Improving Assessment in eLearning Programs
The nuances of assessment, measurement, and teaching are grossly interdependent. No one is measuring what is being taught; instead, what is being measured is what is taught. The importance of assessment has taken precedence over many other factors that are part of quality education.
Because assessment directs teachers, it’s vital to ensure that it’s a stable pillar within the educational system. So why is assessment one of the weakest components in eLearning?
Out-of-Date Skills Assessments
Most schools need to reassess how they structure eLearning assessments. The out-of-date evaluations, such as STAR testing and tests that stem from that model, are causing all manner of issues.
Of course, assessment is necessary. Assessment is simply any procedure which gathers or obtains information about the extent of student learning. The mindset around assessment, however, and needs to change. There must be strict components that make up an evaluation of eLearning programs as well as student performance.
When considering assessment in an eLearning program, it may be critical to involve both summative and formative assessments. These together can deliver the whole picture, rather than an insight into hard-skills alone.
Hesitancy to Assess with Transparency
eLearning programs often cater to those in continuing education, which can bring some hesitancy in transparency. Programs may not want to assess whether students have shown sufficient progress summatively. It is possible that testing may expose ineffective teaching or delivery methods.
However, transparency is necessary. Without knowing if the student is making progress, it’s unfair to say that eLearning is a better option. Although eLearning has proven to be a saving grace to some, it may be exchanging success for convenience for other people.
Transparent assessment often relies on progress tracking. Using a student’s progress, you can answer questions such as, “Is the program working?” and “Is the student gaining everything they can from the material?”
Focusing on Retaining Facts v. Focus on Conceptual Knowledge
Elearning programs have had a long-time struggle assessing conceptual knowledge. Conceptual knowledge can be thought of as the ability to calculate, versus the ability to understand the concept behind a mathematical model. It’s the difference between memorizing a set of numbers and understanding why something is useful and essential.
For many students, especially those in eLearning programs, they are tired of traditional learning environments. In some cases, they feel that the memorize and pass tests model has set them up for failure. ELearning programs must adapt their assessments to focus on conceptual and factual knowledge. Testing for facts is essential. However, memorization is not enough to lead to long-term success.
A lot of study and investigation goes into learning how to assess conceptual understanding. Generally speaking, more work goes into crafting these assessments as you must provide a context for the student to use throughout the test. Giving students something to think about might include an excerpt of introductory text, a scenario, or resource material.
Overall there is a substantial amount of room to improve assessment within the eLearning environment. Using concept knowledge assessment and assessing with transparency will likely yield the best results.