May 29, 2018

Assessment of Distance Learning in a Competency-Based Approach

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

This article was translated from French.

Assessing distance learning in a program with a competency-based approach in higher education at the college level, poses numerous challenges to the stakeholders in the regular or continuing education programs.

To help meet these challenges of assessing distance learning and guide stakeholders who are collaborating in order to innovate in action, a framework for the assessment of learning at a distance in a competency-based approach will be made available online on the Profweb site in 2019.

What is assessment of distance learning?

The assessment of distance learning is a process that:

  • Consists in collecting information on the learning accomplished by a student and in interpreting this information. It will be used to make a judgement and to make the best decisions possible about the student’s level of achievement and the quality of the teaching.
  • Calls upon the integration of ICT and Web 2.0 tools
  • Can be discerned in the teaching and learning context (enhanced face-to-face learning, blended learning), online) as well as in the formal and informal evaluation activities offered in synchronous or asynchronous

The process of assessing distance learning is discernible in the teaching and learning context which includes 3 modes that integrate digital technology at varying degrees: enhanced face-to-face learning (in class with the addition of digital tools); blended mode (mixed-mode) that offers face-to-face and distance activities; online mode that proposes mostly distance activities.

Why a framework?

To understand, interpret, enrich, and ensure the coherence of distance learning assessment in a competency-based program.

A framework for the assessment of learning at a distance

A frame of reference can be seen as a structured organisation, made up of general knowledge and interpretative points of reference.

The frame of reference can be used by several groups of people who collaborate, of which pedagogical advisors, college level teachers for regular and continuing education, in addition to managers of the institution in order to:

  • Foster concertation between members of a program team or a course team
  • Ensure the coherence between the objects of the assessment (skills, knowledge), the teaching and assessment methods as well as the ICT and Web 2.0 tools
  • Plan and implement the assessment of distance learning
  • Support teachers and students
  • Integrate digital tools in the learning assessment
  • Identify the needs and challenges posed by distance learning assessment

What are the components of the framework?

This framework combines the integration of digital technology to learning assessment in a competency-based approach.

The components presented in the framework are seen through the higher education assessment process, which consists of 4 steps (Leroux & Bélair, 2015) presented in the Outil de questionnement pour la planification et la conception des évaluations d’un cours en FAD [PDF, in French].

The framework for the assessment of distance learning in a program with a competency-based approach is comprised of several dimensions that are coherently linked together for the purpose of assessing the object (competency): the program approach; the teaching and learning contexts; the communication modes; the assessment intention and roles of the key actors; the assessment methods (assessment tasks, tools, the ICT and Web 2.0 tools along with the interactions).

This frame of reference:

  • Works within a program approach, which involves concertation by the stakeholders with a view to developing a common and global understanding of the competencies (exit profile, expectations, etc.)
  • Includes varied teaching and learning situations (enhanced face-to-face learning, blended, online) that offer synchronous and asynchronous communication modes
  • Takes into account the different assessment intentions (diagnostic, formative or summative/certification) and the roles of the key actors (teachers and students) at different times in the assessment process
  • Fosters a coherent alignment of the object (skills, knowledge), the assessment methods (tasks and instruments) and the ICT and Web 2.0 tools in order to assess learning in a competency-based approach
  • Takes into account the interaction between the key actors (student-content, teacher-student, student-student)

How to use the framework to integrate new assessment practices to the already existing ones?

Here are 2 examples of the framework being used for formative assessment activities that include digital technology.

In each, the skill to be assessed is identified. Then the teacher designs formative assessment activities that will be experimented while referring to the dimensions of the frame of reference:

  • Task
  • Instrument
  • ICT tool and web 2.0
  • Interaction

Using digital technology to foster feedback

Case study

In a course offered in a classroom setting to several sections, a teacher wants to add digital technology in order to increase the frequency of feedback, while learning, to students working in teams. The teacher’s objective is to improve the proofreading process, which poses problems for a good number of students.

Activity 1: On the screen, the teacher shows a sentence containing one or several errors and asks students multiple choice questions using Mentimeter. Students choose an answer (smart phone), the teacher shows the results (survey). The students consult their team to explain their answer (discussion). Following the discussion, the students select an answer again (smart phone). The teacher shows the final result and gives feedback to the group.

Activity 2: The teacher asks groups of 3 students to proofread an extract of a text (WORD) online (Google Drive) and then draw a diagram representing the steps in the proofreading process.

Simulations and videos to master some techniques

Case study

In a course that takes place in a laboratory and online (Moodle), 2 teachers present demonstrations of several techniques that must be mastered during the internship. However, some of the techniques are not as well mastered by the students. To improve the techniques, these teachers would like to include videos that present simulations and that would foster self-assessment and feedback.

Activity 1: With the students in pairs and at a distance, the teachers invite them to watch a filmed simulation of one of the techniques (Edpuzzle). After, the students give the details of the technique on a form prepared and deposited on Moodle (assignment).

Activity 2: The teachers invite each student to create a video capsule (smart phone and YouTube) to demonstrate their mastery of the technique. Each student completes a self-assessment grid. The students, in each pair, watch each other’s video capsule and give feedback (verification grid or checklist). The teachers watch each pair’s videos and comments in order to give some feedback to the group and propose a new simulation.

Presentation of the framework at the 2018 AQPC Symposium

The framework for the assessment of distance learning that helps to understand, explain and enrich the assessment practices of college teachers will be the object of a presentation at the 2018 AQPC Symposium, entitled Évaluer les apprentissages avec les technologies du numérique, des pratiques à partager! (#710 – Thursday 7 June, 3:15 -4:30). I invite you to attend and learn about the innovative assessment practices that were documented thanks to a research grant (FRQSC, 2016-2019).

About the author

Julie Lyne Leroux

is an associate professor at the Faculty of Education of Université de Sherbrooke. She is in charge of the Master’s of Teaching degree at the college level (French academic pathway) of the PERFORMA Sector. Her research and teaching interests focus on the field of teaching at the college level in higher education. She is especially interested in assessment practices and the assessment of learning in a competency-based approach (Leroux, 2009, 2010).

She edited a book that deals with the assessment of competencies at the college and university levels (Leroux 2015), numerous articles, chapters of books as well as the online network tool that offers several online resources. As head of research, she carried out an action research and training with the Cégep à distance. Her objective was to develop an assessment process for distance learning competencies in a collaborative approach at higher education. In the research project financed by the FRQSC (2016-2019), she documents distance learning assessment practices in a competency-based approach at the college level in higher education.

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