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Page history last edited by Martin Freney 11 years, 2 months ago

CAFAS stands for Computer Aided Feedback and Assessment System. It is currently under development by the University of South Australia with funding provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. It has been developed in collaboration with staff in the School of Architecture and Design, the School of Communication and the Learning and Teaching Unit, UniSA.

CAFAS was conceived of in 2005 and has been continuously under research and development since then. Funding from the Carrick institute was received in 2006 and has enabled the system to develop. Ongoing research into the efficacy of CAFAS is essential to the system’s future. Research reports will be regularly posted on this website and findings will be presented at conferences and published in journals.

It has been developed as an open-source, Creative Commons license so that it is free to use, and it is hoped that it will continue to develop and improve with input from other tertiary education organizations. It has been developed as a web-based application so that users of Macs and PCs can use CAFAS via their web browsing software.

CAFAS is an online version of the traditional paper-based “feedback form” (a.k.a. assessment sheet, feedback proforma) commonly used by academics to communicate feedback and assessment information to students. Typically this information includes marks, grades and written comments which contain advice on how students can improve their work and to justify why a particular grade/mark was given.

Integral to CAFAS is the concept of weighted assessment criteria. The important aspects of the assessment task (a.k.a. assignment, project, assessment) are called assessment criteria. It is important that the assessment criteria are clearly explained and given a weighting to convey their relative importance as this helps students understand where they should concentrate their efforts. Typically there are 3-5 assessment criteria used to assess an assignment.

CAFAS provides three methods for communicating a student’s performance in a particular assessment criterion. A “performance continuum” a “rubric” and comments boxes.

The performance continuum is a horizontal “slider” similar to a scroll bar. Staff can position the pointer anywhere along the sliding scale to indicate the student’s performance for a particular assessment criterion. Comments can then be typed into a comments box underneath the slider to help explain to students why they received a particular grade and how they can improve.

The rubric is a series of descriptors which define the criteria of a performance outcome. Typically one or two sentences would be used to explain what the attributes of the assignment for a particular grade.

Staff can tick a box to indicate to the student which descriptor is relevant to their assignment for a particular assessment criterion.


There is a Summary Comments Box for both rubric and slider feedback forms. Staff can type information into the box to advise students of how they have performed overall. A Class Feedback Comments Box provides an opportunity to give advice to all students on how to improve with the subsequent assignment.

Sliders have a comments box associated with them as the slider only conveys the general performance level. The comments box associated with the slider can be used to give more detailed feedback to the student relating to the result for that assessment criterion.

Comments boxes have a drop down menu which enables staff to quickly access standard comments from a database. The database can be prepared, preferably by the assessment team (coordinator and tutors) before assessment starts but it is also possible to develop the standard comments “on the fly” during the assessment process. It is anticipated that this functionality will help staff to quickly enter detailed comments that have been “designed” to communicate clearly. It is also possible to append additional customized comments to the standard comments so that the feedback can be tailored to the individual student.

CAFAS gives the staff member control over the visibility of marks (score out of 100) and grades so that it is possible to use CAFAS to provide formative feedback. In this case only the comments boxes for each assessment criterion are shown plus the Summary Comment. At a later time, after students have reworked their assignment based on the formative feedback, staff can re-evaluate the assignment, making the sliders visible for a summative assessment scheme.

A section of the feedback form is dedicated to “grade descriptors” and which enables the staff member to describe the necessary attributes and indicators to qualify for a particular grade.

Likewise a section for “graduate attributes” enables the staff member to describe how a particular assignment develops the various graduate attributes specific to a particular institution.

“Class feedback” can be provided to students as a way to communicate general comments about the performance of the class as a whole: what was generally done well and what aspects were misunderstood or overlooked. It is possible to publish a graph which displays the distribution of grades anonymously. This enables students to gauge their success in the context of their class mates’ performance.

CAFAS has been designed to enable it to be easily customized so that it can conform with the unique requirements of various tertiary education institutions. A drop down menu enables staff to select their institution from a list and this populates CAFAS with the relevant terminology and grade/mark schemes that are specific to that institution. For example the term used to describe the typical 12-14 week “subject” can also be referred to as a “course” or a “unit”. Grade/mark schemes also vary widely and this information is recorded in the CAFAS database so that staff do not have to enter this information manually.

CAFAS is able to export tables of grades and marks so that it can be manipulated in Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet software. The feedback forms can be exported as HTML files so that they can be included in course/unit/subject information prior to use in the assessment process.

Laborious tasks such as recording of assignment grades/marks and totalling of the overall grade/mark has been automated by the system. Feedback forms can be efficiently dispatched to students via email. It is anticipated that these automated functions will enable staff to staff focused on providing high quality feedback rather than tedious administrative tasks.

Consideration to “accessibility” issues has been integral to the development of CAFAS to ensure that staff and students with disabilities are not disadvantaged.

In summary, CAFAS simply replicates a commonly used system, the paper based feedback form, however its online nature enables new possibilities and opportunities to improve feedback and assessment. It is hoped that the teaching and learning community recognises this opportunity and actively participates in the continuous evolution of this highly flexible, open-source learning tool.


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