Friday, August 31, 2012

Rethinking assessment

I'm heading down to Granada in Spain next week to attend the EFQUEL Innovation Forum, which I'm also involved in organising. I'm looking forward especially to hosting a session on Thursday afternoon (6 Sept) entitled Rethinking Educational Assessment which you are welcome to join as a web conference via Adobe Connect.

The widespread use of open education today with all the flavours of MOOC as well as many informal learning arenas is changing our conceptions of education. The use of open educational resources and collaborative learning tools offer us the chance to escape from the restrictions of the traditional classroom and move the focus from content delivery to context creation. New educational models demand a rethink of how we assess learning. In a content delivery model assessment is mostly based on processing that content and knowledge acquisition can be relatively easily tested.

However employers are often more interested in soft skills than hard qualifications. The key employability factors are teamwork, initiative, problem solving and engagement and if you can show that you have these skills they will often trump qualifications (though obviously qualifications are still necessary). Is it possible to assess these soft skills and how can you do so? How can we move assessment and examination from showing what you know to how well you can do things? One recent development in this direction is the use of open badges as described here several times in the past year or so. Badges can be awarded to people who show a clear mastery of a skill in the eyes of their peers as well as teachers or mentors. Is peer review the future of assessment and if so how can we provide quality assurance?

In the session I'll be joined by two authorities in this field: Preetha Ram from OpenStudy and Anka Mulder, president of the OpenCourseWare Consortium (read more). They'll be offering their ideas on alternative assessment and have three questions for everyone to consider before and during the session:

  • Traditional educational institutions are very well placed to provide campus as well as online education. At the same time they have to find ways to monetize open online education to cover their expenses. Which are the business models they can develop? 
  • Students as well as employers still rely heavily on formal certificates and diplomas provided by accredited institutions. In order to become successful, recognition of informal certificates by employers is essential. What can be done to encourage this? 
  • Verification of a student’s identity is essential in assessment, notably for institutions that provide accredited diplomas. How can we make online assessment more reliable? 
See the recording of the webinar.

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