Assessment and eLearning

Educational strategies for learning require thoughtful planning stages that include objectives and rubrics for mentors and learners (Horton, 2012).  Teachers use rubrics to communicate expectations in a course and grade assignments. Students turn to the rubric as they write papers or complete assignments, in hopes of obtaining the desired grade. These grades should be aligned with meeting the objectives of the course, and serve to better guide both teachers and students (Teacher Vision, n.d.).  In this way, students have a better understanding of what the teacher expects and why points are given or taken off of assignments. For the learner to increase in understanding, a grade must not be elusive, but must fit within a guide – the rubric.  This standard of meeting guidelines and objectives is applied throughout the design of an online course, the delivery of the course, and the reception of the online course. Students of online courses should not have to guess what the instructor wants, but it should be easily discovered through the presence of an online rubric. Effective rubrics make learning easier and more successful for all engaged.
The strategy for developing an online rubric is much the same as for that in any element of instruction and learning.  However, some universities have developed online rubrics, such as that at California State University, Chico (2012). This rubric was prepared to facilitate instructors in the development of their online courses. It is divided into six categories:  (1) Learner support and resources,  (2) online organization and design,  (3) Instructional design and delivery,  (4) assessment and evaluation of student learning,  (5) appropriate and effective use of technology, and  (6)  faculty use of student feedback (CSU, 2012).  Within each of these categories, teachers evaluate their courses as meeting three escalating levels of effectiveness:  Baseline, Effective, or Exemplary (CSU, 2012).
Online learning requires rubrics that address learning strategies that are specific to eLearning.  This will include web page rubrics, multimedia rubrics, podcast rubrics, and more (Schrock, 2012).  As online learning reaches into the mobile device learning platform, these areas need to be addressed as well.  Textbooks, lectures, and assignments that are the staple of brick and mortar classroom learning cannot be simply uploaded to a website and be effective online courses.  Technology advances can enhance learning when properly prepared to become engaging and successful.
These assessment strategies reach across all learning levels, and include K-12 as well as higher education and corporate learning.  An online learning program that is embraced by many public and charter schools to deliver K-12 classes is called K12 (K12, 2013).   This program was one of the first to become available to online learners and has progressed to the point of meeting state and federal guidelines that enables public school districts to offer an online alternative to their brick and mortar schools.  One of their courses analyzed for this paper was an online high school biology course. The objectives and assessments were clearly outlined in the course. Materials for the lab and all books were listed and shipped to the student.  Although there was a rubric for all assignments, some were more effective than others.  Once a week, the instructor covered questions and the expectations via an online synchronous meeting using the technology platform, elluminate. Included in the rubric was the requirement for each of the students to log onto the discussion board and present the results of each lab.  Then, each student was required to respond to two other student’s results.  This was to encourage discussion, but it was not that effective in getting the students to discuss the results.  Students would meet the requirements, but not explore discussion further.  Perhaps this was due to the fact that the students were not familiar with discussion boards, or perhaps they merely wanted to the minimal requirements of the rubric. 
In another course at the higher education level, discussion boards elicited more conversation and dialog between students. However, at this higher educational level of learning, students were more likely to cross the boundaries of proper Internet etiquette.  In a course called “Writing in the Sciences” and offered as a massive open online course from Stanford University on the platform, Coursera, a few students used the discussion boards to condemn other students  of plagiarism.  Upon further analysis, some of the claims were not valid, as the writings submitted, found on the Internet, were in fact the writings of the students who had submitted the work in the course.  One of the drawbacks of this course was the anonymous method of submitting work to be graded by one’s peers.  The use of anonymity seems to encourage more vitriolic conversation and impedes progress of eLearning.  In the submittal of the writing assignments, there were no options to include information about the writer’s experience or published articles, an option that would have cleared up accusations.  Since this was a course offered to anyone, including professionals, to improve their writing of journal articles within the sciences, one would expect that some of these students would be already published. 
The instructor was effective in communicating through asynchronous video presentations.  She used clear examples and quizzes were regularly embedded to assess learners understanding of the material for the online course, “Writing in the Sciences.”  But the writing assignments were not effective in producing the desired outcomes.  This level of learning was blighted by the use of anonymous peer editing, which led to variable results.  Although there are application benefits when a student practices just-learned skills, in this case some students were better skilled than others.  Perhaps this could have been avoided by assigning the same article to all the students to be edited.  In this way, students could have more effectively collaborated on the editing, without accusing other students of plagiarism or being given another student’s writing that was poorly written and not easily edited.  The learning theory of connectivism could have been more effectively addressed through the use of one mutual writing sample to correct and edit (Herrington, n.d.).  Students would begin to build on their understanding of editing and writing (Kinesh, 2012). 
In 1956, Benjamin S. Bloom studied the process of learning and described these results in what became known as Bloom’s Taxonomy (Overbaugh, n.d.).  Others have adapted this and one student revised the pyramid of learning in the 1990s (Overbaugh, n.d.).  Bloom’s original concept of learning progressed from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, to evaluation.  The revised Bloom’s taxonomy takes these concepts and turns them into action verbs, which are more meaningful and more applicable when designing learning rubrics (Overbaugh, n.d.).   Knowledge becomes remembering, comprehension becomes understanding, application is now applying, analysis is analyzing, synthesis becomes evaluating, and evaluation encompasses creating (Overbaugh, n.d.).  Horton’s (2012) absorb, do, and connect activities for effective online learning meet all of these demands. 
(Overbaugh, n.d.)
The Coursera course, “Writing in the Sciences” applied the tenets of the revised Bloom’s taxonomy in the design and delivery of the course, even though the area of peer editing was not that successful.  In conjunction with Bloom’s cognitive process, an effective rubric will include Horton’s (2012) absorb, do and connect activities.  The following table exemplifies this information, showing how Bloom’s taxonomy and Horton’s activities join to make an effective online learning rubric.  The Coursera course, “Writing in the Sciences” was analyzed using these guidelines.

