online assessment tasks and associated readings while focusing on the essential elements of their assessment task and online readings. Under scrutiny was their use of retrieval tools, manipulation of search terms and results, and their reading patterns to investigate the assessment support structures.
Method: Participants were senior undergraduate students in a study using a mixed methods approach. Students’ behaviour in response to an online assessment task was monitored and digitally recorded, and follow-up interviews were conducted. Analysis: The observations and interviews were analysed to develop categories and themes of assessment related to reading behaviour and information tools usage.
Results: Findings suggest that even experienced university students need support when undertaking online assessment because they often miss key elements in assessment task descriptions, resulting in the formation of ineffectual search terms. Online reading was often unfocused as students searched for perceived keywords in-text, and the selection of subsequent search terms was typically derived from recently browsed materials.
Conclusion: Additional scaffolding of assessments and online readings may improve student understanding of the assessment and reading tasks, and result in effective information searching practices leading to better research outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInformation Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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