Dissertation abstract: here goes…

What the inside of my brain looks like

I think I’m about two thirds of the way through writing my dissertation; not so much the home straight of my MSc in digital education, but the last lap possibly.

Writing a dissertation is an exciting, all-consuming and sometimes exhausting process. So far I’ve relied on strong coffee, Radio Soulwax Spotify playlists, the patience of my wife, and the ability of my supervisor @jar to both cut through my waffling and melt my brain with new insight.

I’m taking a first stab at writing an abstract here to try and order, summarise and simplify my thinking so far.

And if anyone out there wants to tell me it’s awesome / no bad / shite, please do so.*

Here goes:

Migration or transformation: perspectives on online exams in higher education

Summative assessment is not only a means of measuring student achievement but a medium through which programmes of higher education articulate what they value. However, summative assessment practices are coming under increasing pressure and traditional examinations have been criticised by some as bearing little relevance to learning. Proponents of online exams – including both (physically or digitally) proctored tests and alternative formats such as open-book, open-web exams – suggest that the use of digital technologies can help to address some of these problems. To date, two main approaches have been taken towards implementing online exams in higher education: migration (using digital technologies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of examination processes) and transformation (using digital technologies as a catalyst to transform summative assessment practice and, to an extent, education itself). Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with university professionals responsible for setting and implementing online exams, this research attempts to increase understanding of practice within specific contexts and to raise questions that might inform future research. It highlights some possible pragmatic and theoretical shortcomings in both the migratory and transformative positions, and proposes a discursive reframing of the use of digital technologies in the context of high-stakes summative assessment.

*But if you’re going to tell me it’s shite, please be as specific as you can.


7 thoughts on “Dissertation abstract: here goes…

  1. I just wrote a message on here and it didn’t post for some reason 😛

    Hi Stuart,
    I’m a secondary school teacher looking at the different education related Masters degrees and I’m quite interested in this one at Edinburgh. I was just wondering if you feel it has helped you professionally since you graduated, or if you feel like it’s enriched your professional practice significantly?

    Would be awesome if you could let me know 🙂 🙂 Thank you!



    1. Hi Miriam,

      Yes, I’d highly recommend the MSc in digital education at Edinburgh. It’s made a massive difference to how I think about digital education, and has definitely opened up new opportunities for me at work. The tutors are fabulous – they do a great job of role-modelling what it means to be an online teacher.

      The only thing I’m not sure about is how the programme relates to a secondary-school context (I work in higher education, as did most of my classmates), but maybe just talk this over with the programme leaders, they’re very helpful. If you have any other questions, please just post them here or contact me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/geewhizztime



  2. Thanks Stuart, that’s super helpful! Yes, I thought it didn’t sound like a degree for a secondary school teacher, however there are very few distance MAs in Education available and I was looking for one related to technology…I’ve still got a bit of searching to do then!

    Thanks again 🙂


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