Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Social media has no deadline

As part of my job as a Learning Technologist I often have to deal with online assessments, whether they be submission via the VLE (using either in innate tools or Turnitin) or on our Mahara e-portfolio platform. Every now and then I am faced with the challenge of a member of staff wishing to use a social media platform (external blog for example) to run and assessment and how can we lock this down at the deadline? There is normally some uncomfortable work-around I can come up with such as taking screenshots, or downloading a version of the content to submit an non-live version. I call these workaround uncomfortable because for me they do not address the core issue.

The real discussion for me is about the conflict of using ‘slicker’ external tools and being able to lock the student’s work for assessment. We should consider whether ‘locking’ and ‘deadlines’ are compatible with creating an online multimedia site, especially using social media. Although professionals using social tools may have deadlines (e.g. a deadline by which to set up the campaigns Facebook account or by when to have developed the blog/ website) they do not expect the sites to be locked down at this stage. Quite the opposite in fact, they expect the pages/ sites to be live at the deadline. To have been launched into the public sphere and to be received external engagement. It is this conflict of external social tools being designed to be open, and traditional assessments being designed to be closed and lock that means we often tend to try and persuade staff members to base their assessment son internal tools, which may offer features similar to social media, such as those found in Mahara. Using these internal tools means, everything is backed up on institutional servers, we can (better) control down-time for the system and we can ensure assessment are locked at the deadline.

It is no secret I am a fan of Mahara, despite its flaws, but I do think there is room for the exploration of other tools as well. The problem, as I previously mentioned, is that many external tools are more advanced than the policy and practices involved in Higher Education. Is it time we considered moving past the concept of deadlines? I realise that their purpose is to ensure fairness by making sure no-one person gets more time because their work was marked last. A possible solution for this could be to have presentation day, where all of the students must come together in a hall or computer cluster and load up their sites. An assessor or assessors can then mingle around the room, looking at the sites and talking to the students about what they did and didn’t manage in the time frame, why they choose to do x or y etc. If you do not wish for students to be their to explain themselves then perhaps the sites must be loaded and then the students leave the room and enter a holding room where they cannot make any changes and have their technology removed from them. Maybe they could be made to do an exam during this time.

Whatever the solution may be I certainly think that social media is challenging our traditional assessment structures, it is very difficult to use a tool designed for openness in a closed environments. The easy answer is to ban them, but we are disadvantaging our students if we do not at least consider all of the possible tools available to assist their learning and development.

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