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Learning Assessment

Traditionally, assessments are used to measure how much students have learned within a particular point in time and to assess whether students are meeting the standards set by the state, the district, or the classroom teacher. These summative assessments are conducted after a unit or certain time period to determine how much learning has taken place.

Assessment of student’s performance in an e-learning environment is an integral part of learning process. This includes the traditional classroom, virtual, and blended courses. This could be achieved through an evaluation of the students’ performance, skills, and their ability to demonstrate and apply knowledge in real-life settings. The activities being assessed include tests, problem solving, individual or group project development, participation in discussions etc which must be integrated into the fabric of an assessment model.
2.1. Types of assessment:
a.Academic and non-academic
b.Formative and Summative Assessment
c.Online and face-to-face assessment
a.1. Academic assessment: is the type that occurs in an educational setting e.g. online universities, colleges, and other institutions of learning.
a.2. Non-Academic assessment: Is that type of assessment that occurs in a non-acdemic setting e.g. in a training school of a Company, a parastatal, and other non-educational settings. Though, it has elements of an academic dimension as assessments are graded, marked and scored assigned to each criteria. It is done to assess the learning, skills, and competence of the people taking the assessment. Certificates of participation may be issued. However, the objective is a non-academic one. This is particularly effective when assessing problem solving, communication, and team-work skills.
b.1. Formative assessment
b.2. Summative assessment
c.1 Online assessment: An online assessment usually computer-based is done via the internet (virtually). The assessor and the person being assessed may not necessarily have a face-to-face contact but communicate through the means of virtual assessment tools such as videos, skype, chats, emails, etc.
Online assessments provides on the spot feedback. Online tests allow teachers and the students the flexibility to take them anytime, anywhere, when it’s convenient and appropriate for them. This implies that learners can assess their own level of preparedness, re-take assessments as at when due, and use the results to help them with their studies. For the instructors, online test results can indicate in a timely fashion those learners who may be at risk and those requiring more assistance.

Online assessments are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and
can be used for simulations, scenarios and other time-constrained activities, often linked to a virtual learning environment providing access to a range of resources and communications opportunities.

c.2. Face-to-Face: In a classroom setting, learning assessments are done through administering of exams, tests, assignments, quizzes, presentations etc and used to assess learning. The teacher can see the student and there is a social interaction. Another criteria of assessment could be peer-based. A student or a group of students make presentations, which could be challenged by other fellow students. In a virtual learning effective learning assessment the same techniques could b adopted, however, it is done via the internet and its resources.
Traditionally learning assessments are being conducted in paper form. However, the 21st century, is brought about challenges for many countries including on whether to conduct these assessments through the use of computers and the internet (online).

Online tests are now being incorporated into virtual learning platforms, with
features such as password protection, programmed start-times and end times on an assessment item.

The difference between online assessments and classroom assessments are due to the fact that there is a face-face communication between the teacher and the student. One can also see the contribution of each person. Whereas in a virtual environment, contribution can only be made via the internet. A lot of communication tools have been developed. This form of assessment is the main focus of this paper and how it can be effective as an assessment tool.
Assessment must be fully integrated into a course design for it to be effective.
In this regard, teachers use course designs provided by schools or otherwise composed of the course objectives, skills required by the students and the course outcomes. This describes what the student needs to know or do and the grading system specifying what the students need to do at the end of the course. These four criteria must be in alignment with one another to ensure a higher level of learning, performance and satisfaction.
A course design consists of the following:

1.Course objectives: This defines what the students need to learn
2.Competencies (the skills and the knowledge that the students
need to acquire during the course
3.Outcomes which refers to what the students should know or do
4.The grading rubric (which specifies the standard of performance used for the assessment during the course and at the end of the course

An effective course design aligns the course objectives and the
competencies that students should acquire with the desired course
outcome. This in addition with assessment based on grading rubrics and the course outcomes, leads to a higher level of student performance and satisfaction with the learning process. These alignments are vital for the best practice in student learning assessment.

An effective learning assessment involves the following:
a. Identifying Student Learning Styles
A teacher starts by identifying the motivation behind students’ learning styles (i.e. the way they accept and process information) and deliver real world experience in line with the course objectives and learning outcomes.
Student’s learning styles enable the design, development and successful implementation of an e-learning assessment models. A student with high interpersonal skills may prefer collaborative learning environment while one with intrapersonal nature may prefer learning in a personalized manner. The teacher then motivates them to define a challenge and try to overcome them. He then assesses the outcome based on the grading system.
b.Setting learning objectives
The learning objectives are set by the teacher. This forms part of the curriculum/course design. This becomes the benchmark against which the students are assessed.
c.Identifying Learning Outcomes
The teacher then compares the student’s learning with the desired learning outcomes of the course. If this is satisfied, the student successfully completes the course. If otherwise, the teacher motivates the student to define another challenge to close the learning gap as measured by the grading system. The student is encouraged to continue living the experience until he meets the desired outcome.
When students overcome the challenge, the instructor assesses the outcome based on the specific grading rubric, and compares this with the desired outcome of the course. If the desired outcome is satisfied, the students have successfully completed the course; if the outcome does not meet the desired outcome, the instructor motivates the students to define a new challenge to close the learning gap measured by the grading rubric. The students will then be reoriented and motivated to continue living the experience until they meet the desired outcome of the course, or (due to time constraints) have to finish the experience. At the end of the course the instructor then has all the necessary information on the student’s performance to assess their learning based on the grading rubric, and so is able to give the students the correct grade for their academic work within the experience.

The assessment made by the teacher based on the student’s learning
outcomes (responses to the self-defined challenges, knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenge.

The teacher evaluates also the relevance and impact of the course on the learner. Has the learning changed the student in a positive way or is he or she still at his or her former level? If the student has changed positively, where has it taken the students at the end of the course? This assessment approach is more effective in problem solving, team-work and communication skills assessment.
The following questions can assist in ensuring that an assessment is aligned to the learning outcomes that a teacher wants students to engage with.

􀂃 What is the nature of the relationship between the assessment method, the learning outcomes and the learning activities the students need to be engaged in ?
􀂃 What are the students supposed to know and be able to do and how best can they demonstrate this?
􀂃 What methods could you use to assess Learning?
􀂃 How do you evaluate the assessment methods used and your students’
experiences of assessment to help you make further improvement
Excerpts from an assignment at the ISM, Paris, 2013

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