Tuesday, 29 June 2010

H800: Starting to think about TMA03 / ECA

TMA03 is due in less than a week, and I haven't really given it too much thought so far. The first thing we need to do is to identify the two digital technologies we are proposing to use as the basis for the end-of-course assessment (ECA). The precise requirement (from the ECA brief) is to "Choose two digital technologies you have used this year as a learner."

As a first step I have had a scan of various sources to seek a bit of inspiration. I've looked back through the H800 course material and I've looked at the tutor group forum and the course wiki (both for my own group and for other tutor groups). I've even been keeping an eye on Twitter, having set up a search on "H800". I also had a quick look on Cloudworks, but couldn't really see any relevant threads.

Anyway, with thanks to all other H800 students who have indicated their initial choices, here's a preliminary list of technologies which people seem to be considering:

  • Discussion forums / tutor group forums (asynchronous)
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Audio / video conferencing (e.g. using Skype)
  • Virtual classrooms (e.g. Elluminate / Wimba)
  • Instant messaging (synchronous)
  • Podcasts
  • Online videos (e.g. YouTube or course-related videos)
  • Screencasts
  • Micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter)
  • Social networking (e.g. Facebook)
  • Social bookmarking (e.g. Delicious)
  • Second life
  • RSS feeds (and associated readers such as Google reader)
  • Compendium

Obviously this list is not comprehensive, and there may well be other technologies that are appropriate, but they seem to be the ones which most people are thinking about.

I can't make my mind up at the moment. I was thinking about choosing blogs, but I'm a bit concerned because the brief for the ECA states that material which was submitted for any previous TMA must not be used again, and I selected blogging for one of the activities in TMA02.

I'll need to think a bit more about this.

Finally, a note about Twitter. I have started a new Twitter account specifically for use on this course. My new username is TonyB_H800

Monday, 28 June 2010

Using Twitter

I have really mixed feelings about Twitter. On the one hand, in a strange way, I am excited by the immediacy of it and I love the idea of building a network of people and sharing ideas. I also feel that there must be a way in which I can use the power of this service in my teaching and for the benefit of my students.

And yet ..... I can't get away from the negative feelings I have about Twitter. Firstly, the overwhelming majority of 'tweets' are at best, banal, and at worst, utter nonsense. Why would anyone be remotely interested in what I am doing? As for using it in my teaching – every example I have seen seems to be of limited value to me and I wonder whether it's really worth the effort.

And yet ..... here I am having played around with it so much over the weekend that I have ended up with three separate Twitter accounts: one for work, one for H800, and personal one. And what's more I've discovered a brilliant tool which allows me to manage all three accounts, plus a Facebook account, plus any searches I want to add. It's called TweetDeck and it's free to download. There's also a version for the iPhone available as a free app. Although it takes a bit of setting up it seems a great way to manage everything from a single place.

Now all I need are some friends to follow and a few ideas for tweets that anyone would be interested in!

......I'm still not convinced, but I'm open to persuasion!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Using a tablet instead of a mouse


I've just got a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch. It's basically an alternative to a mouse as an input device for the computer. It consist of a small tablet measuring about 250x180mm which connects via USB. You can use your fingers on the surface of the tablet to navigate around the screen, or there is a 'pen' with which you can write on the tablet and the writing appears as digital ink on the screen.
I thought this would be a brilliant way of providing feedback on students' coursework electronically. I thought if students could submit their work digitally, then I could open the document, and simple write my feedback in digital ink, rather than having to type in comments.
So what's the verdict? Well my initial reaction is that I'm a little disappointed. Firstly the original document needs to be 'sent' to another package such OneNote. That's a bit fiddly but I can live with it. A bigger disappointment for me is that it's not very easy to write small neat notes in a document. The image below is a partial screenshot showing my handwriting using the pen. I really took my time with this, but as you can see it's still not very neat. I normally have quite neat writing. If I was quickly writing comments I think it would be illegible.


I'll persevere for a while to see if things get better, but as I say – I'm disappointed.

H800: Week 19 – A7: Adopting a smartphone

Reading Do Smart Devices Make Smart Learners? (Pettit & Kukulska-Hulme, 2008)

  1. Given what you know about your colleagues, students or friends, what role would you take if you were introducing them to a new device? Would you see yourself as a teacher/tutor or as a friend?
  2. Would you go for the approach of the Qtek Clubs described in the paper?
  3. How would you support your colleagues/students/friends in their learning? Would you create learning activities and, if so, of what kind?

