TRU Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Month: January 2021

Pandemic Pedagogy Tip #4: Authentic Assessment

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

By Ben Lovely

“You want us to do what?!”

I’m sure in March 2020, Trades and Technology was not the only school having emergency meetings regarding a mandatory shift to remote delivery. With much collective effort, TRU made the pivot to digital in record time. Below I’d like to discuss some lessons I’ve learned regarding assessment in an online world. These suggestions have worked well in Trades, but are certainly not limited to Trades courses.

The traditional go to assessment for Trades—multiple choice—has turned out to be rather ineffective in an online environment. In an effort to maintain academic integrity, faculty have attempted short timelines, creating multiple versions of tests, and using exam proctoring software. These have had the effect of causing extreme stress for students, large workload for faculty, and additional costs. In the end, it is still very possible for resourceful students to cheat multiple choice exams.

I propose the following: multiple choice, alternate response, and short answer questions should be limited to low stakes formative assessment. Due to our certification exams being multiple choice, students definitely need practice with this style of exam. I am merely suggesting that we reduce their weighting in favor of better assessment methods.

High stakes summative assessments, such as unit and level exams, should be as authentic as possible. Projects, scenarios, simulators, labs, and case studies are best. If assessing math skills, I like to assign the right answer as 50% of the mark, and the other 50% towards showing all work and the process of solving the problem. For conceptual understanding, a detailed directed paraphrasing assignment can work well. In short, I try to assess students’ learning by asking them to show me how they use that knowledge.

Benefits to this approach include potentially easier grading, difficulty in plagiarizing, and less concern over exam integrity as the assignment is assumed to be open book. Without a doubt, it is more work to create authentic assessments and their associated rubrics for grading. However, once completed, you will have an assessment that can be given many times over which will more accurately reflect student learning.

Pandemic Pedagogy Tip #3: Audio, Video, or Both?

By Cael Field

A large part of classes I have taught in this lovely pandemic era has been asynchronous delivery. When I initially started back in September, my thinking was to use audio-only, or podcast, format. Podcasts allowed for flexibility in how (mp3 files are very flexible) and where (could be running or cooking) students accessed the content. After about four weeks, I asked students in one course (about 80 or so) did they prefer I keep going with podcasts only format, switch to video format (say Kaltura), or did it really matter? As one may expect, it came to around 33% for audio, 33% for video, and 33% for whom it didn’t really matter! I thought it would be lovely to do both video and audio, but I also thought it would mean a dramatic increase to workload in getting both formats out. After testing an approach, I found in the end that it didn’t really add that much more overall.

The approach was running two programs at once: one for screen capture and one for audio capture. I used Kaltura Capture for video, as I found the My Media access point in Moodle very useful. I then used an open software called Audacity for the audio recording. Audacity is quite easy to use quickly, even though it does have a lot of other features. When I want to record, I start the Kaltura and the Audacity recordings at the same time. I am lucky to have two monitors, so one monitor looks like this:
The top program is Audacity, while the bottom is Kaltura. I start and stop at the same time, which means both video and audio files contain the exact same content.

A question I have been asked using this setup is “what if you have to edit?,” which is a great question. Ultimately, my response is . . . I don’t really edit that much anymore. I try to approach recordings as if I were delivering them in front of a live class. If I made an error then, I couldn’t really turn back time and re-do it. If I fumble my words or mispronounce something in a recording, students are pretty good at letting me know, and I make a correction (such as sending out an announcement). I definitely relate to the desire to want to edit, but I found for the time I had to put in (even if it was only one format), I wasn’t really seeing a great return. Letting go a bit allowed me to spend time elsewhere, such as creating more options for students.

I am sure there are other approaches out there to accomplish what I am trying to do, but I have found this process to work well.

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