Thursday, May 2, 2013

MOOCs: Kick ass on final assessment

MOOCs make
everyone reflect, discuss and experiment with pedagogy in way that is far more
agile than the slow and ponderous ‘research’ route. Let’s face it, HE
accreditation is odd. You get a two numbers with a dot between them. What use
is that? We need far more innovation on what
we assess, when we assess and how we assess. MOOCs are starting to give
us real answers.

So what models have emerged?

1. No certification

First up,
MOOCs are NOT, fundamentally, about summative assessment. It is clear than huge
numbers of learners don’t give a toss about accreditation. For them, and I’m
one of them, it’s not a paper chase but a learning experience. Many will choose
to learn without wanting to sit a final exam or get any form of certification.
Don’t assume that everyone is gagging for a certificate from the University of ‘somewhere’
– they’re not. To be honest, as someone who spent years delivering massive
learning projects to employers, few of them care a jot about certificates. We
need to separate the MOOC movement from the idea of summative assessment being
a necessary condition for success. Some free MOOCs offer no certification at
all, seeing it as a pure learning experience. Carnegie Mellon have a whole rack
of such courses on language learning, science and maths.

For many,
however, certification will be desirable. This may be important for students
who want to use these courses for progression, jobs, even personal motivation
and satisfaction. Certification also matters as a revenue model for the platform
providers and Universities. This is where they hope to make money.

2. Certificate of completion

is for completion, the norm in Coursera, simply recognises that the student has
stuck with the course, got through all of the formative assessments and assignments
and, well, completed the course. This is fine for those who simply want some
recognition at the end, without a need for official accreditation.

3. Certificate of mastery

Some edX
courses from Harvard and MIT have Certificates of Mastery. They come with a
grade but not an official credit. EdX offer a certificate of mastery issued at
the discretion of edX and the University that offered the course. These certificates
have been free but they plan to charge a modest fee in the future. In an interestingly
footnote, edX hold certificates for learners from Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan in
line with US embargoes!

4. Certificates of distinction

Different levels of accomplishments are being
offered by many MOOC providers. With Udacity, this is the core model, with the
following different grades; completion,
distinction, high distinction, highest distinction
. This is not far off
the 3rd, 2.2, 2.1dn 1st model. Udacity also offer a
"testing kit" to any institution for a low fee if they are interested
in providing proctored exams on our courses.

5. University credits

On selected courses for San Jose State University (transferable within
the California State University system), where credits are available, you pay
$150 and this buys you the course, course support, direct comms with instructors/staff
and online proctored exams with credited transcript. There are different
grades; completion,
distinction, high distinction, highest distinction
and a service where
resumes are sent to prospective employers.

How and when are these exams managed?

Proctored online

Huge efforts
are being made to allow learners to sit summative exams online. It’s a complex
but not insurmountable problem. Identity, cheating, security and other issues
have to be addressed. Iris, fingerprint and voice recognition are just some of
the digital identity methods used. Motion sensing and camera identification are
also used. Progress is being made. Note that almost all exam methods are
subject to cheating. Even proctored offline paper exams do suffer from
distributed leaks, teacher and student cheating. One of the advantages of
online testing is that questions can be drawn from randomised banks or
different numbers laced into test items, and answer options randomised, to
prevent the straight copying cheating that exists in physical, paper exams.

Udacity and Coursera both offer online proctored exams at home (a cost of $60–$90) through ProctorU. With ProctorU, you make
an appointment, log in to the website and speak to a live proctor who talks you
through the process via webcam. You can select a date, time and you are ready
to go. At the appointed time, the proctor gets control of your screen and IDs
you by requesting photo ID. The proctor will snap photos of you and ask you
personal questions, using public databases. They will also make the student do
a 360 degree scan of the room with the webcam and ask to see the monitor and
its surroundings on the webcam, mirror or CD, left and right. During the exam,
the proctor watches the student’s body and eye movement through the webcam.

Proctored test centres

Udacity and edX
both offer proctored exams at Pearson VUE test centres. There’s lots of angst
around Pearson’s involvement in proctored exams, through Pearson VUE, but why?
They have invested in test centres and can deliver this stuff to large numbers
of people at low cost. This is how we pass our driving test. We pay for a
course to learn the theory and practice (increasingly learning the theory
online), then book a test. National networks of centres allow students and
adult learners to sit exams at place and time of their own convenience. This
frees learners from the tyranny of time and place. 

Pearson VUE has test centres in every US
state and over 4400 test centres in 160 countries. These centres have surveillance
and biometric systems, in particular a digital fingerprinting system, used by the
FBI, that has an almost zero rejection rate.


This flurry
of activity in MOOCs has produced summative assessment that takes us forward in
our thinking:

1. Has different
degrees of certification based on demand

2. Caters for
different types of learner

3. Offers anytime

4. Offers anywhere
exams at home

5. Offers network
of test centre exams

6. Sees
education funded by volume certification

7. Can be

8. Pushes
Innovation in online testing, like essay marking

9. Makes us
see that certification is not always desirable

When people
say, there’s nothing new in MOOCs, think again and look at the detail. When we
do, there’s some radical changes taking place, not least in exams and
certification. The main benefit is in loosening up the whole process and not
regarding certification as some sort of one-off, end-of-year, binary pass or
fail activity. We can expect more experimentation and innovation, and more is

One final
note, and this is radical. Why can’t we separate accreditation and testing from
the institutions that deliver the learning? It avoids the obvious conflict of
interest. Why can’t we have a free Google like service for accreditation?  Wouldn’t that be great for learners?

MOOCs: taxonomy of 8 types of MOOC

MOOCs: Who’s using MOOCs? 10 different target audiences

MOOCs: a breath of fresh air, albeit the same air

MOOCs: more action in 1 year than last 1000 years

No comments:

Post a Comment