In linking this activity to the broader themes of H800, you may like to consider whether, in your view, Qtek Clubs and similar forums are instances of learning by acquisition or learning by participation. Or a hybrid?

Before addressing the main questions related to this activity – a couple of quick points on the research paper. Firstly, I thought it was quite a weak piece of research. The paper devotes quite a lot of space to aspects that are unique to the particular device used in the research, which in my view is largely irrelevant to the broader aspects of smartphone use. Do we really need to know what the phone signal was like, or that make-up smears got on the screen when using it as a phone? Secondly, it is quite marked just how quickly a piece of research like this can become almost completely obsolete. The latest generation of smartphones are so superior to the one in this study that most of the findings have limited application in the context of the modern devices.

As for introducing colleagues, friends or students to new devices, I think the important thing is that people tend to use them in different ways. We need to discover what works best for us and the only way to do that is to play around with it yourself. Yes – of course it helps to be made aware of the potential of the devices, and new applications and so on, but ultimately these are personal devices and we have to use them ourselves. There is a vast amount of guidance online these days, and a simple YouTube search for any device would almost certainly yield a wide range of user-created videos which will show you how to do just about anything. I don't think I'd be particularly interested in the 'Qtek Club' approach.

Monday, 21 June 2010

The internet: everything you need to know


There's a very interesting piece written by John Naughton in this week's Observer.


I picked up on it from John Naughton's blog, and it seems to touch on several issues which we've been discussing in recent weeks.

Friday, 18 June 2010

H800: Week 18 – A3: The Observatory Report

Reading Web 2.0 for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, by Tom Franklin and Mark van Harmelen on behalf of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education

Just a very quick post on this activity as I find myself pressed for time and I want to get stuck into the social networking tools in subsequent activities.

The key things I took from this reading are that some universities clearly are addressing the challenges posed and opportunities afforded by Web 2.0. Certainly the universities referred to seem to have a clearer strategy and be much more advanced in their preparations than my own institution. There does seem to be a shift away from the centralised VLEs towards a more open, decentralised approach. I think John has previously referred to Elgg, but it is not a service that I am familiar with. It is interesting that several of the universities referred to in the report are adopting Elgg at University level and are reporting an enthusiastic take up amongst staff and students. I just wonder how much of this reporting is representative of the true picture. At Westminster a service known as CONNECT was introduced a couple of years ago, and this was actually referred to in the TLRP/TEL report (p20) which we read in Activity 2 this week. Anyone reading the report would get the impression that the service had been a fantastic success, but the reality is that I am not aware of anyone (staff or students) using it. I had a quick check this morning on the Connect homepage and the most recent post was a week ago, and prior to that the last post was two months ago!

I'm not suggesting that the same applies at other universities such as those adopting Elgg, but I am saying that the take-up figures published by universities need to be treated with some caution. Just because someone registers with a service does not necessarily mean that they are a regular user.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

H800: Week 18 – A2 – The researcher’s perspective

Various readings from: TLRP-TEL 2008 Report, Education 2.0? Designing the Web for Teaching and Learning

Crook: What are Web 2.0 technologies, and why do they matter?

The meaning of "virtualisation of exchange practices": In a face-to-face / physical context, exchange practices involve the direct, verbal and paper-based exchange of information, ideas and money between parties. In a Web 2.0 environment the practices are 'virtual' and there are infinite possibilities.

Selwyn: Educational hopes and fears for Web 2.0

I think the fears which some educators have are understandable. Some educators will have spent their entire lives learning and teaching in a traditional educational environment. Web 2.0 may seem like an alien world in which the educator has to effectively give up a lot of the controls which they have traditionally held. It is perfectly natural that this will be greeted with some fear. This may include fear for the learning process, fear for the loss of traditional skills, and the loss of students' ability to think critically, and fear for the loss of the respect which scholarly activity is traditionally afforded.

I appreciate the need for caution in these matters and I would be concerned about blindly embracing Web 2.0, but personally I am more excited about the potential benefits than I am fearful of the downsides.

Carr: Learning and virtual world

Despite my general enthusiasm for Web 2.0, I must confess that I find the whole idea of Second Life somewhat strange. I have never experienced Second Life so I am loathe to be too dismissive of something I have never tried. Nevertheless, I cannot get away from feeling uncomfortable with the concept. I find it somehow false and I associate it with weirdos and sci-fi fanatics. Having said that, the examples of its use which are described seem to be perfectly reasonable. I understand that we will be exploring second life in more detail in Week 25, so perhaps I should reserve judgement.

