Using technology for assessment in higher education

Amanda teaches Biochemistry at Mount Allison University and has asked for suggestions on using information technology for assessment. I can suggest blogs for writing exercises or wikis for group work but I don’t know any creative methods for summative assessment.

Any more suggestions?

6 Responses to “Using technology for assessment in higher education”

  1. Heather Ross

    Something like a portfolio would be good. This could be done with a blog, wiki, presentation tool like VoiceThread or a combination of all.

    These tools allow for including text, pictures, audio, video, etc. through linking with services like Flickr and YouTube. They can pull all of the pieces of their work together for one final product.

  2. Amanda Cockshutt

    I’ve never been a fan of portfolios, but I realize that most schools think that they are the bees knees.

    I do ask my students to submit their work electronically (usually simply pdfs or word documents), but I suppose the work could be posted on a blog or wiki. This would deal with the assignment, lab report, term project aspects of a course. What I wonder about more is examination. How do we tackle this one?

  3. Gilbert

    I have found technology to work extremely well for formative assessment.

    A summative assessment will affect the student mark so one should be extremely careful
    before trying to be creative or to use technology. If you are going to be creative try
    to do so long before the final exam.

    Your formative and summative assessment approaches should complement each other. I recommend treating the formative assessment as
    an assignment not worth more than 10%.

    A proper assessment strategy can improve the efficiencly of your teaching. Do not improvise as you go. Students have a right to know how they will be evaluated very early in the process.

    P.S. Keep in mind that Midterms and finals serve different purposes. Midterms are in part motivational and also serve as a buffer in case the finals are not representative.

    It is relatively hard to improve one’s delivery skills but quite easy to improve one’s assessment skills by reading the proper articles.
    Assessment is more of a science than an art.


  4. Amanda Cockshutt

    Thank you for these excellent comments. You are putting into educational-ese many of the ideas I have had. For the current course I am teaching, the 30% of the mark for lab reports (total, there are 5 of them), the 10% for assignments and 15% for the term project would all come under the category of formative assessment. These the students have options of how to hand them in (paper, electronic submissions…). In the past I have asked for term papers to be done in wikipedia style, and they got extra marks for posting them (as many did). In fact for a couple of students, all they did was send me the link.

    I am sitting right now invigilating as my students write their midterm (worth 20%). I am wondering about an option to let the students write their final on a computer. It would obviously be open-web, so one would have to think very carefully about how to do that, but is it not more reflective of a real world situation? When I wonder about how something works in the run of my intellectual day, I don’t sit there and try to remember exactly what I learned in a particular course… I will probably go to one of my trusted sites or journals and get a recent review. The tricky bit is to be able to critically evaluate the material and apply it to answer the question at hand.

    Probably we aren’t technologically ready at Mount A to do what I want to do for this year, with my luck the wireless would be down that day. I do want to think about it though.

  5. Gilbert

    If you are trying to measure the ability to critically evaluate material and apply it to a question at hand keep in mind that creativity is not something that can be forced easily.

    There are students who are good at giving pretty good answers very fast. Others have what I call slow intelligence. They will systematically come up with better solutions but they require more time to do so.

    I have found take home exams to sometimes be a solution. When I give a “take home” I always make the students take a supervised exam also. (70% take home and 30% for the supervised part). Some students tend to “consult each other” on the take home and the supervised part provides a way to adjust.


  6. Amanda Cockshutt

    I know. There is a huge element of how well you test in a person’s level if success in academia. Some bright but not exceptional people seem to give you exactly what you were looking for, where some really sharp students get completely side-tracked and end up on wild tangents.

    I have always been nervous of the take home test because I know there is tons of collaboration on them. While this can be a good thing in a productive work environment, it is useless if one is trying to assess whether the student actually knows and understands the material.

    The idea of a mark split is an interesting one.

    I do know people who I consider very intelligent who operate on that slow burn style. You get an excellent answer when you finally get it. Hmmm.


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