The assessment of e-learning shares most of the needs and requirements of face-to-face teaching, including clarity of the main objective, needs analysis, comprehensibility of objectives, definition of resources, and balance report (Calvani & Rotta, 2000). However, in e-learning environments the qualities of both monitoring and formative assessment have prominence, and can even determine the success of the course (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). In the learner-centered approach, typical in e-learning, the student is the protagonist of the teaching-learning process and thus, assessment is considered from a new perspective. It can be defined as the systematic process of correction, revision, collection, and use of information regarding both the students and the course in order to favor the progress and the learning of each student (Palomba & Banta, 1999). Assessment and evaluation are two different concepts even though they are interconnected: the former determines the student’s knowledge, skills and attitudes while the latter is necessary to express an opinion on learning results and on the quality of teaching.
Assessment Of E-Learning
According to the leading experts in this field, the assessment of e-learning is a key process which not only evaluates the coherence between the objectives achieved by learners and what has been planned in terms of content and methods, but also monitors the dynamics of the process. In this way, it is possible to obtain useful information to replicate the formative action and/or make it more flexible.
The assessment of online training courses refers to various aspects (Fragnito, 2002):
• Learning assessment
• Process assessment
• Course evaluation
• Interaction assessment
• E-learning platform assessment
In the learning assessment, based on timing and content, it is possible to distinguish:
• Diagnostic assessment of which the aim is to identify students’ background knowledge and/or their needs in order to personalize teaching and to set up a suitable learning program;
• Formative assessment of which the aim is to highlight the knowledge, competencies and skills acquired by each student at the end of each teaching module;
• Summative assessment of which the aim is to check the level of competencies and skills at the end of a course or to evaluate the effectiveness of the formative action. It must include several tests administered both during and at the end of a course.
The process assessment is intended to test the efficiency and the effectiveness of the managerial and organizational variables as well as of all those aspects which can be involved when developing and teaching a course. This kind of assessment can make use of a questionnaire to gather information referring to the students’ reactions to the training experience and to produce useful feedback on what the course has meant for the students. Teaching effectiveness and the training process are closely linked because a deliberate teaching plan can be critical for the students to reach the course objectives. As a result, student evaluation of learning means assessing the validity of the teaching process.
The course evaluation is divided into three phases. The first is ex-ante and it refers to the identification of a series of indicators which are evaluated by a financial body on the basis of the planning prospect target of the institution that proposes the course of study. The purpose of the other two phases, in-itinere and ex-post, is to identify the discrepancies and the conformities between the planning proposal and the implementation of the plan. In particular, the formative assessment (in itinere) can be divided into learning assessment (effectiveness) and process assessment (efficiency). As far as the latter is concerned, two different kinds of data exist: the objective data are provided by the organization which offers the course (obtained through the official reports that are submitted throughout and at the end of the course) and the subjective data which are provided by the students (gathered through questionnaires) who express their opinion about:
Key Terms in this Chapter
Practices: Any activities that allow students to put into practice the knowledge and skills acquired through the study material. These activities include case studies, exercises, quizzes, tests, laboratories, simulations, and so forth.
Assessment Item: A questionnaire, a test or any other activity used to evaluate whether a student has achieved the objectives that have been established.
Self-Assessment: The educational process involving students who make judgements about their own level of knowledge and competencies.
Survey: The technique used to collect data useful to acquire homogeneous answers to specific questions. It can be conducted by direct or telephone interviews, paper questionnaires, online forms, and so forth.
Forum: An asynchronous online communication environment consisting of virtual message boards where it is possible to leave messages in order to create a new discussion or to reply to a pre-existing one.
Tracking: The process of recording the training path followed by a student in a training management system. Tracking allows the instructor to constantly monitor the students’ training activity.
Chat Room: A virtual place where Internet users meet and communicate in real-time using instant messaging applications.