Tuesday, 19 June 2007

My response to Dr Yoni Ryan

As part of my current post grad course I was asked to respond to Dr Yoni Ryan's article on Online Assessment. This is my response.

Please leave your comments too.

I was pleased to read Dr Ryan did not have a destructive Luddite agenda with regard to Online Assessment, and I was heartened by his repeated comments about students needing, and requesting, regular feed back on their progress.

Dr Ryan’s article was written in 2000 and there has been an incredible amount of technological advancement in the intervening seven years. This advancement has brought with it many additional checks and balances to improve the earlier problems of student identify fraud and plagiarism.

The new IT systems, now being used by universities and colleges, allows teachers to run checks that will test the originality of work submitted, and I am certain we are not far away from wide application of student fingerprint and iris log on authentication.

However until then teachers must continue to work around the limitations they have with regard to online assessment and find effective ways to build complex analytical tasks into their course material. Dr Ryan focuses on limited funding and time constraints facing teaching institutions and professionals, and most will agree with him.

Dr Ryan mentioned feed back to students. He did not mention the fact that dedicate learners want genuine feed back about their progress and this is a great motivator for them to submit their own work and not rely on the efforts of others. Sure there will always be some who will cheat in order to get good results, but most actually want to know how they are doing. They do not want to know how someone else is doing.

It is therefore essential for teachers to think creatively about online courses and challenge students to find exciting ways to research, develop and present their work. Teachers need to use the technology to push the barriers outwards. Taking this approach will engage the students and they will want to take up the challenge themselves in order to test their own ability.

If teachers fail to involve the students and use the technology that is now an important facet of modern society, students will find the course work boring and consider it irrelevant to their world.

An effective way for teachers to engage students is to have them develop special interest communities that will allow them to discuss and share ideas and knowledge. The community members should be encouraged to establish websites and blogs to showcase their work. And there is no reason why teachers cannot design assignments that lend themselves to this sort of public display of the completed tasks.

I have no doubt that Marshall McLuhan would agree that using the technological tools at our disposal will assist learners to express their ideas. And showcasing them is an excellent reward system. Students who participate in online learning will push their own boundaries to explore and use the tools that are available to them; if they are encouraged to do so. Therefore it is up to teachers to validate the use of video, pod casting, You Tube and Teacher Tube movies, video conferencing, and anything else they can get their hands on. Students will respond positively and in the process they will demonstrate their creative ability, their ability to solve complex problems and their adaptability.

Dr Ryan’s assertion that students need feed back to succeed is the most important aspect of his paper. It is up to teachers to play an active role in the course activities. They need to join the students and help them build their projects. They need to contribute to the development and they need to bring enthusiasm to the work.

If teachers do this, they will get to know their students well and they will be constantly evaluating them as the project unfolds. Teachers can no longer stand apart from their students. Teachers and students are equal partners in the learning process.

No comments: