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The Challenges of Distance Education: Evaluation

In this article, we want to explore the area of assessment in a remote and asynchronous learning environment. We present several strategies to address the three most important challenges in distance assessment: Student mindset, structure/content, and logistics/technology.

Computer Distance Learning

How to Design Assessments to Ensure that Student Work is Authentic?

Strategies

Consider using performance evaluations where students demonstrate their new knowledge in a product, such as an investigation, portfolio, project, Assignment, experiment, prototype, or even a real situation like write my essay. Since performance reviews are often multi-part and more realistic, teachers report feeling a greater degree of confidence that the products are genuine. When performance evaluations are completed in stages with small deliveries of the product throughout the entire assignment, the teacher has the opportunity to witness the progress of the learning and progress of the assignment.

Customize your performance evaluations. Depending on the discipline or area, you may be able to tie the assessments to the individual interests and passions of each student. Personalized assessments help to engage students, but also contextualize the assessment in a way that minimizes collusion between students.

One way to overcome this challenge is to stay away from verbatim questions and tackle more complex skills (focus on the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s depth of knowledge). For example, a high school literature teacher might ask students to identify a metaphor in a passage and explain how the author used the metaphor to achieve a specific effect, rather than simply asking “What is a metaphor?”

Consider using a portfolio system with a variety of assignments for students to demonstrate mastery of the topic. Like other performance evaluations, the portfolio can be individualized to ensure that the work is authentic. Additionally, portfolios are built over time and include various types of assessments, increasing opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding and receive feedback.

How can we help Students get the Right Mindset to take the Assessment Seriously?

Strategies

Discusses assessment scenarios explicitly, setting expectations, and providing helpful strategies. When students are out of school, it can be easy to forget the rules and expectations of an academic setting. With assessments, in particular, you need to treat the situation as if it took place in a school setting, but students need reminders, especially those who are younger or have no prior remote learning experience. An initial discussion with concrete examples will help build the appropriate mindset.

Consider creating a guide in advance with student input. Doing so will push them to reflect and think critically about their behavior, and it also helps them to more easily accept the rules in this new setting. After all, if the class builds the rules together, they are not YOUR rules, the students themselves have developed and adopted them. When teachers use these kinds of processes, they often see students supervising themselves and each other, and this can be more powerful than anything the instructor can say.

Many experts recommend taking this step before formal and summative assessments in any setting, but in remote learning, it is even more critical. With students in their rooms or at the kitchen table, they could adopt the behavior of those environments; therefore, they need to remember that they are still committed to academic work and that they must adhere to those standards, including expectations of academic integrity. Reviewing the honor code and highlighting its applicability reaffirms classroom expectations, regardless of time and place.

How can we use Technology to Minimize Problems with Academic Integrity?

Strategies

Require reading and acceptance of the honor code as part of your evaluation process. For example, use a form with a required action or field, such as a signature, or even document signing software that asks students to read and approve the terms. While this code does not guarantee that students will not violate the principles of academic integrity, it can be a powerful reminder of expectations. Signing is formalizing the “contract” between the institution/teacher and student, helping to foster responsibility.

Establish a process to verify originality/authenticity and make it transparent to students. Make sure to use it consistently! For Turnitin Feedback Studio users, this is probably the easiest of all the suggestions. If you are not yet a user, try this demo. Once you have your tools, you could even allow students to practice with a low-risk task first so they can understand how the process works, what it means, and what your expectations are. This will allow you to give them the right kind of feedback to guide them before starting a formal evaluation.

Set specific parameters for test administration (time, date, platform, etc.). To allow flexibility in an asynchronous environment, try to offer more than a one-time slot: in this case, you will need more than one version of the evaluation. Have students sign up for specific spaces in advance to facilitate record management, organization, and maintenance.

Consider using proctoring or testing software that will allow you to ask random questions, block access to social media and web browsers, and even prohibit printouts and take screenshots of the exam content.

While these strategies are important, the circumstances right now can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if remote learning is new to some students and teachers. For instructors: Please remember that you do not need to be perfect or address all issues immediately. After all, we are human and it takes time to learn and practice. Try to choose a strategy to tackle a particular problem and focus on perfecting it before applying the next solution. In the words of “Paper Cheap”, Everything in life is an experiment.

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