I intended to write this post while I was at the airport on the way back to 2nd home (UK). I was exhausted so I was observing the airplanes and chatted on Skype instead. Gladly, I am back home now, in my home office writing this post. I feel happy that I had this opportunity to get involved with GO-GN and attend the Open Education Global Conference in Banff, Canada. Not only was my first Conference to attend but also my first journey overseas. Apart from handling my participation in the conference I also had to cope with my jet lag. First thing every morning was to ask the fellow GO-GN-ers about their sleep. We were counting the hours we were sleeping during the night and we were competing who had slept less!
During the GO-GN Seminar I presented a plan for my PhD project that builts on my previous MRes research. The MRes study was focused on learners’ views of assessment types in Massive Open Online Courses and how effective learners feel each assessment type is in their learning. My PhD study is focused on looking on “to what extent do common assessment methods reflect learners’ goals in MOOCs?” The rationale behind this is that the common assessment methods used in MOOCs may not match learners’ goals if they do not complete the courses (low completion rates). The objective of my study is to identify the relationship between the current assessment processes and the learners’ goals towards them by discussing with them so as to get an insight of their perceptions. In my pilot interviews I plan to ask a number of participants about their goals and motivations on assessment, the assessment process, quizzes and peer marked assignments, motivation for hypothetical scenarios of not so common assessment techniques. The findings will possibly assist MOOC designers and educators to adapt assessment to learners’ goals (& needs). Having an interest in professional learning, it would be ideal to find a course that may attract professionals of a particular area (i.e. Health domain, Business etc.) and investigate how they are motivated by assessment in MOOCs. Somehow, research on demographics of MOOC learners, to date, shows that most MOOCs learners are mostly well-educated and employed so supposedly I will find professionals in the courses I will focus my research on. My broad question is to reflect on whether we could rethink assessment in MOOCs?
The GO-GN seminar gave me some food for thought with regards to my research. A valuable comment that I can recall after my jet lag is to validate my data by cross checking with other people. Therefore, getting two additional judges to apply some of the steps of my analysis may ascertain agreement in findings and validate my research. Another comment with regards to my research question is what are considered as “common assessment methods”. My answer was that I considered “computer marked assignments” and “peer review” as the most common ones after reading Tony Bates’ chapter on Assessment in MOOCs. To date, I have not found an-all-in-one article about the types of assessment and which ones are the most common. Anecdotally the assessment methods mostly used in MOOCs are computer marked assessment and peer review. I will look into more papers perhaps. In the case you are still following this post and have read any recent papers on assessment methods in MOOCs please comment on the post. After my presentation, I was also challenged about my question on rethinking assessment. Given that MOOCs are not sustainable what are the limitations of rethinking assessment in MOOCs? My answer after attending the conference is regardless the assessment context (i.e. formal education or MOOCs), it is of great importance to look on to the pedagogy behind assessment. Why are we assessing learners and what are we trying to achieve by this? Can learners be assessed for the skills they develop through MOOCs and elsewhere rather than only on theoretical content? Could we align assessment with learners’ needs and goals? Or are we just keeping the same old model of maintaining credentialism? Isn’t it discouraging to just get certificates when these certificates have no effect in reality? Don’t we want another learning society in which learners’ will be “armed” with skills they get rather than with certificates? This holds well in Westernized societies (scope of my study) and not in developing counties.
As I already said after my presentation, I am dreaming of another assessment system. Designers and instructors of this system will be able to motivate learners to develop skills that will make them work more effectively, solve problems and think critically. The current model of assessing learners with the common methods is not adequate in a society that is rapidly evolving and with information that is greatly growing. New forms of assessing may need to be identified and my aim is to contribute with my study to this direction. Some examples of other assessment methods I have heard of during the Open Education Conference may involve E-portfolios or Open Badges. My intention is to bring up hypothetical scenarios to learners and discuss these not so common assessment practices in the context of MOOCs.
It was an incredible experience to attend the Open Education Global Conference. Meeting and listening to the giants’ talks of Open Education and MOOCs felt like bumping into Hollywood actors. That is how I can only describe it. They were really inspiring. Learning more about Open Education made me rethink of the openness of MOOCs. I was questioning how is it possible that we are talking about Open Courses while it is almost unfeasible to get the permission to use course data for research purposes in most cases? How “open” are these courses in the end? In what sense are courses open? Only in terms of participating in them? Who owns the knowledge we get from MOOCs when we are not allowed to use this knowledge because it is owned from the MOOC providers?
An interesting point that was discussed during our Meeting with the OER Chairs and just crossed my mind is about the connection of MOOCs and OERs. Can a MOOC be considered as an OER? The answer is quite complicated. A MOOC can only be considered as an OER if the learner does not need to register to a platform in order to access the course content. So, I guess that most if not all xMOOCs cannot be considered as OERs because in order to have access you need to register to the course. You cannot just come and go to a MOOC. As for OERs, I can recall Abel Cain, Specialist on OER and Youth Mobile in UNESCO, talking about their accessibility. For the developing countries it is not obvious that people have access to computers etc. Therefore, OERs need to be accessible by cell phones and this is not yet the case. On another note, Mark Surman who serves as a director of the Mozzilla Foundation (firefox browser) he was talking about the demand of Web Literacy that in his view is the ability to read, write and participate. Surman was talking about the aim of learning by making, making stuff that matters and working with others to make which sounds very stimulating. Here comes the concept of collaboration and the idea of learning by doing. My question is do we take advantage of using this aim in MOOCs? How learners are assessed there? Are they collaborating at all and working together with others in order to learn? Are the platforms friendly so that learners collaborate with each other, create and share their knowledge? In what sense assessment has a collaborative nature, if any? Peer review perhaps has a collaborative aspect, but how can this be enhanced with other methods? How can we make the assessment innovative and get away from the conventional methods ? The answer is yet to come!