Whilst other researchers have emphasized the use of online discussions in support of either class based or distance learning, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how this technique works as an alternative form of assessment for large student groups mainly learning in class.
A review of the literature in related areas of assessment led the team to develop the use of asynchronous online discussions and the primary research involves a trial of this method. The trial included monitoring participation, engagement and results and a comparison of these with previous, more traditional, assessments. Staff and student opinions were also sought through interviews and focus groups.
The results reveal similar findings to other researchers in this area. Specifically, the findings show some behaviour similar to that found in other assessments (lack of engagement by some, enthusiasm of others, for example), difficulties for some students to engage in critical discussion, either because of a lack of skills in this area or a mind set firmly in traditional assessment such as written exams. The results also highlighted the need to provide a framework such as that described by Lewinson as an instructional model and to incorporate the evaluation rubric of Christopher et al.
The first trial year evaluated here has gone some way to solving the issues inherent in large cohort assessment but it is recognized that the effectiveness from both the tutors' and the students' point of view will need to be continually evaluated and improvements made as a result of this.
Despite the difficulties, the trial of this method has highlighted several advantages from both student and instructor perspective. The conclusion of this pilot study is that asynchronous online discussions for learning and assessment appear to be suitable for campus‐based large cohorts as they provide a depth of interaction and discussion that would not be manageable in the classroom.
This case study has shown that asynchronous discussions in an online environment can be used effectively in the teaching, learning and assessment of large cohorts of campus‐based students. However, in order to be effective, they need to be structured and monitored, include the creation of a “learning community” through group sign‐up, encourage user autonomy and improved writing skills as well as allow for some self‐regulation.
Wood, E. and Henderson, S. (2010), "Large cohort assessment: depth, interaction and manageable marking", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 898-907. https://doi.org/10.1108/02634501011086481Download as .RIS
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