Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Predicting academic attainment in case-based discussion board assessments

A preliminary study to identify factors that predict academic attainment in case-based discussion board assessments in online distance-learning programmes, and participants’ perception of assessment value.

School:  Edinburgh Medical School

Team Members:  Louise Buckley, Oluseye Ogunbayo, Chantelle Aftab, Uzma Tufail-Hanif, Heather Ellis


Case-based online discussion board assessments are an extensively used and integral part of the assessment strategy for the Edinburgh Online Surgery suite of ChM programmes. However, it is not formally known what demographic, experiential and motivational factors influence academic attainment in these assessments.

This aim of this mixed methods observational study is to understand the use of this assessment strategy in terms of student perception of its value, and to identify risk factors for poor academic attainment in the discussion board assessments. First year students admitted to one of five ChM programmes will be recruited to the study in September 2020 with demographic data obtained at this point. Their academic progress will monitored for one academic year (circa 30 discussion board assessments across 8 courses) for single assessment grade, course average and end of year progress. Pre-course surveys will assess experience, motivation and interest prior to course participation.

Quantitative analysis will be sample size driven, with a univariate and multivariate as appropriate the dataset. An end of year survey will assess student experiential perceptions, with thematic analysis used to identify key themes. Findings will be used to inform future assessment strategic developments, proactively identify ‘at risk students’, with findings disseminated as appropriate to support other clinical educators interested in this adopting this assessment strategy.