Introduction UNED has high drop-out rates among its students, like other distance education universities, especially in the first year. The low final exam attendance rates (50-55%) result from this high dropout rate. These part-time students find it challenging to plan their studies and compatible with their other obligations and social commitments. The teaching team responsible for the course decided to increase the weight of continuous assessment in the final mark to generate an incentive to increase the number of students who carry out weekly continuous assessment activities. In this way, the teaching team expected to make it easier for them to plan their studies, give them regular feedback on their progress (Isaksson, 2007; Rushton, 2005), make them feel better prepared for the final exam and thus increase the number of students taking the exam.
How increasing the weight of continuous assessment could improve student engagement and performance To increase the weight of continuous assessment, the teaching team offered students a choice between the existing assessment system and a new one that reinforced the weight of continuous assessment.
Given the voluntary nature of the continuous assessment, students could choose between three options: No continuous assessment, continuous assessment with a weight of 20% or continuous assessment with a reinforced weight (40%).
Results Increased student involvement The increase in the weight of continuous assessment increased the involvement of students, as shown by the rise in the percentage of students who took the graded tests and the TMAs, compared to the previous year.
Increase in the final exam attendance rate Only 29 % of the students did not do continuous assessment; however, all those who chose continuous assessment with more weight in the final exam sat the final exam.
Continuous assessment improved performance in the final exam The students who opted for the reinforced, continuous assessment obtained a better average grade in the final exam, consistent with other research findings (González, M. de la O., Jareño, F., & López, R., 2015 ).
Evaluation of the experience by the students After the final exam, students were asked for their opinion using a survey. 38% of the students responded. Regarding the reason why they chose continuous reinforced assessment, they felt that it would help them to keep up with the subject and be better prepared for the exam. Students reported that it helped them to better plan their studies and organised their time. They also noted that they felt more competent in carrying them out as they completed the tasks. Finally, they stated that the continuous assessment helped them prepare for the final exam. Overall, the students rated the experience very positive and indicated that they would like this type of assessment to be applied in other subjects (Gibbs & Taylor, 2016; Trotter, 2006; Holmes, 2015).