Learning Activity and Objective
Learn to write in the active voice
Students watch video slide presentation of examples of passive versus active voice. (Voice-over)
Students are presented with sentences in passive voice. They must change to active voice. Correct revision follows on next screen.
Write a 300-word paragraph in the active voice, grade a peer’s writing.
Cut unnecessary words to write with more clarity and ease of reading.
Students watch slide video that presents information on parts of speech and how to streamline writing by removing extra adverbs, long phrases, jargon, needless prepositions, negatives, and “there is” and “there are”
Sentences are introduced one at a time that needs to be edited. Answers follow each sentence, with variation acceptable.
Write and correct a 300-word essay.
Write with strong verbs to write with more emphasis on action.
Students watch slide video with voice over explaining the use of strong verbs instead of nouns. Example: “obtain estimates” is replaced with “estimate”
Sentences that need to be corrected on screen with answers following.
Write and correct a 300 word essay.
Improve punctuation to include the correct use of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, and phrases
Slide presentation video, voice over explaining this concept.
Sentences introduced that need changes. Correct them and show the answers online.
Write a 300 word essay using these forms of punctuation and correct peer essays.
Use parallelism in writing to improve readability of papers.
Slide presentation, voice over examples of sentences that are written with parallelism and those that are not.
Sentences are introduced that need to have parallelism.
Write and correct a 300 word essay that incorporates parallelism.

California State University, Chico.  (2012).  Rubrics.  Retrieved from http://www.csuchico.edu/roi/

Coursera.  (n.d.).  Writing in the Sciences. Retrieved from http://coursera.org

Herrington A., & Herrington, H.  (n.d.).  Authentic mobile learning in higher education. Retrieved from http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/her07131.pdf 

Horton, W. (2012).  E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA:  Pfeiffer 

Kinash, S., Brand, J., & Mathew, T.   (2012).  Challenging mobile learning discourse through research: Student perceptions of blackboard mobile learn and iPads. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(4),  639-655.  Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=77978502&site=eds-live

K12,  (2013).  How a K12 Education Works.  Retrieved from http://www.k12.com/

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L.  (n.d.).  Bloom’s taxonomy.  Retrieved from http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Schrock, K.  (2012).  Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything.  Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/assessment-and-rubrics.html

Teacher Vision.  (n.d.).  Creating rubrics.  Retrieved from http://www.teachervision.fen.com/teaching-methods-and-management/rubrics/4521.html

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