Lesson Five: Assessment and Course
Authenticity of Student Work
Authenticity of Internet Information
Plagiarism Issues and Solutions
Strategies for Online Assessment
- Individual and Group Self-assessment
- Mastery Learning and Outcome-based Learning
- Leveraging Social Motivations
Course Management Tools and Strategies
In this lesson we'll review the most common assessment techniques for online learning and identify key issues related to authenticity of student work, and student differences learning online.
We'll create an online quiz at a quiz-authoring site, and review assessment and course managment tools.
Creating a Online Quiz Quickly
Here's an example of an instructional "walk-through" activity - one click at a time.
Go to http://quia.com
1. Click on the Instructor Zone
2. Click on Instructor Zone again over on the right.
3. Click on the 30 day free trial.
4. Fill out the form and click "Create my 30-day Trial account"
5. Click on "Start Trial"
6. Click on Quizzes
7. Click on "Create a New Quiz"
8. Click on the first EDIT button and select your quiz type.
9. Continue until finished noting that you'll be given an ID
and Password to give to your students for them to
access your quiz, and you'll be automatically emailed their
10. When done, log in as if you were a student, take your quiz,
and then check your email to see if the results show up
11. Noodle around to learn other features for quizzes,
as well as the other activities listed.
NOTE: This is fast and easy - once you've done it once, but it is important to realize that the first time through - without the above "walk through" there are many steps where one might get stuck, at least until noodling around allows you to figure out how this system works. This "noodling" is an important skill to develop... by noodling (learning by doing.)
Authenticity of Student Work
Since you can't see a student online, with some individuals there may be question as to the authenticity of their work. The most secure strategy to deal with this issue is proctored testing, where students learn online, but must be supervised for testing by a responsible adult.
Timed online quizzes may, or may not, be proctored and present another alternative. With timed quizzes, students are given a limited block of time such as 24 hours, to take online quizzes.
Authenticity of Internet Information
Authenticity of information students find on the Internet is a important issue as students are typically noncritical consumers. Students need to learn to validate their sources of information and realize that inaccurate information is commonplace on the Internet. Typically, citing the sponsor of a web site and/or three sites with the same information are the most common strategies for authenticating Internet information.
A form you can use with your students to evaluate the source of Internet information is at http://lone-eagles.com/search6.htm
- Citing Electronic Resources
Similar resources available at http://lone-eagles.com/k12.htm , see also http://lone-eagles.com/asdnl4.htm
Plagiarism is always a risk. With unlimited access to information through the Internet and the ease at which written material can be "borrowed," some students will be tempted to submit the work of others as their own. There are over 200 web sites which actively promote such cheating by providing term papers in electronic form.
There is a way to combat this problem. If you go to http://plagiarism.org you'll find a service that (for 50 cents a paper) will search the Internet for any duplication of sentences, paragraphs, even phrases. This project has already incorporated all the term papers from the 200+ cheat sites mentioned above. It's easy to use and provides a color-coded output detailing the sources for text that has been found elsewhere. Whereas few teachers have the budgets to do this for all student paper, conducting a sample "paper check" as a demonstration for students of this new capability might well minimize student's willingness to plagiarize.
Spend 30 minutes exploring this site.
Strategies for Online Assessment.
Diversity of cultural and technical backgrounds can create inequities concerning online assessment. If students are frustrated with equipment problems, access problems, navigating the system, unreliable access to course information, or don't understand the expected behavior or class format, those students are likely to be assessed on these issues independent of content mastery. Technophobia is a common problem with online instruction for those new to using computers, particularly among adults. It's commonly related to information overload caused by trying to learn many new technical concepts at once.
The technical skills necessary for participating in an online course MUST be mastered before purposeful instruction can take place. The emotional support of knowing you can ask questions and receive friendly assistance is fundamental to any successful online course. This type of supportive interaction has profound social meaning which should not be underestimated.
Online group coordination can require considerable effort. Students will often get caught up in the excitement of being online and not carefully follow the instructions for the course. Early in an online course, all students must learn the discipline required. If a student fails to "show up" for class, teacher recognition and resolution of this fact must be as immediate as possible. If a student doesn't follow instructions, swift action is necessary to get that student back on track, otherwise the whole class suffers, since interaction among all students is an important part of any online class.
The online classroom can accentuate student differences in writing ability, comfort level with technology, and self-confidence.Students with low confidence regarding their online persona, writing and/or language ability and technical skills, tend to read messages, but may not respond. An online instructor must carefully work to identify these students early in an online course and gently draw them into online discussions.
The online medium tends to exaggerate both positive and negative messages. If an instructor says "good job" to a student, the effect can often be dramatically positive. If an instructor says "Let's keep on track, now is not the time for that topic," a student might feel completely slammed and quit interacting or even drop the course. It's a fact that the online medium tends to often be emotionally charged.
With verbal communications, we find it easy to present a given personna. With written communications, a student generally feels they are revealing themselves from a much deeper level, as they often are, and hence, criticism is often taken much more harshly. Praise, also seems to be amplified online, particularly by those who are uncomfortable with writing or use of computers and Internet.
Praise and encouragement are typically needed much more often online than in a classroom where facial expressions and the mood of the room can provide feedback. Asking public questions of students is a standard method of getting the quiet ones to talk online. Intentionally raising a controversial issue can be an effective way of eliciting messages, too.
The online mode lends itself toward students helping students and the shared understanding that group learning goals are as important as individual learning goals. Student-to-student interaction should be encouraged as much as possible. Peer mentoring is a good strategy, as is peer assessment, where everyone can recognize the need to help each other reach a given standard of performance.
Self-Assessment and Peer-Assessment
There is an implied contract in any online instructional experience. The student agrees to responsibly conduct the work assigned and to interact honestly, and the teacher agrees to support the students by responding to questions, and understanding when technical problems are at fault. Peer and Self-assessment are closer to the real world model of achievement than traditional testing and include issues such as effort-put-forth, and differences in backgrounds.
Self-assessment allows students to focus on their personal growth, independent of their peers. This can be an important motivational component for students with backgrounds significantly different from their peers.
Peer-Assessment can be one way for students to monitor each other to help achieve uniform participation in an online activity or discussion. Peer-mentoring is often necessary for those with strong computer and Internet backgrounds to be specifically tasked with helping raise the skills and confidence of those without such backgrounds.
Instead of relying on traditional testing measures, outcome-based learning and project-based assessment may make better sense. If students work individually or as part of a group on a project or series of specific deliverables, it simplifies the assessment issue. Peer assessment of each member's contribution toward a group project can also become a part of the assessment plan.
Depending on the content for the course, it is sometimes possible to have students create assignments that demonstrate mastery of skills, or concepts, in a successive fashion, perhaps ending with a final product or report. In this model, students must demonstrate their progressive mastery of the course content. This model makes plagiarism more difficult.
Having students write to demonstrate their mastery of the content is another workable solution. It is often quite obvious to the teacher when students attempt to copy each other's writing. With small groups of students, a teacher becomes familiar with each student's writing skills and often will notice a sudden change in style or quality of writing. With larger groups of students this works less effectively.
Assignments can be structured so there is online proof that the students actually did the required work. Strategies can include having students capture and cite sample text, if their assignment involves visiting other online resources, or providing the teacher with specific information accessible only through actually performing the required assignments. An example would be to ask students to find three URL's on a topic which have not been previously shared as part of the class, or to cut and paste related text along with the URL's from the original source. Electronic multimedia student portfolios are discussed in Chapter Five, which you're asked to read for this lesson.
Explore electronic portfolios at http://electronicportfolios.com and the tutorial at
Mastery Learning Assessment
Since students will have different ability levels, perhaps accentuated by the online classroom, it makes sense to consider master learning as an assessment strategy, based on demonstration of specific skills or product outcomes. Peer mentoring can create an exciting dynamic for those students who need more confidence and support.
One way to avoid plagiarism is to require students to produce unique lesson outcomes that build upon each other in a progressive manner. This is particularly suitable for skills-based content where students must demonstrate mastery of a given set of skills before they will be able to proceed. Periodic demonstrations of these skills can be a means of double-checking to see if students have indeed learned and not copied from others. Creating an outline, followed by specific sections of a report, would be one example.
Archiving Messages for Later Reflection
One interesting strategy for subjective self-assessment is to save all student messages in separate files so at the end of an activity, or online course, the teacher can return to the student their entire transcript of interaction for reflection. A teacher may find it interesting to simply measure the length and/or volume of students' messages over time. A teacher might ask a student to rate their own messages as to level of confidence, and quality of contribution, to a group discussion or activity.
Another option is to create your own free listserv at http://netpals.lsoft.com and use their web-based searchable message archives to create listings of messages by student name. If your students are aware from the beginning that a public archive of their collaborative contributions is being kept, it may make a difference in their level and quality of participation.
Lesson Feedback: Optional, but much appreciated.
You're invited to privately email your instructor:
1. What areas, if any, did you have trouble with during this lesson?
2. What questions remain now that you've finished this lesson?
3. Approximately how much time did you devote to this lesson?
4. What improvements would you like to suggest?