Friday, March 23, 2012

OER Assessment

I believe new approaches to open assessment need to be built to handle the growing global demand for education and learning. I am not alone in my thinking. I believe there is no shortage of great OER and a growing number of approaches toward open accreditation. These approaches to accreditation follow both traditional models and those more innovative. The point I am wanting to make is; there is no shortage of good open educational materials and there are some solid open accreditation services emerging. What I believe is missing is open assessment, for assessment closes the gap between studying educational materials and receiving accreditation for that study.

Inaugural ICT4D event participants.
This post is about open assessment and the approaches that I believe will work toward creating open assessment for the masses. I also think some background on myself and why I have developed my way of perceiving open assessment is important. I haven't taken the traditional route in obtaining an education; yet, in the end I have received a Bachelors of Technology from the Open Learning Agency of BC (OLA) and a Masters of Education from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). But to think it was a straight line toward these credentials would be wrong. My OLA B.Tech degree was by cobbling together a couple of technology diplomas, with University credits from three different institutions. My MUN M.Ed IT was all online, even though I spent a year on campus, all my coursework was done online. Needless to say I have often taken alternate routes toward a traditional destination.

I know one of the biggest influences in my adult life was my participation at the inaugural ICT4D event at Royal Holloway in 2006. Ever since then I have been focusing a large part of my working and volunteer efforts in blending technology and education for the greater good. The paper I presented was about what I called a "critical technologist". It is really about the role someone could take in assisting to develop capacity with ICT in developing countries. The "critical technologist" is a play on Paulo Friere's Critical Pedagogy. I am strong believer in Paulo Friere's work. The three areas of work I have done within this capacity since 2006 have been;
  • WikiEducator (2007 - 2010) - I will always look fondly upon my work with WikiEducator. I was a large  contributor at its early stages and wrote a few key pieces that are still in use today. To see my participation, review my profile; I was honoured and fortunate to be nominated to WikiEducator council, and in 2010 we parted ways. On occasion I still contribute to WikiEducator, though my focus is more in Wikiversity.
  • Continuing Legal Education of BC (2008 - 2011) - I was Senior Project Manager / Lead Technical Architect for a large grant to increase access to education for the lawyers of British Columbia. We used a lot of open source software and open approaches to provide a services orientation for building learning communities; This 2011 post titled "Increasing access to education", does good job describing what we did.
  • Progressive Video Assessment - I came up with this learning systems architecture in 2008 and had the opportunity to implement it in a couple of projects; AIM Language Professional and CLE Engagements Questions.
How does my educational and work experience influence how I believe OER assessment should be built? I believe it can be distilled into eight important points;
  1. It should be peer-based
  2. It should be scalable
  3. It should be fun and enjoyable
  4. It should provide many reusable instruments
  5. It should play well with others
  6. It should be reference-able
  7. It should support open data
  8. It should feed into open credentialing
I believe open assessment should be easily integrated with other approaches of assessment and credentialing. It should assist learners who are attending traditional institutions as well as alternative approaches like OERu and P2Pu. It should also support those who want to learn independently without ever stepping foot in a traditional institution (online, virtual or otherwise) or those independent learners who dont seek credentials. I really like the parallel universe approach being offered by OERu; yet, I am also concerned about the need for fees and my internal critical pedagogue is tingling. I have extended the parallel universe approach being proposed by OERu.

OERu parallel learning universe with an additional dimension.

Approaches to Open Assessment:
  • In the immediate term we should build peer-assessment to utilize and promote the use of badges (see wikieducator: or Mozilla badges for example). This will get us going quickly and then build upon this with greater automation and other assessment approaches.
  • In the near term we should build rubrics to allow people to perform self-assessments and then submit portfolio for a peer-review. Peer reviewers should also be given badges for executing N peer reviews. This does not require a lot of automation, can be implemented quite quickly.
  • In the close term we should build formative and summative assessment instruments that can be baked into websites, apps and tools. People should be able to edit / improve on instruments in a community kind of way.
  • Beginning immediately and through the next year we should start building apps and experimenting with mass collaboration for assessment.
  • In the medium term we should build a repository of guidelines, templates, assessment instruments and approaches.
  • In the long term we should build a fun community around assessment and broadening peoples skills and knowledge regarding assessment and accreditation.
  • As an ongoing initiative we should encourage research and centers of excellence around open assessment and its relationship with open accreditation.