Selwyn: Learning and social networking

As I think I may have mentioned when we looked at SNSs in an earlier week, whenever I have raised the issue of using Facebook and similar services with my students they have indicated that they see these services very much as part of their social lives rather than their education. They seemed uncomfortable with the idea of using Facebook in relation to their course and wanted to maintain a separate identity. Nevertheless, I still feel there is potential for these types of services (not necessarily Facebook) to be used in education, though I am not altogether sure of how.

Selwyn, Cook, Noss & Laurillard: Education 2.0? Towards an educational web 2.0

I think this is the most interesting of al the articles and I like the underlying theme. It is cautious yet positive and suggests that, rather than just worrying about what might happen, or dismissing Web 2.0 as irrelevant, educators should seize the initiative and reconfigure roles to exploit the power of Web 2.0 to good effect.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

A learning episode!


I want to describe a learning episode that has occurred today, not because it was particularly profound, but simply because I think it is a good example of how online networks can promote a deeper understanding of something in a way which may even be more effective than an equivalent face-to-face context.
Last week (Week 17) on the tutor group forum there was a discussion about a paper written by Noble which raised various concerns about the way in which online learning is being used in higher education. One of the concerns related to the commercial nature of established VLEs in higher education. I mentioned in my post that I could recall reading an article which proposed doing away with established VLEs and simply using the freely available online tools instead.
Both Andy and John responded to my post. Andy suggested that I might be referring to personal learning environments (PLEs) and John suggested that the article I had read may have been written by Martin Weller. I was not familiar with the concept of PLEs so I resolved to try to find out more about them. John's suggestion of Martin Weller's blog contained a link to a paper entitled "The Centralisation Dilemma in Educational IT" which also discussed in some detail the relative advantages and disadvantages of centralised VLEs and decentralised PLEs.
By coincidence this week (Week 18) the very first reading we looked at was by Martin Weller, and covered broadly similar issues to those in the paper which above. I posted my thoughts on the reading on my blog, and on the forum, and Andy kindly responded again and drew my attention to another article (Roder and Brown) which also dealt with PLEs but covered them primarily from the perspective of e-portfolios. Now whilst I hadn't previously come across PLEs, I was familiar (or so I thought) with e-portfolios. All our students produce e-portfolios as part of their personal development planning (PDP) but in most cases they are little more than online CVs and for the most part students do not like doing them because they feel that they get very little out of them. What I learned from this article (and from the context provided by the other papers) was that e-portfolios could actually be used as the basis for quite a sophisticated PLE which could provide students with a framework for maintaining their personal development long after they have graduated and moved on.
I know it may seem ridiculously simple, but something has really struck me about the way in which all these various sources have come together in the space of a few days from a variety of sources, and the result is that something has actually clicked for me. I recall a comment in one of the readings we have had recently that learning is all about making connections, and I think that is exactly what has happened here for me.

H800: Week 18 - A1: The challenge for educational institutions

Reading Weller (2009) ‘Using learning environments as a metaphor for educational change’, in On the Horizon.

I actually thought this article was really interesting and thought provoking. I realise that the world which Weller envisages may be some way off at the moment, and I accept that Universities (and consequently their employees) will have to go through a considerable amount of pain and discomfort, but I do think he presents quite a strong argument. He articulates something which I have felt as a gut feeling for some time, namely that Web 2.0 will have a dramatic impact on HE. Currently, most universities, when they develop online provision, simply replicate traditional delivery in an online environment. Hence, VLEs effectively deliver material in a linear sequence, replicating the centralised approach of the physical learning environment.

Weller's simple example of referencing is a very pertinent one. The referencing method we require students to use (e.g. Harvard) will have been designed for "physically located resources" and is by no means the most appropriate method for referencing web-based resources, where hyperlinks would be much more effective.

I agree with Weller that universities must face up to the challenge, and this will require the development and acceptance of new pedagogical approaches. However, it seems to me that universities are in a very difficult position here. How can they plan for something which is by its vey nature independent of central controls? I actually quite like the concept of the personal learning environment (PLE) which he sets out, and the potential for lots of different tools to become inter-connected. But such a de-centralised approach will require a whole new way of operating on the part of universities, and that's not going to happen overnight.

