Thursday, May 16, 2013

Assessing Student Progress in an On-line Course

How does a teacher keep students working each week and review their progress? For the course "ICT Sustainability" (offered by ANU as COMP7310) and Open Universities Australia as ACS25) I use small weekly assessment tasks. This is using a Constructivist e-Learning approach, derived from UK Open University.

In practice what I do is look at each student's work a couple of times a week. I have Moodle forums set up with the marking option on. I read every new contribution from every student and quickly give it a mark of 0, 1, or 2. Then I have a quick look at the Moodle grade book to see how everyone is doing.

Moodle automatically adds up the marks for individual items of work and puts the average in the grade book. At the end of the week I go into the grade book and sort the list of students in ascending order by mark for that week.

First I look at those students with not submitted any work. I change their mark from a blank to zero and send them a reminder. Then I work my way up through those with zero and one, sending them an individual note praising something they did and making suggestions for improvements. For those who got top marks I will usually just send a "well done". As the course progresses I will tend to send less to students as they get into the rhythm of the work. But some students need extra attention.

As well as the individual feedback, I post a message to a forum each week, with the average mark for the class and the number of students with 0, 1, and 2, plus some general comments of praise and suggestions for improvement for the overall class.

Normally I don't comment on individual student's work in the forum to the class. Instead I leave t to the students to comment to each other. Occasionally I will need to comment to correct something the other students have not picked up on, but that might be only a couple of times during the course. More often I will comment privately to one student, who will then post it to the group. This can be frustrating as the students do not realize how much I am doing in the background to make the discussion flow.

Rather than email, I use Moodle's own message system to communicate with individual students. This is more cumbersome, but it keeps a log of the interchange with each student and keeps the student messages separate and safe. When sending comments for a week, I can see what I said last week and any reply from the student. This way I avoid admonishing the student for late work this week, when they told me about their sick relative last week.

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