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#IOLchat Report: What’s Credit-Worthy? Evidence of Online Learning


Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants include students, instructors, advisors, counselors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.

How do we know that students are learning in online courses? Beyond the complicated issues of cheating and plagiarism that plague all kinds of classes, determining that students have reached the desired learning outcomes in courses can be challenging, to say the least. And with new for-credit options, including MOOCs, the questions about measuring learning become more complex.

This week we discussed concerns related to assignments, assessments, and academic credit. Here’s what the group had to say:

What does it mean to earn “academic credit,” what does it represent?

  • “Value assigned to a course or program” usually associated with successful course completion.
  • “Represents the concept of knowing that meets specific, established guidelines.”
  • “A measuring stick” – learner performance against a standard.
  • Can be based on measures of time spent on learning activities, amount of materials covered and/or mastered, as well as achievement of specific objectives.

Challenges Ahead

  • What makes up one academic credit’s worth of work isn’t globally standardized, or even consistent across U.S. schools – “may be accepted in some organizations and not others.”
  • Not all credit is equal – “community college vs. Harvard.” Different standards exist.
  • “If assessments link directly with course outcomes, credits can be equalized between different types of institutions” or possibly even different formats.
  • Transfer of credit is a significant challenge for many students. “Standardization of outcomes for various levels of education would make transfer of credit much easier, saving money” (i.e. no need to retake courses).
  • Creating authentic, real-world assessments is difficult in online environments. “How close is the assessment to a real life example? Can students use this outside class?”
  • “It’s challenging to create varied online assessments. We tend to rely on the same formats: quizzes and papers.”
  • Encouragement to include post-course evaluation that includes assessments – students and instructors can provide valuable feedback on “what worked, what didn’t [to] help in meeting outcomes.”

Course Standardization and Instructor Presence

  • Standardization of assessments presents its own challenges – even with “similar base standards … assessment is unique, authentic to culture, school.”
  • Could credit definition be standardized, but not course-level assessments?
  • What about overall course experience? “Aren’t we already supposed to be standard? But instructors put personal stamp on courses.”
  • “Courses and materials are standard. Teachers drive the course one way or the other. Outcomes should be genuine.”
  • Instructors can add their voices and expertise to a course with standardized outcomes through “extra resources, video feedback, news items.”

What about MOOCs?

  • “Explosion of MOOCs” as potential source of academic credit may help to further define their role, as an option for students, and the general assessment of learning.
  • Is an end-of course exam enough to provide evidence of learning for academic credit? Or are “we back to the old correspondence course idea. Read. Take exam. Earn credit.”
  • “It will probably be evident to schools what has been mastered, as students have to create public evidence of learning as they progress.”
  • According to Inside Higher Education, the American Council on Education is reviewing Coursera and Udacity offerings to evaluate the credit possibilities – they should “use the same process they use to evaluate other online courses and programs. If you want to be treated equal, meet the same requirements.”

For more information: check out Efficiency in Learning by Clark, Nguyen, and Sweller for some great suggestions on assessments. (Thanks @Ahilbelink!)

Thanks to @Ahilbelink, @Pamoja_PLC, @jshamsy, and @jacintodavila for participating in the live event!

For more from the most recent live session, review the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page.

Follow us (@OC_org) and plan to attend our next chat. We meet on Wednesdays at 12pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.

This week’s read-aheads:

Assignments in the online course: How much is too much? from Robert Onorato, Cengage Learning

Assessing Learning in Online Courses from Oklahoma State University, Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence

MOOCs for Credit from Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed

This week’s chat feed:

Krissy.Venosdale, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-SA

January 31st, 2013 written by (learn more about our authors)

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