Having a Blast: Using the Hackathon approach to navigate COVID-related barriers to effective assessment

Dr Victoria Hewitt, Senior Teacher

FMS Graduate School

Faculty of Medical Sciences

What did you do?

A Hackathon event – modelled on the principles of Design Sprint – to support students to meet an assessment deadline in the face of the COVID-call to clinical duties.

Who is involved?

Dr Victoria Hewitt, SFHEA
Dr Paul Coulter, FRCP
Postgraduate Taught Students

How did you do it?

Usually our students have 7 weeks to work collaboratively to produce a shared artefact which is assessed. Because the majority of our learners were called to clinical duties in response to the COVID crisis, we had to find a creative solution that would enable them to productively collaborate online in a much shorter time frame than usual (2 weeks).

Why did you do it?

Learning from the concept of Design Sprints, a hackathon brings people together to deliver a product in a time-constrained environment. The 5 phase model was followed:

1) Understanding – Zoom tutorials and online announcements explained the task and process
2) Diverge – Students were given a week to explore and develop creative solutions
3) Converge – In a one-day, 8 hour Zoom session (called the Assessment Blast) students created their final product for assessment. They self-organised to come and go into the session, with a tutor available “on call” as required via email.
4) Prototype – Students were given a further 48 hours to refine the prototype prior to submission
5) Testing – Assessment marking was the ultimate test in this case.

Student Voice

“The change to the group work helped me a lot and left me feeling optimistic about being able to complete the whole module.”

“it was very nice to collaborate with colleagues to produce something together, helped us interact and know more about each other and the whole activity was very enjoyable.”

Student feedback

Does it work?

The assignment was submitted on time and was deemed to be of a high standard compared with previous years. The event itself was both practical and achievable once the logistics were planned and communicated. In fact, it enabled this assignment to be concluded more speedily, releasing student and tutor capacity.

Any useful resources?

Lo G (2018) “What’s a Design Sprint and why is it important?” [Online]. Available at https://uxplanet.org/whats-a-design-sprint-and-why-is-it-important-f7b826651e09 (accessed 29 June 2020)

Graduate Framework

This approach develops the following attributes:

  • Resilient
  • Creative, Innovative and Enterprising
  • Digitally Capable
  • Collaborative

Staff can find out more about the Graduate Framework on the University intranet.

Contact details

Dr Victoria HewittDr Victoria Hewitt


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