Reaction to Reading Chapter Three

BlendKit Chapter Three was this week’s Blended Learning Toolkit reading. For the most part it revolved around online assessments.  Many of these questions are not unique to online at all, but do deserve a revision as some of the face-to-face practices are replicated asynchronously.

Questions to Ponder

These caught my eye this week:

  • How much of the final course grade do you typically allot to testing? How many test/exams do you usually require? How can you avoid creating a “high stakes” environment that may inadvertently set students up for failure/cheating?
  • How will you implement formal and informal assessments of learning into your blended learning course?Will these all take place face-to-face, online, or in combination?

I recall one school year “teaching” a 7th grader in pre-algebra. “Jack” often did not do the daily work in class, rarely did any homework, but could always ace the unit tests. I could not fail him, he could demonstrate mastery of the content. However, I had many students that year who worked hard daily and nightly and still only squeaked by on the assessment. The grade I provided as feedback was supposed to be about the mastery of the math content. I resolved never to fail a student like Jack who could demonstrate mastery of the content.  For him, I dropped all grades and gave him his unit assessment grade. For the other students who worked hard I allowed their daily/nightly grades to stand in order to bring up their assessment grade. I still have a hard time with this dichotomy in my grading. I did not want to diminish Jack’s mathematical knowledge by puffing up the others students’ grades, but I did want to reward their effort, even though the course was not “Effort in Math.” I still feel the un-comfortableness of teaching two classes that year, 7th grade Math and Effort in 7th grade Math. I can estimate the temptation of going either all face-to-face or all online for assessments would be high for many educators. It makes sense to go “all-in” as a statement of confidence in either practice. I could see where a bifurcated process of assessment might appear undecided; teachers experimenting in Blended Learning are uncertain enough, they have no need to appear uncertain to their students or their parents (k12). To read that a combination of online with face-to-face could produce seems reasonable in the same way that a combination of informal and formal assessments might produce a truer picture of students understanding. I think informing first the teachers and then the parents of the intentional combination of assessments might achieve the balance to reveal the truest sense of student understanding. This was further enforced by the mention later in the reading: “Faculty who evaluate their students’ performances by using a mixture of tests – some online, some offline – have experiences more fruitful outcomes.”

 From the Reading

These thoughts captured my attention: “How well do face-to-face and out of class time learning activities complement each other?” I hope that the answer to this varies based on each of these factors: the content of the course, the duration/meeting frequency of the course, the instructor, the students, the maturity of the students – not just in age, but in the content. I would hope that the instructor has a full offering in online format and customizes the course each semester/year based on how the course composition varies. “Make sure that your objectives are made clear to the students. The learning standards must be addressed, yes, but also find real life application to better your students’ understanding of the materials covered.” This is a lesson learned and openly addressed in the commercial e-learning arena. I would hope education could look to the experiences gained in that related career field for guidance on the effectiveness of leading with measurable objectives at the start of online modules. Once the objectives are addressed in professional elearning courses scenarios/stories are often the method for allowing the learner to interact with the content to demonstrate the learning objectives. “Many times a lesson taught with the use of online instruction or with technology as its main tool provides a built-in application.” This might also relate to the commercial e-learning industry. Scenarios, situations, story lines all build to real-world applications naturally. Interactions which can be build in tools such as ZebraZapps might be an ultimate feedback machine and provide a fun, interactive way to reinforce real-world usefulness. An idea was put forth that assessments online are easier to score, but less secure. It made me imagine a mixing board where

one extreme was No Security, Easiest to Score

and the other extreme was  Totally Secure, Hardest to Score.

This thought paired neatly with the mention later in the article that the “focus must be on student learning, not student control.” The article goes on to quote Dietz-Uhler and Hurn (2011) “the evidence, although scant, suggests that academic dishonesty occurs frequently and equally in online and face-to-face courses” “Presenting video explanations or examples to read as text online or offline proves to be helpful. Presenting video explanations or examples online, where students can view a snippet of the content repeatedly gives enough exposure to solidify an idea or concept.” This helped me make a connection between teaching content vocabulary and any general topic. Of course the point was brought up that mastering the technology itself cannot be what the students’ grade represents. The technology must be transparent, either to the students in receiving and transmitting their understanding back to the class, and for the teacher it should not hinder, but magnify the learning environment and it should not obscure the class products. I really appreciated the section about online assessments broken down into Tool Features versus Design Strategies.  It put me in the mind for how I could best re-deliver this type of information. I will feel stronger in the choices within the tool and would love to invite a co-author on the strategies section(s).


DIY Tasks

Assignment: Instructions

Windows 8 Elements of Written Instructions Metro Style

Windows 8 Elements of Written Instructions Metro Style

I would ask participants in a course about learning to teach asynchronously to create their own graphic organizer or infographic to explain their thinking about these eight elements to include in written assignments. For example I wanted to show the elements I think are most important by size, but I also wanted the audience to understand how I thought the elements compared to each other. In evaluating where in a course I might not make instructions available online I would say a science lab/experiment situation where I wanted to evaluate their ability to work through the lab procedures, by themselves or with a group, and if I wanted to evaluate the student(s) working through math problems as part of a lab. Otherwise I can see all other instructions being available online, even if I am just referring to them in a face-to-face session.

Assignment: Online Quiz Settings


Tool Features Design Strategies
Randomize Questions within Quiz and from Question Bank Question Bank twice size of Quiz Questions
Randomize Answers Include a distractor answer, but do not rely on order
Auto-Scoring Features Low Percentage/Low Stakes/Low Teacher Prep
Open/Closing Time Frame Gate Assessments
Utilize Standards/Mastery Trackers Align with Learning Objectives