Sunday, September 2, 2012

Open Assessment - More than just badges

This week on #ioe12 I tackled Open Assessment. Now, I am no newbie to badges. I can't say I've been there "since day 1," but it was pretty darned close!  Before going through these materials, which included a a video from the launch of the HASTAC and MacArthur Foundation DML competition, I thought of open assessment as something that dealt with badges for life long learning, and something that potentially disaggregated formal degrees.  When I saw the DS106 assignment submission page, which I had seen before - but never thought of in this light, I had my AHA moment!

Sure, Open Assessment can be the badge system that potentially disaggregates degree granting institutions and un-bindles a formal degree.  However, I thought of two more potential use-cases for Open Assessment:

1) Open-ish Assessment (I still view this as open, others might not):  This is the type of assessment, along the lines of DS106 assignment submissions where members of the class of people who are subject matter experts can submit assessments that are appropriate for a certain level of knowledge. These SMEs would have have some formal credential, research in the field, and belong to some sort of professional association that requires core knowledge exams or practica (examples: the bar association or being licensed to be an MD.  Sure, some may view this as a closed class, but not all students know what they don't know, so how would they be able to submit an assignment?

2) (wide) Open Assessment (some people might view this as wide open; I just see it as "open").  This type of assessment is exactly what DS106 has with the submit an assignment tool.  In this case students can indeed submit proposals for assignments.  Now the assignments can be automatically posted (no curation), or they can be curated by a group of SMEs.  There is quite some room for play here.  At the beginning of class it might not be (IMHO) a good idea to ask students to submit assignment suggestions because (1) they don't know what they don't know; and (2) they may opt for some easy assignments.  However, at the end of the semester, once they've gone through the course and have been assessed themselves, then they could submit an assignment proposal (as I was writing this, I started wondering to myself if this type of student is now part of the SME group or not....I don't have an answer, open to debate).

Finally, there were a couple of things that caught my ear in the HASTAC video that I wanted to comment on:

  • There was a speaker from NASA, former Marine who was speaking about skills you get in the armed services that are in "military-speak." These needed translation so that when armed services members transitioned to civilian life they could easily show that they has x, y, z skills to people who didn't speak military-speak. I thought this was a nice parallel to badging.
  • Another speaker said "stop measuring seat time and start measuring competency." To this I would like to say AMEN! I think this also parallels the on-campu/online divide that some academic programs have, where online is seen as a threat because people won't have their butts in seats every Tuesday at 6:30 for 13 weeks.  We need to stop thinking this way and start thinking about the reasons we want butts in seats every week.  If it is not for an instructional purpose that benefits the learner, then could we use the f2f modality better?
  • "Manufacturers call on academia to make training more relevant and train for jobs." This is not my original response, but I agree: Higher Education is in part job preparation, but it is also in part preparation for life long learning and having rounded education (in my opinion this should happen in K-12).  Manufacturers need to provide on-the-job training and reskilling whenever needed. Having the learner pay ungodly amounts of money to work for you, and have the skills you need, in my mind, is not ethical.  New employees shouldn't come into work as lump of clay (raw material) but they should come in as a clay pot that needs glazing and painting (semi-finished). This way the employee knows the environment but it is up to the employer to really help the employee fit into the organization. It's not the job of the school.

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