Editorial—Alternative Assessments

One of the things that AU is looking at these days is the question of alternative assessments.  It’s always been somewhat of a niche topic, but it’s one that’s seen increasing interest, especially as the pandemic forces educators to reconsider, well, almost everything about how courses are designed.

One of the principals of the AU committee looking at this topic is Dr. Jon Dron of the computer science department.  If you’ve ever had an opportunity to take one of his higher level courses, you already have some idea of at least one mode of alternative assessment and learning.

One of Dr. Dron’s courses that I’m familiar with based your assessment in large part on a “learning journal” that you compiled throughout the course and was submitted at the end.  But to me it felt like much of the course could easily devolve into a case of the blind leading the blind.  Especially in the case of distance education where contact between the educator and the student is often infrequent and sporadic.  How many students have unfortunately taken an entirely wrong path and not realized it until well into the course?

At the same time, our current modes of assessment do tend to reward those who have learned what kind of things they need to repeat back on the tests, whether or not they understand what those things mean.  You can teach a horse to count, after all, but does that mean it understands numbers, or that it just understands how to read the body language of the person with the reward?

And some courses, of course, are resistant to any kind of alternative assessment.  How do you test whether a person has mastered financial accounting concepts, for instance, aside from presenting them with a number of financial accounting situations and seeing what they do?

At any rate I’m curious to see what the group can come up with, because, as those of us having to take ProctorU exams are well aware, it would be very nice if there was some better alternative.

Meanwhile, this week, our student interview is with our own Milica Markovic, recently of Beats from the Basement, now working on her new column, Women in Fiction.  Milica’s also working at her graduate studies with AU, and finding out how AU has been a boon to her getting an education in the middle of a busy lifestyle.

Also, we can’t forget Valentine’s day.  So, in case you don’t have plans already, Xine Xu has presented us with some possible activities you can do with your valentine, even if you have to keep it virtual, and Jason Sullivan  has given us a Fly on the Wall that looks to Valentine’s Day as a metaphor for our experience with AU Courses.  It’s a bit of a reach, I’ll admit, but it’s interesting to see how he gets there.

We also have a couple of rants, one on how fear of math may affect your financial future, and another on how the current pandemic might be a blessing in disguise by preparing us for one of the many even more apocalyptic events that seem to be on the horizon.  On top of that, we have scholarships, events, advice, recipes, and a report on the last AUSU Council meeting where we we found that we lost one VPFA and brought in a new one, plus said goodbye to a long-standing Councillor.  And the two aren’t even related.   Enjoy the read!