A blended learning class is like any other – when teaching takes place, it is imperative that assessment is provided to check the depth of students’ learning. Looking back at the learning objectives and design documents (e.g., Course Blueprint) can help answer assessment questions. For instance Riley et al. (2014) suggest that faculty ask themselves: “How well does your course make connections between learning objectives, course activities, and selection of site tools to accomplish the assignments? How well do face-to-face and out of class time learning activities complement each other?” (p. 164).
The most crucial step needed in each unit of instruction is the preparation for students’ transfer of learning to new contexts. If learning is not transferred from the place of learning to practical application, there can be no positive return on investment of the time needed to create, implement, and evaluate instruction. Students are smarter than we might think. If the lesson doesn’t apply to something tangible or if it can’t be used in real life, you can expect them to ask, “When are we ever going to use this stuff?” Make sure that your objectives are made clear to the students. The learning standards must be addressed, yes, but also find a real life application to better your students’ understanding of the materials covered. If this is not done, much of your time, and your students’ time, has been greatly wasted. A second look to ensure that students have indeed learned the objectives might trigger revisions, allowing for more (or better) class activities and instructor feedback. This should be done before any evaluation strategy. Technology is useful in simplifying this task of transferring the learning strategy. Many times a lesson taught with the use of online instruction or with technology as its main tool provides a built-in application. Students see more clearly how the concepts are used in real life situations, and because the lesson was applied practically, the student retains the information and skills much longer.
Despite the importance of real life application of knowledge and skills, perhaps the most common type of assessment is still the traditional multiple choice exam. Placing such tests (or non-graded selfassessment versions) online is one of the most popular approaches to blended assessment of learning. (As a result we will devote a portion of this chapter to considering issues associated with implementing traditional tests in blended courses.) Instructors designing such assessments might ask themselves more detailed questions such as: “Is my test content-valid, based upon the methods of content presentation?” “Should my test include a short review time via a traditional classroom setting, or would an online review better prepare my students for assessment?” “Should the test be performed online or in the presence of the instructor?”
Online tests make for easy and quick grading by the instructor or teaching assistant, but security of the test might be diminished depending on the software and implementation methods used by the instructor. Tests taken exclusively in the classroom setting using paper and pencil, however, negate the affordances of technology. Faculty who evaluate their students’ performances by using a mixture of tests – some online, some offline – have experienced more fruitful outcomes. Supplying examples to read as text online or offline proves to be helpful. Presenting video explanations or examples online, where students can view a snippet of the content repeatedly gives enough exposure to solidify an idea or concept. Any tool that can be afforded the student should be considered to improve learning. For instance, Riley et al. (2014) observe that when implementing online tests, “’scaffolding’ – the integration of [online] self-assessments and review modules – is integral to a more in-depth understanding of the material” (p. 170).
Caution must be practiced when using online tests in a blended course. If this method was never practiced during the preceding unit of instruction, the student finds herself at a bit of a disadvantage when being tested. Instead of devoting proper time to the non-technical concepts taught, the student might be fighting her way through the technical tool she must use to perform the task at hand. Conversely, Walker et al. (2014) found that non-credit, online practice exams can actually benefit student performance on in-class, graded exams.
The online environment does provide blended learning instructors with opportunities to implement a variety of learning assessments using new and innovative tools. The following section reviews two broad categories of assessments, formal and informal, that can help shape how you assess your students in blended courses. (Many of the ideas presented here are applicable in the face-to-face and online portions of blended courses, but we’ll frame each assessment description for the online context specifically given that most readers will likely have more familiarity with the face-to-face environment.)
- Formal assessments provide a systematic way to measure students’ progress. These types of assessments also contribute to the final grade, which indicates a student’s mastery of the subject, e.g., midterm, and finals.
- Informal assessments generally provide the faculty member the ability to gauge their students’ comprehension of course material. It does not involve assigning grades. Furthermore, they can be used to allow students to practice the material prior to a formal assessment, e.g., self-tests.
This chapter is a remix containing materials licensed under a variety of open licenses including: