#ocTEL Week 6 – help and ideas please!

Effective Assessment in a Digital Age (JISC, 2010): consider the following questions.
Week 6 is certainly raising a lot of questions for me, and presenting challenges in terms of my current teaching methods. To be honest, I’m left wondering how effective my teaching actually is and how much more I should be included in terms of teaching and learning methods. Perhaps I am just over thinking – certainly colleagues and students seem to regard the course highly, but I do think I can work on the assessment methods further, formative and summative – but in particular the formative. Some of this will be challenged by our VLE – Blackboard 9, and I don’t know what other assessment methods can be introduced beyond those I currently use.
• How does your assessment approach(es) align with the four teaching and learning perspectives (page 11)? I use a number of assessment methods, formative and summative in my online teaching:
Associative. Learning as acquiring competence: this is developed by encouraging self reflection. The teaching methods also support knowledge transfer. Across the course as whole, and as part of the two summative assessments, they are expected to demonstrate the application of knowledge to a given scenario. They then receive the expert feedback as part of written comments after the assessment is submitted. Questions on the discussion boards also help them to think about the concepts with feedback given by peers.
Constructivist: I don’t see much different between this and Associative learning and assessment, though they are not expected or able to develop learning by means of experimentation and inquiry based tasks. This is mainly a reflection of the subject. The only self-generated feedback is from self-tests.
Social constructivist. A group assessment requires students to work on a small project together, and create a public health demographic poster of a particular country. This means they need to apply understanding and skills of using information sources and selecting appropriate information to display in a way suitable for the public.
Situative. There isn’t really any opportunity for learners to develop their identities through participation in specific communities of practice.

In answering these questions, I am left wondering about the quality of the assessment methods I am currently using.
I would appreciate feedback on this (is this an example of me using Situative perspective!)
The methods I use are as follows:
Discussion boards tasks, which are assessed. Several of these throughout the course. Clear instruction and direction given, and usually expected to apply learning for that week to a particular activity, with a posting of about 250-500 words. The problem I now see with this, is that students only get feedback from the tutor. Few students actually comment on the postings of other students, regardless of whether it is assessed or not.
Self-reflection. At particular points in the teaching, students asked to consider an example in their own work, and reflect in terms of the learning given and how a particular skills set or theory etc, might apply to their work example and what they might do differently in future and why. Problem with this is that students have no opportunity to receive feedback from anyone. And no idea whether they actually do these tasks.
Self-tests. A few opportunities exist to provide straightforward self tests. These work well and give immediate formative feedback. There is no mechanism though to give more questions if students haven’t got the question right the first time round. This could be implemented I think depending on the VLE (Blackboard). I also think I could perhaps introduce some self tests which are based on written examples. I saw in one of the Edinburgh MOOCs that they gave examples of different paragraphs, with sentences highlighted in different colours, and students had to they identify what was “the research question” “the aim”, the”theory” etc. This seemed to work well as a student (i.e. me).
Feedback through learning communities (situative and social constructivist. Problem here is that on this international course, students don’t really engage well with each other. They do seem to like the assessed group Wiki activities, but apart from that there is little discussion with each other, that I as a tutor am aware of. They might be ‘socialising’ outside of the VLE of course. I tried using a blog but few students responded comments, and one got frustrated that she was the only one who seemed to writing any responses to my postings. I think part of the problem is that we haven;’t developed a learning community across the course as whole, and each individual unit is isolated from each other. I would like to see how we can develop a full course social learning community, such as using Facebook, or giving students opportunities to develop ones in their own preferred way. I like the system of the Daily Newsletter in ocTEL, but need to find out if this would work with Facebook aswell. I would then like to link up our social community with other public health courses. Another idea, is to try and link more formally with a group of students on another course but taking a similar course unit. For example, many people in health and social care will do a course unit on evidence based practice – so by linking up students from different universities etc, they would have opportunities for some engaging debate about these principles and the reality of putting them into practice.
So for me the two overriding problems are:
(1) What type of social learning community will be the most appropriate for international students who most are busy professionals
(2) To what extent will the current VLE support this, or is it to be established out of the VLE (my preference) and then what organizational issues would this present.
Oh and of course, how do I then encourage students to socialize within it!
I know I’ve sort of gone off-piste a bit here. But beyond the more traditional online assessment methods, much is then moving towards peer assessment, peer support and feedback and I think this is the challenge I need to work on next.

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"a technophobic in recovery" . Hello - I'm a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, England. My subject area is Public Health. I spend most of my time teaching postgraduate students on a fully online distance learning programme in public health and primary care. I have come from a research background in public health and primary in the UK National Health Service. My main research & public health interests include the evaluation and impact assessment of public health interventions. I have published papers on randomised controlled trials, cross sectional studies and systematic reviews. My teaching and learning interests, more recently pursued, include pedagogy for vocational postgraduate students in an international context; the use of web-based technology for learning; Open Learning and MOOCs and the development of critical thinking skills and research training.

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