Assessing Collaborative Efforts in Online Education

This blog aims at inspiring and stimulating an open and constructive dialogue on the challenges and potentials of effective collective assessment practices in online education. First, a brief overview of theoretical thought and guidance on the issue will be presented. Second, this post will support or propose effective strategies likely to lead to “fair and equitable assessment” (Siemens, 2008) of learning in Distance Education. In addition, this blog will analyze the role of the instructor in promoting collaborative learning environments. Third and last, this effort concludes with an exploration of the community of educational bloggers for postings related to collaborative assessment in Distance Education.

Many scholars have devoted their attention on the issue collaborative assessment and offer practical guidelines and strategies for possible remedies. Siemens (2008) identifies the primary challenge to fair and equitable assessment in Distance Learning as the change from “an assessment model based on individual learning to a model based on collaborative learning”. In order to exercise fairness and equity in assessing the performance of online students, Siemens (2008) further suggests “Four Models for assessment in a collaborative environment” which respectively rest on peer assesment, feedback from online communities, assessment from educators based on “student contribution”, and educators assesment based “on metrics from learning management systems”. In the video presentation on “learning communities” Siemens (2008) contrasts what he calls an individualistic or singular learning model against a collaborative working environment to express the challenges of learners coming from the actual educational system which is grounded on indididual or egocentric performance and entering a work force where labor is primarilly based of collaboration, collective participation, and team work. The best illustration provided is the constructing and flying an airline where the succesful outcome can in no way be attributed to a single individual. Pallof and Pratt (2007) calls for assessment of students to be attributed to both instructor and students in a self and peer assesment fashion where feedback plays a critical role in the promotion of “collaborative and transformative learning” (p. 212). The book further recommends “aligning assessment with Course Design” as a mean to increase learner’s satisfaction, decrease instructors’ worries over cheating, and promote the originality and autheticity of students’ work. Pallof and Pratt (2005) acknowleges the difficult task of evaluating students’ performance in online setting and proposes assessing collaborative work collaboratively (p. 44) using self and peers’ evaluation in assessments rubric. These guidelines will be used to inform effective strategies and guidelines on “fair and equitable assessment”.

As a learner with experience in online and face to face education, it seems to me that in addition to the considerations above, assessment of collaborative work in Distance Education needs first to focus on issues critical with the compatibility of group members from a logistic and professional perspective. For instance, it is critical to have group members to belong to the same timezone in order to avoid the pitfalls of time availability for synchronuous meetings, live chats, and other collaborative efforts. A second source of potential conflict in group makeup is the impact of personal and professional lives on academic efforts. A third potential obstacle in the performace of group members resides on the time frame requred to complete such assignnments. The less the time frame, the less likely will be the chance for successful collaboration. The vagueness of the contribution requirements for group members spells another route to problems on individual and collective assessment. Such problems can be alleviated by grouping students based on time zone and professional profile. Once such barriers have been removed, the assessment should should follow the self-assesment, peer asessment, and instructor’s assessment models while providing clear guidelines and rubric for assessment of each individual member of a given group.

Pallof and Pratt (2005) suggests that collaboration “takes planning and coordination on the part of the instructor to carry out collaborative activity in an online class” (p. 19). Typical to constructivist teaching practices, the instructor must play the role of moderator or guide who will lead students in the learning journey by encouraging them to “engage with one another in a meaningful way” (Pallof & Pratt, 2005, p.20). Reducing the number of postings and increasing the time frame students need to interact should contribute to provide a less stresful and a more relaxed mindset for the free exchange of ideas and opinions conducive to effective learning, independently of the fear factor of reduced point or grade on performance for an assignment.

A brief investigation of the internet for other blogs on the issue of collaborative assessment in online learning has led me to blogger Andrew Marcinek, Instructional Technology Specialist (Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/collaborative-assessment-digital-classroom-social-media-tools ) who argues that “Collaborative assessment must be part of our learning today”. The blog propose the five steps to achieving effective collaborative assessment. Another blog I have identified and like on this topic is Collaborative Assessment with Google Docs by Oliver Quinlan (Retrieved from http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog/2011/04/06/collaborative-assessment-with-google-docs ) which offers guidelines on using Google Docs for “as a tool for peer marking and assessment for learning”.

References:

Laureate Educational Inc. Siemens, G. (2008).Video. Collaborative Interactions. Baltimore, Maryland.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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This author has commented on the following blogs on collective assessment.
Roberts, Alicia: http://msaroberts2003.blogspot.com/
Smith, John : http://teachinglearningatadistance.blogspot.com/
Smith, Margaret: http://emmi143.blogspot.com/

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