Assessing Art & Design Under Quarantine

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


Soon after UK universities’ decision to migrate to online delivery and assessment, creative arts programmes faced the challenge of exploring alternative assessment strategies, where assignments could not be straightforwardly adapted for online submission while meeting the requirements of existing assignment briefs. While some existing assignments (such as essays or sketchbooks) could be easily digitized or already existed in a digital format, many coursework assignments required students to submit physical work that could not be completed without access to specialist equipment, or straightforwardly digitized for online submission. This presentation documents a range of solutions to these challenges that are so successful that they may be held up as examples of good practice and maintained after the return to on-campus delivery. It identifies how the lockdown challenged academics to reflect on the extent to which there is room for flexibility and creativity in assessment that has not been previously recognised.
While it is possible to learn a great deal from distance learning programmes, on-campus programme teams could not entirely replicate the practices used in distance learning. Solutions needed to be sought that were appropriate in programmes that have an on-campus culture, and that take account of work that has already been started in the studio or workshop. As a result, the solutions were both appropriate for online and transferable to on-campus delivery, and could be replicated in the future as part of long-term improvements to programme assessment strategies.
Reflecting on the benchmark statements that underpin assessment criteria across UK universities, this presentation suggests that the Covid-19 lockdown might actually enable opportunities for programmes to test Learning Outcomes by presenting real-world constraints and challenges. Throughout the QAA Subject Benchmark for Art and Design (2017, pp. 16-18) there is acknowledgement of the importance of students’ ability to “accommodate change and uncertainty” and to “be resourceful”. The lockdown has provided unique opportunities to test students’ ability to “anticipate and accommodate change”. Required to operate outside of the studio setting, and without access to specialist equipment, students are being challenged to develop new self-management skills that are in line with the QAA’s instruction that student’s should demonstrate an ability to “work within contexts of ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity”.
Far from being compromises, revised assignment briefs can prompt flexible and creative alternative approaches to practice, and could be maintained after the return to campus as examples of good practice in assessment. These briefs can imposed creative constraints in authentic assessments that test students’ ability to be resourceful and accommodate uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2020
EventELIA: Re-imagining Higher Arts Education Online -
Duration: 30 Apr 202030 Apr 2020


SeminarELIA: Re-imagining Higher Arts Education Online


  • Assessment
  • Learning
  • teaching
  • Quality Assurance
  • art
  • design
  • pedagogy
  • covid-19
  • distance learning
  • Blended learning


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