Friday, 11 June 2010

H800: Week 17 – Activity 6 – Administering knowledge

Reading Brabazon (2001) 'Internet teaching and the administration of knowledge'.

Comments

When I first read this article I felt somewhat depressed, because I can recognise nearly all the issues which Brabazon raises. For a while it forced me to question my enthusiasm for technology-enhanced learning. Then I started to think about it and I realised that, much like the Hara and Kling article in Activity 2 of this week, Brabazon appears to lay the blame for many of the problems with higher education today at the door of technology, when in fact the true cause of the problems is much more complex.

I would like to highlight some of the issues which Brabazon raises, and to argue that that the problems are not necessarily derived from the technology, but are sadly part and parcel of modern higher education:

Internet-based learning is a response to consumerism in which ideas are crushed into modules, criteria and bullet points, and rendered consistent and predictable.

Yes – sadly the prevailing approach in HE is to reduce everything to bite-sized modules. But this is nothing to do with web-based delivery – it is a product of the modularisation of courses, a system which most universities nowadays adopt.

The role of the teacher is changing, and the expectations of teachers are increasing.

Yes – but again, this has much more to do with the managerialist culture which now prevails in universities as corporate organisations than with the increasing use technology.

Staff have heavy administrative workloads.

Yes – but yet again I don't see this is directly a result of web-based delivery. Even for traditionally delivered courses the administrative burden is incredibly high nowadays.

Staff are expected to be contactable all the time.

I accept that this is definitely an issue. Electronic communications mean that staff can easily fall into the trap of being a slave to emails. However, I would flip this issue on its head and say that electronic communications can also be used to one's advantage. For example, I might respond to emails from students from home in the evening or at weekends, or even from my iPhone when I'm out and about. However, if this means I can free up large chunks of time during the week to devote to this course, then I am using the flexibility afforded by electronic communications to my own advantage.

The 'powerpointing of knowledge'

I will also concede that PowerPoint can be incredibly tedious as a delivery medium. However, in my experience this is because it is not used properly. If lecturers fill slides with text then proceed to read the text then of course it's going to be tedious. But you will not convince me that a chalk board, a white board or an overhead projector are better tools. I have used all of these in my time in education and none come close to PowerPoint, which enables me to incorporate images, animations, video clips and also allows me to have much more control over the way the information is presented. Yes – PowerPoint can be mind-numbingly boring when poorly used, but this is generally down to the incompetence / ignorance / laziness of the lecturer rather than an inherent problem with PowerPoint.

H800: Week 17 – Activity 4- Oversold and underused?

Reading Cuban (2001) Chapter 4, 'New technologies in old universities'.

This chapter referred to the use of technology at Stanford University in California. Stanford is one of the top five US universities and may be described as an elite institution. It receives huge endowments and is undoubtedly a very wealthy institution. It has always invested heavily in technology and has made available high quality technological resources for teaching, research and administration since the 1960s. The basic message of the chapter is that, despite the availability of cutting-edge technology throughout the period described, the basic method of teaching remains largely unchanged, i.e. the lecture.

The description is set against a background in which the following factors are clearly relevant:

  • Large and increasing undergraduate student numbers, which means that lectures are widely viewed as the most cost-effective way of conveying information to the students.
  • Academic staff who see research (and associated publications) rather than teaching, as the main driver for career progression
  • The use of postgraduate students as teaching assistants involved in both the delivery of the course and assessment of students.

These factors (or at least the first two) will be familiar to many people working in HE.

Despite the dominance of the lecture, the chapter did describe various examples of more innovative approaches to teaching which sought to avoid large group sizes and exploit the possibilities offered by technologies. These included such approaches as problem-base learning.

Comments

The first point to note is that the chapter was published nine years ago, and was therefore probably based on the situation as it existed at least ten years ago. Since that time at my own University, I have certainly seen the technologies associated with teaching move from the margins to the mainstream. Around the year 2000 we were experimenting with student intranets, and it was possible to book a data projector and PC to show a PowerPoint presentation. Within a few years every single teaching room on the campus was equipped with a networked computer console and ceiling-mounted projector, and every module is supported (to a greater or lesser extent) by a VLE (Blackboard).

So - is this an indication that things have actually changed in the decade since this chapter was published? Well – not necessarily. Firstly I would say that, despite the widespread access to technologies, the lecture remains the basic approach used for the delivery of a course. Admittedly, the lecture will now be delivered using PowerPoint rather than a chalkboard/whiteboard or overhead projector, but we can hardly claim that we are utilising the available technologies to improve the quality of the student experience. Secondly, as I think I've mentioned before, many Blackboard sites are little more than an online location in which to store the module handbook.

