A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning

A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning

Suzanne Pieper (Northern Arizona University, USA), Erika Edwards (Northern Arizona University, USA), Brandon Haist (Northern Arizona University, USA) and Walter Nolan (Northern Arizona University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-667-9.ch003
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The purpose of this chapter is to review literature over the past ten years regarding technology tools that are being used in higher education to assess student learning. Three commonly used technology tools are examined: electronic portfolios, course management systems, and audience response systems. More specifically, each tool was studied in order to determine how it improved student learning and development, what issues might impede student learning and development, and what future directions we could explore in order to maximize the potential of the learning tool. Broad themes were then identified from the review, and three suggestions were made to teachers and researchers: (1) expand current research in this area, (2) get to know student background and characteristics before incorporating assessment technology tools, and (3) reconsider pedagogy and practice when integrating technology used for assessment.
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“The future is here. It is just not evenly distributed.”—William Gibson

Science fiction writer William Gibson’s thoughts about the place of technology in our future have been repeated often and in a variety of contexts in the past few years. However, Gibson’s words were never truer than in the field of higher education. Teachers and students are indeed experiencing the future in terms of technology being used inside and outside of the classroom to improve student learning. Yet not all teachers and students are using technology or using it effectively, and not all teachers and students are experiencing the benefits of educational technology.

Why is the future unevenly distributed in education? The answer to this question is complex. In this chapter, we will explore some of the problems with using technology in education. Just as importantly, we will describe many benefits and future possibilities for educational technology. Focusing specifically on technology tools used to assess student learning and development, we will review research that has been published over the past ten years. This literature review is much needed. Kimball (2005) emphasized this need in his recent review of e-portfolio systems:

…nobody knows how well these systems work; nobody knows whether learning will improve or not; nobody knows whether students will end up with a more positive or fulfilling learning experience than with more traditional technologies. (p. 456)

Kimball’s call for more research into the effectiveness of e-portfolio systems could easily apply to all of the technology tools being used for assessment that are proliferating as we write. These tools include electronic versions of traditional assessment tools, like e-portfolios or multiple choice quizzes and tests embedded in course management systems. They also include newer technology tools, such as audience response systems.

For this review, we will examine the following technology tools that are commonly being used in courses and programs to assess student learning: electronic portfolios, course management systems, and audience response systems. The guiding questions for our literature review follow:

  • 1.

    What is each technology tool, and how is it being used for assessment?

  • 2.

    How does each technology tool that is being used for assessment improve student learning and development?

  • 3.

    What are issues/concerns/limitations of each technology tool used for assessment that impede student learning and development?

  • 4.

    What are some future directions we might explore in order to maximize the potential of each technology tool used for assessment?

The authors of this chapter reviewed books, articles, websites, and other resources for this literature review, focusing primarily on articles that reported on empirical research studies. More specifically, we sought studies that described the impact of each of these technology assessment tools on student learning and development. Student learning and development was defined broadly to include the knowledge, skills, and attitudes a student might acquire or develop during a course or program. These studies were read and regularly discussed by the authors, using the guiding questions above to frame our discussion. Eventually, these discussions led to the identification of broad themes in the literature and suggestions for future researchers and educators. In the following paragraphs, we briefly describe each technology tool as well as present our findings in terms of promises, pitfalls, and possible future directions for the tool. We then discuss broad themes that we discovered in the research literature and their implications for educators.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Course Management Systems (CMSs): Software that is capable of creating a virtual learning space for instructors and students to interact with one another. CMSs are also password-protected learning environments for students (Jones & Harmon, 2002).

Electronic Portfolios (E-Portfolios): Differ from traditional paper portfolios in both the storage methods and the types of artifacts that are included in the portfolio. E-portfolios allow students to store and share their work on “a secure web site, shared server, disk, CD-ROM” (Suskie, 2004, p. 197) or on large corporate and academic database systems that use databases with web interfaces (Kimball, 2005) and also allow for the inclusion of “text-based, graphic, or multimedia elements” (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005).

Audience Response Systems (ARSs): Technology tools that aid in assessment of student learning by enabling instructors to pose questions through a media display system to students, poll their responses wirelessly from hand-held instruments, and insert the results into the presentation through specialized software (DeBourgh, 2008).

Portfolios: A type of performance assessment that involves “student work that is systematically collected and carefully reviewed for evidence of learning and development” (Palomba and Banta, 1999, p. 131).

Web-Enhanced Courses: Courses have in-person or television meetings but use the web for delivering documents or administering quizzes.

Hybrid Courses: Combine web delivery with in-person or television meetings. These courses replace some of the “seat time” of a traditional course with “webtime.”

Online Courses: Delivered entirely on the web and have no in-person meetings.

