Using Touchpoint to improve your topic ‘on the run’

The Touchpoint survey is a short survey that you can add to your topic which invites students to anonymously give feedback about their experience of the topic so far. Data from the survey remains with (is stored in) the topic. Touchpoint is a pre-configured Feedback tool.

The in-built (modifiable) questions are:

  1. How are you going with this topic so far?
  2. Is there any topic content (covered so far) that is not clear to you?
  3. Are you having any difficulties with the topic? If so, what?
  4. Could anything be improved about this topic or the teaching?

An example in practice
Learning Designer Nicola Parkin spoke recently to Dr Svetlana King from the Prideaux Centre for Research in Health Professions Education about how she uses Touchpoint in the postgraduate Clinical Education Programs.

The place of Touchpoint
In the Clinical Education Programs, Touchpoint is built into each topic, because its generic (modifiable) questions can be flexibly integrated into any topic.

The course uses Touchpoint as an ‘explicit’ feedback tool, as part of a multi-pronged approach for collecting information from students; other strategies include discussion forums and the Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET). However, unlike SETs, administered at conclusion of the topic, the Touchpoint survey allows you to gather feedback ‘on the run’ – while there is still time to incorporate changes into the topic. In this regard, Touchpoint is a tool for partnering with students in their learning in real time, as well as informing iterative improvements each time the topic is offered.

The Touchpoint survey is set by default to receive responses anonymously and privately. The anonymity of the tool gives students a licence to be more honest, and responses are candid. However, that same anonymity makes it harder to address specific concerns or follow up with particular students who may be struggling. (Note – you can suggest to students that they include their name if they would like a personalised follow-up. Alternatively, you can set the survey to non-anonymous – either way you must make this clear to the students).

The process
Like all tools, its efficacy lies in how it is used in practice. Svetlana makes the point that the key to Touchpoint’s success is actively promoting its use, acknowledging the input received, and responding accordingly.

Around Week 5, Svetlana unhides the tool and promotes it to students, telling them “I am really interested in what you have to say” followed by a few weekly reminders. Usually, there are only a few responses and getting students to contribute is challenging, raising the question of the representativeness of the wider cohort, but as every student’s experience is different, every piece of information provides important feedback. Typically, responses provide information about:

  • Personal challenges (e.g., time management, study plans)
  • Content and resources (both identifying useful resources and highlighting what seems to be missing).

Responses can be viewed in the tool and are only visible to teaching staff. Importantly, Svetlana addresses the responses in a discussion forum, by:

  • Acknowledging the (anonymous) students that have responded
  • ‘Communicating back’ the responses, if and as appropriate
  • Saying what has changed or will change, as a result of the input.

The benefits
Touchpoint provides a ‘check-in point’ for students that encourages them to take stock of their engagement and progress in the topic. Such practices are integral to the approaches used in the Clinical Education Programs.

For example, in the Clinical Education research topics, the Topic Coordinators have made a deliberate effort to incorporate purposeful reflection into both the content and the learning activities. Svetlana says, “Because our students are predominantly health professionals that have been trained in the clinical paradigm, they can encounter challenges in engaging with the educational paradigm, which can be foreign, and then applying this lens to research.

We have framed the challenges using threshold concepts, and have embedded a formal recognition of these challenges throughout the research topics”. In other words, the processes of reflecting and inputting to the topic are part of the methodology of the topic – not just reflecting ‘on’ the topic. This approach helps to validate students’ experiences while also providing opportunities to obtain feedback about the learning journey from students.

Svetlana is clear on the benefits: “It’s been helpful in identifying and addressing some of the challenges we have seen in the past. It gives students permission to be struggling with things, and provides opportunities to explain and reflect on their feelings. It is a licence to take off their ‘expert clinician’ hat and be a learner”.

For teaching staff, too, there is a chance to take stock. As Svetlana points out, “When I respond to students, I reflect on my own research journey and am deliberate in sharing this with students. Again, this helps to validate the challenges they may be experiencing. Additionally, it makes me more aware of my own assumptions”. 

Try it for yourself
To add the Touchpoint survey to your FLO site, make a request to your local eLearning support team via Service One.

Written by Nicola Parkin
Learning Designer – CILT

With special thanks to Svetlana King

Posted in
Ed tech

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