I’m at an event called Assessment for Open Learning in the Cotswolds for a couple of days. Two particularly interesting presentations this morning showed how online learning technologies are being used to develop collaborative and other skills, and how these are being assessed.
Mark Endean discussed a postgraduate course on Team Engineering (T885) where students are put in teams and given an empty wiki and a synchronous collaboration tool (FlashMeeting). Teamworking and leadership skills need to be demonstrated for accreditation as chartered engineers hence the necessity for demonstrating competence in these areas as part of the course. The students work in teams but are assessed both jointly through the submission of a report, and individually on their reflections of the effectiveness of the team and their own performance. There is a strong emphasis on providing evidence for any assertions they make. They do this by linking to content in the wiki and to extracts from the videoconferences (where individual contributions can be linked to and replayed with ease). Tutors can then access these when assessing whether or not students’ assessments of themselves are accurate.
Mary Kellet described a postgraduate course in education where students will be required to contribute a 1-2 minute audio or video clip to a team wiki, either by recording it or by locating it on the Internet. The best ones would be placed in a repository for use by future learners on the course. She sees various benefits of this approach. One is an attempt to reduce the imbalance in the power relationship between staff and students by giving learners a sense that they’re valued and have something to offer which might benefit teachers as well as peers and future students. Another intention is that the course becomes a more dynamic and ‘living’ entity, continually being enhanced by the contributions of the students, which are then critically evaluated by their peers.
Immediate concerns from the audience included issues of intellectual property rights when putting student contributions into a repository, and also the logistics of maintaining that repository. Both of these examples however demonstrate how we’re beginning to become more sophisticated in our uses of elearning, building learning activities which involve the use of several tools such as videoconferencing, wikis and eportfolios and integrating these into assessment processes.