Building Assessment for the Digital Future

Recent conversations with colleagues at AdelaideX have us wondering what assessment will look like in the future. When I think about that, the questions that come to mind are:

  • What isn’t working now about how we assess learners? and
  • What might assessment that leverages the potential of technology to more efficiently and effectively assess at scale look like?
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Part technology, part alien, but human underneath…?

The latter is the more intriguing and attractive question, isn’t it? The first few ideas that came to my mind were:

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Schrodinger’s LMS: the future is kinda almost here

In reply to Mike Goudzwaard: http://mgoudz.com/2016/02/26/the-lms-of-the-future-is-yours

Mike, who I had the absolute pleasure of meeting at the edX Global Forum in 2015, makes an interesting case about the issues facing the current iteration of LMSs and a suggestion for fixing it. He points to a future LMS that is clean, simple and heavily reliant on integration; where the “LMS” that an institution uses is focuses on collating learners into a learning group (i.e. a course), presenting a variety of learning activities (via LTI or API integration) and extracting all of that delicious grade and ‘engagement’ data out into an SIS.

What would this LMS look like? In my view, it would have three things:
1) a course roster with stellar SIS integration
2) a gradebook
3) a rock-star LTI and API

That’s it! Oh, except it would also be open source, students would control their own data, including publishing any of their work or evaluations to the block chain, and you could host it locally, distributed, or in the cloud. Never mind the pesky privacy laws (or lack thereof) in the country hosting your server, because the LMS is back on campus. Not connected to the internet? That’s okay too, because there is a killer app that syncs like a boss

Which, I’ll admit, sounds wonderfully clean and smooth, like a marble kitchen benchtop after you’ve cleaned all the remains of a delicious dinner and wiped away the crumbs until it shines and gleams, full of promise…

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A couple of thoughts came to mind as I read Mike’s post:

  1. Is it just me, or does this sound like a stripped down Moodle, i.e. could it be, maybe, almost, already here or within our grasp?
  2. Is there anyone in the LMS market now who could deliver this?
  3. Would this necessarily result in a better experience for learners, educators, IT staff? Where the educators I have in mind are those laggards who resist change and are uncomfortable with technology

Before I go too much further, let me point out that at this stage I have personally worked with (i.e. completed a course in, built in, delivered in, designed for) more than 5 LMSs – Blackboard Learn while at university and then later as a Solutions Engineer, Moodle (including the Moodlerooms delivery) while at NetSpot/Blackboard and then ICAC, and then MOOCs in Canvas, Open2Study (built on Moodle and Drupal) FutureLearn, Coursera and, now, edX.*

Some have more of this feature, some do that feature better, some structure the course in this way, some guide you to design a course in that way, some offer more flexibility as a designer v a learner, etc.

The similarities, though – presentation of learning content/activities, learner management (comms, enrolments, progress, etc), and learning management (lists of courses, gradebook) – definitely exist, if in overall functionality and not in the exact manner of workflow.

So, is there an existing potential “Future LMS”? Read More »

My kind of scaffold – part 2

Part 2 of the series of posts wherein I share the process I’ve used to try build a “different” scaffold for compliance-based courses.

Building wall of mismatching windows. By Edgaras Maselskis, via Unsplash. CC0
In a previous post, I spoke about how I used a combination of butchered action-mapping and Bloom’s taxonomy to create course objectives with actionable verbs and that provided more direct mapping to activities. Here, I want to share the course design and activity design approach, and why I think this goes beyond what many (especially in corporate/compliance training) believe constitutes ‘eLearning’ – the “Next” button.

One of the common pitfalls of a Learning Management System (Moodle, Blackboard Learn, Canvas) is that they don’t necessarily support the creation of learning ‘content’ that is typically expected in corporate environments. Instead, the majority of them support discrete activities that are collated together to form a learning experience rather than a coherent and simple flow*. Another common downfall arising out of using LMS’s is that, despite the built-in activities common in LMS’s, all too often they’re used to house individual resources (pdf files, URLs, word documents, videos) and then an in-built quiz to assess the learning. Having worked on both the vendor and the user sides of the LMS/edtech world, I would purport that the root of this both in the technology and the typical user – but that’s a conversation for another day.Read More »

My kind of scaffold – part 1

In the series of posts that follows, I want to share the process I’ve used to try build a “different”* scaffold for compliance-based courses.

Building facade, stairs and windows, shot from the bottom looking up.

After I wrote the post about my stuttering start to designing this course, I realised I had fallen in to an all-too-common trap of focusing on the activities first. Indeed, I was halfway committed to what type of content I would need to build, had made sweeping decision about what design approached use when I hadn’t yet confirmed what the purpose of the course was. Trying to explain my ideas and clarify the objectives sparked heated conversations in my team about what eLearning was and wasn’t and no clear agreement on learning outcomes.

I needed to take a step back, and focus on the bigger picture – what do we want our learners to achieve and how will we know that they’ve done it? What is the purpose for this course in the first place? From there, I was confident that we could reach an understanding on what the course would look like.Read More »

A stuttering spluttering start

The rambling story of my first few weeks…

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I don’t know about you, but the memories of ‘health and safety’, ‘accepted conduct’ or other general induction and compliance courses don’t fill me with excitement. So, I’m rather excited about the the challenge of trying to deliver compliance training in a way that’s effective and not completely mind-numbing.

The first hurdle that sprang itself up at me was the content. One of my team’s objectives is to raise awareness of legal obligation imposed on all public officers in South Australia, an obligation that is outlined in deep legalese which, unless you have experience reading and interpreting the law you’re likely to struggle to comprehend it. And the stakes are high – they are obliged to know, and failure to comply can mean pretty hefty consequences. And so, we have a responsibility to ensure information is available that helps people understand their obligations and how to prevent corruption, misconduct and maladministration.Read More »

A new path to wander

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s not that I haven’t thought of you often, of what I would say or things you might enjoy. It’s just, well, time and my own inability to organise myself…

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You might notice a difference in the types of things I post from here on out in comparison to previous posts. And that’s because, well, here’s my official news: I left Blackboard in March. Although I tweeted about it a few times, there are some who still didn’t know. I wasn’t there as long as some people, certainly not as newsworthy as others, but the positive comments on twitter when I shared my news were rather soothing to my frail ego.Read More »

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)

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Badges – ringeth the eportfolio death knell?

Last night, Steve Wheeler pondered “Do open badges signal the death of the e-portfolio? #learningpoollive“. The sentiment of that conversation is that, yes, Steve and others believe they do.

I disagree.

The key reason I don’t believe that badges signal the death of the eportfolio is the purpose for their respective initial creation, ongoing development and real-life application.Read More »

Badge(r)s! What about the snake?

Badges. Open badges even. [cue music: Badger, badger, badger, badger…] They’re, like, totes popular right now, you know?

This is not a post about open badges, per se. Nor their application in a learning situation. This is not a discussion of their validity. All sorts of other people are talking about the “why” and the technical aspect of “how”. I want talk about the snake in the grass – the policy implications that need to be considered for any organisation looking to implement (or allow individual teaching facilitators to individually implement) them.

The topic came up recently in discussions with my colleagues and our clients who are keen to use badges in their Higher Education academic courses. As an example, a student is awarded open badges for completing assessments in a paid tertiary-level course. They are awarded extra badges for reaching certain grades, that may not necessarily reflect their achievement across the whole course. These badges are added to their LinkedIn profile, resume and similar. Potential employers can then see that they “achieved” a level of competency in a certain part of that course – is that accurate, fair, appropriate, scalable?Read More »