Authored by altLAB

The Challenge

Students enrolled in Semester 1 Spoken Chinese are assessed in two main ways: 

  • They develop a portfolio of pre-recorded responses, showcasing their ability to read aloud words and short texts with appropriate pronunciation. 
  • They demonstrate their ability to use basic spoken Mandarin in real-life situations by participating in two role-play type assessments on campus.  

When moving online, the lecturer wanted to keep the role-play assessments live to test students’ ability to think on their feet and converse in real time, without the convenience of hitting a ‘delete’ button when they made a mistake.  

The lecturer also wanted to create opportunity for students to develop the fluency they would need to do well in the assessment.   The first challenge was understanding the options available for synchronous assessment, and which would work best in this context.  

Solutions and Advice

altLAB offered two possible solutions in Bb Collaborate.  

Both allowed the lecturer to organise students into groups of 4-5. The assessment pairs for the role play would fall out of each group.  

Solution 1 (rejected): ‘Create Sessions’ for each group in the main course Collaborate Room

Creating sessions and keeping them open (no end date), would mean pairs and groups could use the space for speaking at any time. 

Unfortunately, anyone in the course could drop in on a pair’s session at any time; and students could similarly access recordings of assessed role plays as they were created, posing a threat to privacy and security of assessment evidence.  

Solution 2 (the winner): Make use of Bb Groups to organise students into groups

Each Bb Group can be given their own Collaborate Room, which only they and their lecturer can access. Students will therefore be able to practice speaking privately in their Room at any time.  


  • While one pair is recording their assessment, the other pair in a Group will still be able to drop-in; and access the recording afterwards.  
  • Protocols need to be clear, and assessments of students in one group ideally scheduled back-to-back.  – By default, students cannot record in a Group Room. This setting must be changed manually.