Active Learning: Involves students not merely passively listening to an instructor’s lecture or memorizing answers, but becoming active participants in classroom learning through discussion, writing, and other activities.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Christopher S. Schreiner
Christopher S. Schreiner
Chapter 1
Melissa A. Dyehouse, John Y. Baek, Richard A. Lesh
This chapter describes a model for evaluating complex organizations or systems. The design assessment model the authors propose is a response to... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Design Assessment in the Development of Complex Organizational Systems
Chapter 2
Hedva Lewittes
In this chapter critical thinking is assessed using two critical thinking learning outcomes that were required for the State University of New... Sample PDF
A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum
Chapter 3
Suzanne Pieper, Erika Edwards, Brandon Haist, Walter Nolan
The purpose of this chapter is to review literature over the past ten years regarding technology tools that are being used in higher education to... Sample PDF
A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning
Chapter 4
John Baer, Sharon S. McKool
The Consensual Assessment Technique is a powerful tool used by creativity researchers in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the... Sample PDF
Assessing Creativity Using the Consensual Assessment Technique
Chapter 5
Christine Charyton, Zorana Ivcevic, Jonathan A. Plucker, James C. Kaufman
This chapter discusses creativity assessment as a means for evaluating skills required in higher education. Creativity is assessed in the context of... Sample PDF
Creativity Assessment in Higher Education
Chapter 6
Asao B. Inoue
This chapter articulates writing assessment as a technology, theorized with three aspects (power, parts, and purpose), accounting for the ways in... Sample PDF
The Technology of Writing Assessment and Racial Validity
Chapter 7
Sheila S. Thompson, Annemarie Vaccaro
The purpose of this chapter is to address epistemological and methodological approaches to assessing assessment. The authors’ intent is to show how... Sample PDF
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods as Complementary Assessment Tools
Chapter 8
Teresa Flateby
The development of the Cognitive Level and Quality of Writing Assessment online system is described in this chapter. Beginning with needs identified... Sample PDF
Effects of Assessment Results on a Writing and Thinking Rubric
Chapter 9
Barbara D’Angelo, Barry Maid
Outcomes-based assessment provides data for programs to demonstrate student learning as a result of their enrollment in the program and to assess... Sample PDF
Assessing Outcomes in a Technical Communication Capstone
Chapter 10
Sonya Borton, Alanna Frost, Kate Warrington
As Jacqueline Jones Royster articulated at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication, English departments are already assessing... Sample PDF
Assessing the Composition Program on Our Own Terms
Chapter 11
Joan Aitken
This chapter uses a case study to exemplify one approach to assessment of three instructional delivery formats: (a) online, (b) distance, satellite... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Instructional Delivery Formats
Chapter 12
Victor W. Brunsden
The author present a case-study of a classroom technique that allows assessment and some remediation of several shortcomings of college student... Sample PDF
Inverting the Remedial Mathematics Classroom with Alternative Assessment
Chapter 13
David A. Eubanks
This chapter describes Coker College’s subjective performance assessment program to rate student thinking and communication skills. It uses a... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Authentic Assessment
Chapter 14
P. Tokyo Kang, David Gugin
This chapter reports an outcomes assessment study conducted at the University of Guam. The assessment project was conducted during the 2006-07 and... Sample PDF
Outcomes Assessment in Japanese Language Instruction
Chapter 15
Barika Barboza, Frances Singh
This chapter describes an outcomes assessment study completed in a basic composition course at a small urban open admissions community college. The... Sample PDF
Assessing the Effectiveness of a Basic Writing Course
Chapter 16
Lorraine Gilpin, Yasar Bodur, Kathleen Crawford
Peer assessment holds tremendous potential to positively impact the development of preservice teachers. The purpose of this chapter is to describe... Sample PDF
Peer Assessment for Development of Preservice Teachers
Chapter 17
Charlotte Brammer, Rhonda Parker
In 2002, Samford University began working on a long-term learning assessment plan designed to evaluate its undergraduates’ competencies in written... Sample PDF
Workshops and E-Portfolios as Transformational Assessment
Chapter 18
Daniel F. Chambliss
This chapter describes how the trend favoring assessment initiatives of a system-wide scope such as program review and collegiate learning... Sample PDF
A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis
Chapter 19
Deirdre Pettipiece, Timothy Ray, Justin Everett
Perhaps due to its applicability as a performance of skill sets in virtually all disciplines, writing as a mechanism for measuring student success... Sample PDF
Redefining Writing Reality Multi-Modal Writing and Assessment
Chapter 20
Sean A. McKitrick
This chapter introduces methods that can be used to engage faculty in the assessment process, working within a shared governance structure in... Sample PDF
Engaging Faculty as a Strategic Choice in Assessment
Chapter 21
Steven M. Culver, Ray VanDyke
There is much in the assessment literature about the necessity of developing a culture of assessment and mandates from accrediting bodies include... Sample PDF
Developing a Receptive and Faculty-Focused Environment for Assessment
Chapter 22
John Wittman
This chapter argues that as primary stakeholders in writing program assessment, students and instructors need to be included proactively in... Sample PDF
New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment
Chapter 23
Mya Poe
The study of racial-ethnic group differences on educational tests has yielded a substantial body of research internationally in the last decade. In... Sample PDF
Reporting Race and Ethnicity in International Assessment
Chapter 24
Joan Hawthorne, Tatyana Dumova, April Bradley, Daphne Pederson
In this chapter the authors describe a method developed to assess the outcome of a “cultural familiarity” general education goal. Challenges in... Sample PDF
Method Development for Assessing a Diversity Goal
About the Contributors