Assessment and quality assurance
Much of the HE conversation lately has felt like a never-ending spin cycle of the sector’s new favourite words: “blended”, “hybrid”, “synchronous”, “asynchronous”. These are usually discussed in relation to the tutor’s role in the teaching set-up, and it’s been striking to see so little explicit discussion of self-directed learning – which arguably makes up the largest proportion of a student’s learning experience.
So why has the sector largely failed to account for what is usually about 80 per cent of students’ study time?
If you’d like to grade exams for a major testing corporation, it takes a lot of work. Prospective graders for the Educational Testing Service, for example, undergo system and content training, and at least one content certification test.
A vibrant student-centred learning experience with a range of classroom and online interactive experiences is an achievable objective. Transforming the joy of exchanging ideas with lecturers and peers into equally enthusiastic assessment outcomes is a bigger challenge. It’s a shame if the results of these dynamic activities and all that accumulated know-how stay hidden in the lecturer’s marking inbox, reduced to a grade on a spreadsheet.
Successful remote learning, like all learning, requires regular reviewing of learning materials and completion of homework. However, some students may lack the self-discipline to undertake this work, especially when these learning tasks do not contribute towards their overall course grade.
It is challenging for instructors to ensure all students are engaging with the course materials and completing set work when teaching very large cohorts online.
It’s no secret that student mental health is a growing concern. Covid has compounded many of the social, academic and financial inequalities and challenges to mental health across the higher education sector in the UK and beyond. The result has been more students needing mental health support than before the pandemic and compared to other demographics.
I recently read Cheating Lessons by James Lang, and this article is a by-product − that is to say, not plagiarism − of that book.
The academic integrity space has seen much activity during the pandemic. It has attracted the attention of scholars of everything from digital critical pedagogy and student equity to student mental health, as well as the mainstream media. But amid the feeding frenzy, what there hasn’t been is anywhere near enough mention of the administrative support required when cases of misconduct are reported by educators.
During the seismic shift to online and blended formats that we’ve all attended to, much of the focus has been on technological capabilities and solutions. Within this, even finer focus has been placed on online behaviours as a way of understanding student engagement.
However, lessons from cyberpsychology may be central here. To explain a little, cyberpsychology focuses on the psychological experiences of our interactions with new technology and the internet and seems to be entirely relevant to many discussions about online learning.
Artificial intelligence is full of potential and has been trumpeted as our saviour, the way forward, the answer to all the world’s ills and the future of learning. But this is not the true picture. Yes, AI has much to offer in education, but it’s not the be all and end all.