I would like to see what people think about this one....
Should formal knowledge assessment and or evaluations be developed as part of an online courses?
If you agree where you think they belong in the course design?
Thanks for taking the time to respond.
Formal assessments are best implemented when they are integrated throughout a course. Formal assessments are most effectively used when these are small and provide frequent feedback to learners about their understanding and progress. Learners lack the frequent assurances they would receive in face-to-face environments such as verbal and non verbal cues (i.e., a nod of agreement from the instructor or classmates, etc.) Assessments let the learners know that they are on (or off) track and provide opportunities to measure and self-evaluate understanding. Large formal (drive-by) assessments such as Unit Exams, Midterms, and Final Course evaluations do little to progress learning. Large project-based and problem-based learning assessments will often provide the most effective type of learning and assessments of learning. With this approach, conversation should anchor the learning. Here learners will receive frequent understanding checks through their dialogue.
Thanks so much for taking the time to respond! I appreciate your feedback!
Ah, the challenges of assessment, especially in a new learning culture. Changing perspectives on teaching and learning, combined with new demands in society on learners' knowledge and abilities, are gradually reshaping learning cultures. Therefore, we need to see assessment through new eyes. While assessment in the past has primarily been a means of certification and accountability, a much wider range of purposes of assessment are now advocated. A new vision for assessment for the new millennium is on how to engage students actively in the learning process through portfolios, self-assessment and peer review.
A course I recently developed for the Commonwealth Secretariat uses Mahara, an open source ePortfolio platform, Mahara is two things: an ePortfolio and a social networking system combined. It provides users with tools to create and maintain a digital portfolio of their learning, and social networking features to allow users to interact with each other. ePortfolios are a great addition to an effective eLearning program, as they can allow learners to diagram and reflect on their experiences as they go through a course. Social Reflective Learning I call it.
For more information on new modes of assessment, you may be interested in the webinar this Saturday with Dr Helen Barrett on using ePortfolios as assessment tools. And our upcoming CEET Meet on ePortfolios starting this Friday might provide valuable insights as well.
I teach English 10 - 12 online. I think I could be an advocate of shifting focus to a 'Social Reflective Learning' model Sandy has put forward as a new paradigm that better matches ours cultural norms. However, one obstacle I have not yet overcome in that model, as an online teacher, is how to associate students who are learning asynchronously in peer assessment. I have failed, so far, to even interest students in my AP Language and Comp course in doing peer review. This lack of interest is probably because 1) they don't associate with each other in real life and maybe feel shy to review, and 2) they are moving at different paces through the course so, while some are submitting assignments, others have moved on in their thoughts and readings. I do deliver 'in the moment' assessments my online English courses, but I do not have any major 'unit' or 'final' exams or overarching assessments. I have one project-based course (Lit 12) and, in that course, at least, I am going to explore the idea of eportfolios as an option to the traditional method of marking assignments.
Here is a question, I hope will be addressed as we boldly go through this new century into new educational frontiers: Given the nature of how students learn now (in online, asynchronous, socially reflecting, portfolio building, peer-assessing models) how does a standardized assessment such as the Provincial Exam in core subjects like English succeed as an assessment tool, as we expand our horizons of assessment paradigms? In my opinion, these exams only succeed in measuring how well a student reflects a traditional classroom-curriculum-assessment-based training style. Even e-exams have to be taken 'onsite' with a teacher physically present and follows a carefully constructed format. What, exactly, are we assessing then, when we use tools of mass assessment at the end of the educational process, distributed and marked by a pod of teachers?
CJ, I too find building in successful peer assessment difficult for those exact reasons you describe and when I have had success it certainly was with a group who knew each other f2f and were at basically the same point. It seems that a blended model is optimum but often not realistic.
Well put David when you say, "Learners lack the frequent assurances they would receive in face-to-face environments such as verbal and non verbal cues (i.e., a nod of agreement from the instructor or classmates. To create those nods and assurances in my course, I have broken down larger projects into steps with feedback given at each stage. I recently changed my "unit test" on poetry to a self reflection with criteria built in to apply content instead of simply regurgitating it.
I admit I am still hung up on having formal assessments in the course that are invigilated as a way of verifying that the work being submitted is indeed that of the student's! (But that is another discussion entirely I think :))