Millions across the globe are enrolling for MOOCs facilitated by major players such as Coursera, edX and Udacity. India's HRD ministry is also encouraging MOOCs to improveaccess of education to all corners of country with help from premier Indian institutes.
While MOOCs integrate concepts of instructional teaching along with e-learning for enhanced knowledge sharing, they've not yet started providing learners with credit score or assessment for a formal degree. However in the recent times this is also changing with institutes like Antioch University in the US providing learners with credit scores. Also, the rising demand for a formal degree from learners seeking credit scores through valid assessment has also nudged MOOCs provider to incorporate valid assessment programs.
The role of an online assessment partner who can help MOOCs conduct a smooth, cheating free examination is undisputed. Assessment will help both the student and the course instructor to establish the authenticity of the knowledge, skills gained from an online course. This ascertains equal opportunity for an online course student at par with a traditional university degree holder. The following checklist will help any online course provider decide how to choose the right online assessment platform:
An online assessment partner should be able to provide “environs” that is self sustained. Right from authoring a multi-competency assessment, automatic invigilation and easy content upload, everything should be in one plate.
Auto-ProctoringTo ensure that a learner does not simply Google his way to a certification, a good assessment partner should be able to provide an cheating proof environment. Photo ID verification, signatures, typing-styles, screen-sharing, webcams are known and tested ways to avoid cheating in exams. Whats more, it also helps to cut down cost of hiring a manual proctor. The use of a webcam and microphone enables learners to take exam at their home, while the camera does its work recording the associated screen activity.
System ScalabilityScalability of an assessment software is critical for smooth functioning of the MOOC. For example, course on The Ancient Greeks - a relatively obscure topic may have around 2,000 tests per annum, while a popular course like Computer Networking will amount to around 20,000 tests in the same time. The assessment platform should be able to scale seamlessly.
Network up-time is absolutely critical for business continuity. Interruption of tests and loss of data owing to electricity outages, software crash, server trouble etc. are absolutely off-limits. It always does well to look into the assessment partner’s system-reliability and backup plans for these tight spots.
Some learners have to be assessed on specialized skills such as Coding, Managerial acumen, Spoken language skills, Data/Spreadsheet/Accounting knowledge etc. A good assessment platform should be able to seal the gap between theory and practice. EdX recently introduced an artificial intelligence software to grade essays and short answers, made available free on the web. The same software will also give instant feedback and allow them to re-write the essay. “Students are telling us they learn much better with instant feedback” says says Anant Agarwal, president of edX.
Since MOOCs are entirely online, a great end-user experience is one that involves no downloads, no installations and smooth access to learning via any internet-enabled device (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.). Assessments should also integrate seamlessly into the online course rather than being conducted offline in separate exam centers.
Test Score and Analysis
Last but not the least a good online assessment partner should be able to provide a comprehensive assessment with proper analysis and insight of the score reports. The insights should be clear actionable results showing micro analysis like average time spent on a question to macro analysis like comparison of pass/fail rate among different batches.
The biggest pitfall of disorganized assessment is, of course, its impact on the brand of the MOOC as well as the university. A certificate from an institute is more a testimony to the institute, not the candidate. There exists a parallel line of reasoning that advises bypassing of grades, and let the course’s objectives be achieved through peer assessment and the student’s laurels. Assessment is becoming an all-important aspect of the Best Practices of Online Learning. It most certainly pays to map all of these factors, weigh their pros and cons against the MOOCs vision and take an informed decision about an online assessment partner.