H800: Week 17 – Activity 2 – Students’ frustrations

Reading the article by Hara and Kling (1999) 'Students' frustrations with a web-based distance education course'.

General thoughts

As a piece of research I thought this was quite weak. I accept that this was published over 10 years ago, so web-based courses were very much in their infancy, but even so – the basis on which the research was undertaken seems a little shaky. First of all the class which they studied consisted of six students, which is hardly a representative sample. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, five out of the six students were essentially campus-based students who were taking one of their courses online. It seems odd that the title refers to a "web-based distance education course" because although it is web-based, it doesn't seem to be distance education. Thirdly, I got the impression from the tone of the paper right from the start, that the authors were not being entirely objective. I felt that they set out with the deliberate intention of challenging the hype about web-based education, and that they focused on the negative aspects. Finally, I felt that far too much of the paper was based on conjecture, drawing rather tentative conclusions from individual comments made by students.

I'm not suggesting that the findings were false. Quite clearly the students did experience frustrations. They felt isolated at times, they felt that they should have received more and better feedback from the instructor, they didn't think the tutor's instructions were very clear, and they also reported technological problems. However, the authors seemed to imply that such frustrations would not occur in a traditional face to face course. In my experience, all these problems occur just as much 'on campus'. Students entering higher education nowadays find themselves in huge classes which are very impersonal. The old saying about loneliness in crowds is certainly true, and many students feel very intimidated and remote from tutors. Many students find it difficult to make contact with staff and even when they try to do so they find restricted access or very limited 'surgery hours'.

With regard to feedback from tutors, I would say that one of the most common complaints from students at universities (as evidenced by the National Student Survey) is the lack of good quality feedback and the long time they have to wait to receive it. As for clarity of instructions, just because a course is delivered face-to-face does not mean that the clarity of instructions will be any better. Technological problems are also not limited to web-based course. A vast number of (justifiable) gripes from students at our course committees relate to campus based IT problems, whether it is technical support, network problems, printing problems or whatever.

One last comment I would make about the findings of the paper is that some of the difficulties experienced by the students in the study would perhaps be less of an issue today because of advances in technologies. In particular, I would have thought that their difficulties with internet searching wouldn't be a concern today, and also the poor experiences of asynchronous communication (for which they used email) would be overcome by discussion forums and the like.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

H800: Week 17 - A1b: Digital diploma mills

Article by Noble (1998) 'Digital diploma mills: the automation of higher education'.

General thoughts

My comments are from the perspective of an academic in a vocational subject area in a 'new' (i.e. post 1992) University in the UK.

I can relate to some of Noble's concerns, and I have reservations about the growing culture of 'managerialism' in HE and the increasing influence of administrators who dictate just about everything to do with the delivery of courses without any apparent appreciation of what is actually involved in teaching and learning.

However, I don't think Noble's concerns have really been borne out in the years since he published his paper. Certainly I haven't experienced any direct pressure from the management of my university to transfer my courses online for commercial or cost-saving purposes. Staff are encouraged (and to some extent even required) to provide online material on the VLE to support their courses, but so far at least I have never felt that there was a hidden agenda to convert to online delivery and sack all the staff.

Noble talks about the transformation being "implemented from the top down" but in my experience most of the initiatives I have seen which exploit the online environment have actually arisen out of the enthusiasm of academic staff themselves and have been motivated by a desire to improve the experience of the students.

With regard to the increasing involvement of industry in education, I think one's views on this will inevitably be influenced by how one sees the role of education in society. Those who adopt a pure 'liberal' view of education in which the cultivation of the intellect is the primary objective, would undoubtedly be uncomfortable with any influence from industry. On the other hand, those who take a more 'instrumentalist' view of education would see its primary purpose as producing skilled graduates for the workplace, and therefore might accept industrial influence as inevitable. Personally, I feel that there is a balance between these two extremes. Since I work in a vocational area I have to recognise the role of industry, but do not want to feel constrained by undue influence from industry. I can see Noble's point about research, and the way in which University resources are allocated to research at the expense of the educational function. However, I do think that in recent years (in the UK at least) there has been some re-balancing and that the importance of teaching has been recognised and valued more so than previously.

