Centre for eLearning Innovations and
Partnerships in Science and Engineering (eLIPSE)

Ensuring that students come to class prepared to learn is key to effective active learning strategies in large classes.  One way to achieve this is to assign pre-reading, and to require students to complete an assessed reading quiz beforehand.  Making this a concept-based, short-answer quiz (rather than multiple choice) requires students to engage effectively with the material.  One of the challenges is in marking these quizzes and providing useful feedback to large classes.

How does it work?

Semant is software that greatly simplifies the implementation of effective active learning methodologies for large classes.  It permits teaching staff to easily analyse and mark the short answer quiz responses submitted in a Blackboard quiz.  The tool allows staff to identify common themes in the written responses, to rapidly pinpoint concepts students struggle with and to provide feedback to large classes.  Selected de-identified student responses can be used in class to focus discussion around common misconceptions.   This significantly increases student engagement in the process. 

Stage 2 of the project is currently being undertaken to incorporate peer marking/feedback, thereby facilitating an enhanced feedback system that scales to large classes.  Stage 2 also aims to achieve wider dissemination via development of a formal training program and to make Semant available outside the Blackboard environment. 


Project team/Contacts
Title First Name Last Name Affiliation Role in the project Contact
Professor Michael Drinkwater Faculty of Science / School of Mathematics and Physics Lead CI

​+61 7 336 53428

Professor Matthew Davis Faculty of Science / School of Mathematics and Physics  

​+61 7 336 69824

Project Status

The Stage 1 prototype for the enhanced tool was completed and final debugging was undertaken at the commencement of semester 2, 2016.  Development work has ensured sustainability over time and provided additional functionality.  An LTI integration automates data flow between Blackboard and Semant.  Component and interface redesign has reduced marking time and increased the amount and timeliness of personalised feedback to students.  Semant has already been used in courses with over 500 enrolments. 

Testing of the Stage 2 prototype is being undertaken in a pilot course in semester 2, 2017.


The following resources are available for users:

Technologies Used

LTI, Blackboard, semantic analysis, Piwik for analytics.  Stage 2 of the project is adopting functionality from the Platypus tool, developed by a team led by Dr Surya Singh in the UQ School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.


This project is based on a UQ-developed prototype resulting from a collaboration between Professor Michael Drinkwater and Professor Matthew Davis and the UQ Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology (CEIT), now disestablished.   It was first used in PHYS1001 in 2011.

Stage 1 of the project was supported by UQ Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) strategic funding in 2015-2016, then by a Faculty of Science Teaching and Learning Grant in 2016.  Stage 2 development is being funded by a UQ Teaching Innovation Grant (TIG) for 2017-2018.

The development of Platypus was funded by a 2014 TEL Grant, supplemented by seed funding from the Faculty of EAIT.

  • Drinkwater, M. J., Gannaway, D., Sheppard, K., Davis, M. J., Wegener, M. J., Bowen, W. P., & Corney, J. F.. (2014). Managing Active Learning Processes in Large First Year Physics Classes: The Advantages of an Integrated Approach. Teaching & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 2(2), 75–90. http://doi.org/10.2979/teachlearninqu.2.2.75
  • Higgs, B., Groessler, A., J. Macaulay, D. West. (2017). Technology enhanced assessment and feedback: what counts as transformation of student learning?  Paper presented at the 2nd EuroSoTL conference, June 8-9 2017, Lund, Sweden.  http://konferens.ht.lu.se/uploads/media/Higgs_etal.pdf
  • Drinkwater, Michael J., Matthews, Kelly and Seiler, Jacob (2017).  How is science being taught? Measuring evidence-based teaching practices across undergraduate science departments. CBE Life Sciences Education, 16 1: . doi:10.1187/cbe.15-12-0261