Measuring the competencies of Outcomes

Recently, I’ve been working more closely with Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and their online learning needs. We’ve been bringing on more and more clients to the Moodlerooms platform (link) because of a number of exciting enhancements on top of core Moodle. One of those that I’m really excited about is a new version of Outcomes – tracking, aligning and reporting on learning outcomes or competencies at a course level.

Currently in core Moodle (on which Moodlerooms is based), outcomes don’t quite match what educators are looking in terms of managing learning outcomes:

You can choose a list of outcomes for the site, and you can choose a subset of those for the course, and you can assign outcomes to various activities, and even set grades (via scale) for them in assignments.  This helps somewhat for course design and some grading, but there is no transference into competencies, and there is no concept of progress tracking for students based on these. (Martin Dougiamas, ‘Outcomes, Stage 2’)

The Moodle outcomes system as it exists today does not accomplish what customers demand and require, due to some key missing functions, including the ability to easily import hierarchical standards and the ability to map and track outcomes on quiz questions and rubric rows. This limits Moodle adoption in K12, corporate, for-profit, and, to a lesser extent, higher education, specifically community colleges. (Outcomes Specification, Moodle Docs)

To me, the New Outcomes (developed by the Moodlerooms* team and included in the Moodlerooms* platform) supports and simplifies the administration and reporting of learner achievement and progress against related learning outcomes. In the VET sector, imagine importing all the details of a particular unit/program, including performance criteria and elements, and match those to activities or quiz questions in a course. Then imagine being able to see where the gaps are from the perspective of the competencies (which competencies haven’t been mapped to something) and the course/activities (which activities haven’t been aligned with a competency). Then imagine being able to see the progress against those competencies, as a learner and as an educator.

The point I’m pondering is – where should that mapping occur, i.e. at what level in the competencies would you map to a course, an activity, a grading rubric or a quiz question? Further, do educators or RTO managers report at the granular level of elements? Are there other elements that educators want to track in a similar fashion, besides the unit specific compentencies?

Using the example of Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, the qualification (TAE40110) consists of a number of units of competency (e.g. TAEASS401B) that a learner could possible complete. Each unit, in turn, consists of elements that “describe the essential outcomes” of a unit and performance criteria that “demonstrate achievement of the element”. Given that an outcome belongs to an overall set, can have multiple layers of sub-outcomes and can be assigned to a variety of components in a course, where is the most logical place to map?

Outcomes structure map - Set to Qual
Initial thought: Map Outcome Set to overall qualification.
Outcomes structure map - Set to Unit
Most recent thought: Map Outcome set to individual Unit of competency.

I’m leaning towards the second, because of the way that one unit can be a part of multiple qualifications rather than being exclusive. Mapping a Set to a Unit would allow for more use across courses and programs in an institution. If, however, an organisation delivered a high number of courses (with a pre-set selection of units), this could result in an extremely high number of Outcome Sets in the system.

One of the most exciting, for me, parts of this Outcomes model is that any individual outcome or a set of outcomes can be mapped to multiple activities/courses. In the context of personalised learning and self-directed learning pathways (aka gamification?), this means that learners couod select from (or be guided towards) different activities but still be able to be recognised for having achieved the same outcome – all without any extra work on the part of the educator.

So… What are your thoughts? Here’s some more information about the reporting capabilities of this New Outcomes tool from a Developer and a Teacher perspective. Would this structure be useful in helping assess learning? Are there other elements that need to be tracked?

*I know it can be a little confusing. To summarise, Moodlerooms Inc. is a Moodle Partner and owned by Blackboard. In North America, their Moodle hosting services are called Power and Joule. Outside North America, what Blackboard calls “International”, Blackboard delivers Moodle hosting services through its Moodle Partner, Moodlerooms, and calls it “Moodlerooms”. Simple, right?

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