sexta-feira, 2 de abril de 2010

Unit 1, Act 4

One of the points that I didn´t understand in cooperative learning or in e-learning regime is related to transparenece in evalution. So I put the question to Dr.ª Lina to understand the process in Universidade Aberta:

"Dear Prof. Lina,

My name is Cecília Tomás and I am a master student in ‘Pedagogia Elearning’. I would like to ask you a question related to your coordination and teacher function in Universidade Aberta:

How do you feel about transparence in distance learning? Isn’t it possible that someone less responsible but ‘smart’ do a distance course without been his /her to do it (in reality)? How can you distinguish who does and who doesn’t do, in fact, their work’s? "

She said to me that she didn’t understand the second part of the question and if it is related whit evaluation. Then I said that:

"Indeed the question that I posed to you can attach the issue of evaluation. As a teacher I find myself sometimes with complex situations when I reach the part of the assessment and realize that some works were not made by a particular student (because I know the student and I know what he is capable of doing or not); this happens, I think, because of the interpersonal relationship (in person) that is established. In the case of distance education there is (it seems) one problem: the teacher does not know me, do not know, since the beginning, of what I'm capable to do and, therefore, who assures him that my work is not done by someone else ? I remember a television program with Mr. Rector of UA has been placed on this issue, to which he responded with the need for the personal presence at certain times of evaluation. Now this course and all course online was no moments of classroom assessment. In this way someone could be able to act in 'bad faith' and have a diploma that does not match what he / she did. My question is this: how can you talk about transparency (individual assessment) in a fully online course?"

Now I'm waiting for her ansewer.

Today Professor Lina answered to my question and she say to me:

"Dear Cecília,

I believe transparency is very valuable in any educational context, because it helps students and teachers achieve a better learning experience. In an online context, this is made easier and more powerful due to the technologies that allow for easy publication, access and interaction, with the additional affordance of having a much wider audience when you publish and communicate outside the virtual classroom, as often happens in our Master’s.

The fact that a student’s work is made available for the others to see and comment upon deepens the social dimension that learning should have and provides more opportunities for learning with and from the other students and other people. It also helps contextualize and understand the teacher’s actions and decisions, providing, at the same time, a broader feedback, since the comments made to somebody’s work might be really helpful to many others.

As for the second part of your question, I would say it is possible, but highly improbable given certain conditions I will try to explain briefly. This is a recurrent question concerning online learning, and a very important one. As happens with other educational contexts, online education is not immune to fraud. People cheat in face-to-face tests, exams and individual or group assignments, and the same happens in assessment situations online. We need to accept the fact that there will always be a minority of people who will beat the system, because no system is 100% fraud-proof. Our effort needs to concentrate on keeping the numbers very small and guarantee that these are rare exceptions.

We need to look at this issue relating it to the pedagogical approach (the type of activities and tasks students are asked to perform) and to the kind of assessment strategy is put in place (how students have to demonstrate their knowledge or competence). Moreover, we need to check how the assessment activities are related to the learning tasks.

IF the online learning experience

• is based on memorizing and reproducing content

• encompasses little interaction or the teacher has little or no presence in that interaction

• requires no collaboration among students

• is not transparent at all, i.e. students do not have to publish their work

• does not require students to regularly perform tasks and produce some sort of artifact that demonstrates or illustrates what they have learned or have become capable of doing

THEN you will need some sort of face-to-face assessment to guarantee the identity of the student assessed and the validity of their knowledge, because it is almost impossible to identify most cases of fraud.

IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, the online learning experience

• is based on developing skills and competences

• has a high level of interaction and the teacher participates regularly in that interaction

• requires students to collaborate or cooperate throughout the learning process

• is transparent, i.e. requires students to publish their work

• requires students to perform tasks regularly and produce artifacts that demonstrate or illustrate their knowledge of the contents studied and their skills and competences in applying them in specific situations

AND the assessment activities

• require a personal elaboration of the contents

• are related to the tasks performed, drawing on material and reflections produced in the process

• are multiple and diversified

• are specific, i.e. require the application of knowledge and skills to specific situations

THEN the chances for fraud are pretty low.

It is not impossible that you find someone who, for any strange reason, would be willing to work endless hours to do a course like this for you, but, as I said in the beginning, this is very improbable. Furthermore, the high levels of interaction and the strong social dimension characteristic of this pedagogical approach enable the development of effective interpersonal relationships that allow people to know each other relatively well.

Many more things could certainly be said about such a complex question, but I hope to have helped you understand a little better the most important aspects involved."

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