This LINCS discussion will focus on using assessment in distance education programs, what works, and what the challenges are as well as suggestions for addressing them.
Our guest participants are from the Project IDEAL Support Center at the University of Michigan. Project IDEAL is a consortium of 25 states that are working to build effective distance education programs for their ABE students. Since 2002 the Project IDEAL Support Center has provided member states with technical assistance for program planning, teacher training, program evaluation, and assessment. The Support Center develops training materials, online courses, and Web-based research tools that member states use to manage and improve their programs. Center staff have written policy papers on core issues in distance education and promoted communication among states through online community building, collaborative conference presentations, newsletters, conference calls, and an annual workshop devoted to sharing best practices and building the skills of state staff involved in distance education.
Dr. Jerome Johnston is a Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Jere earned his PhD from the University of Michigan in Education and Psychology. Over the last 40 years he has led major research efforts on the educational uses of media including television, computers and the Internet. He has conducted large-scale national evaluations of projects such as the Freestyle, 3-2-1 Contact, Channel One, Crossroads Café, TV411, and LiteracyLink.
For the last 15 years, Jere's work has focused on the interplay of technology, teaching, and learning in adult education, with a special emphasis on Web-based learning. With collaborators at the Sacramento County Office of Education he developed AdultEd Online (http://www.adultedonline.org) – an OVAE-funded project to develop new Web-based tools for teachers and learners in adult education and to promote distance education.
Dr. Leslie Isler Petty is Associate Director of the Support Center and Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development at Schoolcraft Community College. Leslie earned her EdD from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. For the last 30 years she has conducted studies of the educational effectiveness of various television series designed for students at levels ranging from elementary school to community college. Leslie is the lead author on a wide array of Support Center publications, from the Handbook of Distance Education to papers on state and federal policy. She oversees the Center's training activities and is the primary contact for technical support to many of the member states.
We have attached five pages on assessment from the Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners, 4th edition (76 pages). The short reading summarizes the key issues in assessing distance learners.
For those interested in exploring issues in more depth:
- Explore the Project IDEAL website (projectideal.org). A quick overview of assessment issues appears at projectideal.org/getting_started/evaluation.html
- In the publications section (projectideal.org/publications_resources) you can find these resources:
- To see our initial thinking on the many roles of assessment in distance education, read the 4 page Executive Summary of Assessment and Accountability Issues in Distance Education for Adult Learners(2002). (38 pages)
- Before standardized tests became the norm in adult education, the Support Center looked at a number of alternatives to these tests: checklists, portfolios, and online quizzes. To see what these looked like in a number of states, read Using Assessment to Guide Instructional Planning for Distance Learners (2004) (34 pages)
- If you are interested in the issue of "counting" distance learners, read Measuring Contact Hours and Educational Progress in Distance Education (2005). (31 pages)
Questions and Points to Consider
What assessment issues are of interest to you?
- What questions do you have focused on assessing students in distance education programs?
- What are some of the more successful assessment activities that you have included in a distance education program?
- What challenges do you see and what are your suggestions for improving assessment in distance education?
Further Resources of Interest
Implementation Guidelines: Measures and Methods for the National Reporting System for Adult Education - March 2010. See page 49 for a definition of distance education.
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