Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Online Learning and Evaluation Options

The traditional strategy for evaluating student learning is "the test." Students regurgitate the information that they learned by answering questions, either multiple choice questions or in text form. This provides an easy way for teachers to determine whether the students have acquired the necessary information, for administrators to evaluate classroom performance and for communities and governments to monitor the standing of their schools.

Proponents of traditional testing note that these tests are a fair and objective measure of student achievement but increasingly educators are expressing the worry that the pressure of performing well on tests causes teachers to structure their curriculum according to the test, rather than creating a curriculum that helps students gain real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in life.

Conducting a traditional test online is probably one of the easiest aspects of distance learning. Digital tools quickly record students' answers and "score" the test within minutes. But what about the elearning educator who wants to create a rubric that is actually a part of the learning process?

If the goal of education is to help students learn material, develop the skills to analyze the material and learn how to further use it in a constructive manner, traditional testing seems to defeat that purpose. How many times have we heard our students say "I didn't remember anything after I took the test."? Where's the education here?

The old-fashioned book report, which was probably one of the most engaging types of traditional learner-evaluation rubrics, has been expanded in online learning programs to include interactive opportunities for students to summarize units while adding to their understanding of the subject matter and reinforcing the content of the lesson.

Book reports involve describing a book in the form of a summary, usually as a written report. The student provides enough of an overview of the book so that the teacher can see that the student actually read the book.

Distance learning allows students to use a wide range of online tools to create that same summery, but with the added opportunity to expand on the subject and actually use the evaluation to create an additional learning experience. Using dynamic etools the student can use his own language and understanding of the subject material to demonstrate how a unit progressed and the conclusions that the student took from the information that he acquired.

In a recent JETS history lesson the 10th grade students of the Kadima school of St. Louis created intriguing summaries of the intensive material that they studied that related to the dilemmas that faced the Jewish community of Jerusalem of the 1st century C.E.

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