Noble was writing at a time when Web 2.0 technologies were not really available, and he could not therefore appreciate many of the potential benefits. Things have moved on since Noble wrote this paper. He claims that there was no demand amongst students for online content, but nowadays I think students would be very disappointed if they didn't have online facilities. Noble also claims that students want the "genuine face-to-face education they paid for" but in many cases this desire does not manifest itself in students actually turning up! As we saw in Wesch's video, face-to-face lectures are not necessarily the best way to promote learning.

Noble does make some rather sweeping claims that transferring material online will result in the "knowledge and course design skill" being taken out of the possession of faculty and "placed in the hands of the administration". Perhaps I'm being naive, but I don't see this as necessarily being the case. Why can't faculty retain control of it even when it is placed online? Furthermore, there must still be a role for well-designed assessment and, apart from multiple choice tests, I am not aware of any software which can make judgements on the standard of assessed work.

Finally, I feel I have to make a slightly contentious comment. A good deal of Noble's polemic appears to defend the role of faculty against any intrusion from the outside world. I'm sorry – but get real. Many of the criticisms levelled at academic staff are actually quite justified, and I say that as an academic myself. Academics do have a tendency to use the cloak of free-thinking, intellectual idealism to hide their basic recalcitrance.

Sorry – that last comment is borne out of the frustration of trying to organise an assessment board and prepare for a visit from our external examiners (tomorrow) when some colleagues are just so uncooperative.

H800: Week 17 – Activity 1a – What kind of vision for students?


Watching the Mike Wesch video – "A Vision of Students Today" (again)

Having watched this video several times I now feel quite familiar with it. I posted my overall impressions on the video on my blog on 12th May.

Message from the first minute:
The message to me is that the traditional lecture, in a lecture theatre, was a system of teaching which came to the fore in the nineteenth century and has remained there since then. The scribbles on the walls and chairs imply that lectures do not fulfil their intended purpose, and probably haven't done so for many years. Lecture theatres tend to promote a didactic form of teaching in which students are talked at, and are often not actively involved in the learning process.

Message from the middle section:
The students holding up the statements indicate that, in an age when information is so freely available, the lecture is even less relevant. In the past perhaps the lecture was an efficient way of conveying information to a large group of people at one time, but as a means of communicating it is far less significant today. I can well believe the statistics presented. Students are less inclined to read set texts today, and it is incredibly difficult to maintain their attention in a lecture. The main message I take from the sequence is that, unless the lecture is really well designed with lots of opportunities for student engagement, then there are far more effective ways of communicating information and promoting student understanding.

Message from the conclusion:
The implication seems to be that, since students appear to embrace technology (Facebooking through classes, and using the laptop for things other than the lecture) then why not try to harness these technologies to promote studying.
I was slightly confused by Mike Wesch's section at the end. He indicates that the by using a chalkboard we are missing out on photos, videos, animations etc, but then he also indicates that writing on the chalkboard forces (then challenges) a teacher to move. I'm not sure what point he is trying to make here. Firstly, is he actually defending the use of the chalkboard (surely not?), and secondly, who actually uses a chalkboard these days? In my university we don't even have them anymore.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

H800: Week 16 – David Boud’s Lecture

Due to time constraints I only watched the brief extract of this lecture, but I hope to find time to watch the whole thing, because David Boud is (I think) one of the leading authorities on problem-based learning, and I would like to hear what he's got to say.

This short extract was about assessment, and I think there were some interesting issues raised. I can certainly relate to his points about universities' assessment policies and the emphasis they place on "protecting our backs".

I liked his idea of 'sustainable assessment' which he defined as:

"Assessment which meets the needs of the present (certification, formative assessment, etc.) without compromising the ability of students to meet their own future learning needs."

He says that we need to create assessments which not only serve the immediate purpose but also make a significant contribution to students' learning after they leave us, i.e. it builds something over and above the immediate task.

As I am currently in the midst of preparing for end of year assessment boards which begin next week, this seems strangely pertinent. Having spent quite a lot of time over the past few weeks marking exams and wondering what on earth some of my students have actually learnt, I really start to question some of the traditional assessment processes. I've never been a big fan of exams as an assessment method, and I think well-designed coursework assignments can come much closer to Boud's ideal, but unfortunately 'the system' does tend to expect a certain proportion of assessment in which students do not have the opportunity to simply copy and paste material from other sources.

I had hoped we might explore the issue of assessment in greater detail at some stage in the course, but looking at the programme I don't think we do.