Open Education: “The whole model hinges on excellent assessment”

September 26, 2011 at 9:58 am 5 comments

I agree with this claim.  That’s the real trick: How do you know that the students learned what they were supposed to learn?  We know that self-assessment is a bad way of judging that learning.  That’s the contribution that I see the Stanford AI class making — doing assessment, at least in the form of quizzes.

And the education could be far cheaper, because there would be no expensive instructor and students could rely on free, open educational resources rather than expensive textbooks. Costs to the student might include the assessment and the credits.“The whole model hinges on excellent assessment, a rock-solid confidence that the student has mastered the student-learning outcomes,” the memo says. “If we know with certainty that they have, we should no longer care if they raced through the course or took 18 months, or if they worked on their courses with the support of a local church organization or community center or on their own.  The game-changing idea here is that when we have assessment right, we should not care how a student achieves learning. We can blow up the delivery models and be free to try anything that shows itself to work.”

via Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

We get the chance to beat the book: NSF CE21 funded CSLearning4U Pursuing universal computing literacy: Mozilla-as-Teacher, Everyone-as-Coder

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  September 26, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Hi Mark

    To me the huge point about assessment is not mentioned — the article and idea gets bogged down in certification issues.

    What they need to think really deeply about — and come up with good solutions for — is above threshold feedback to the students in a variety of time scales. We’ve talked about next gens of computer tutoring, and you have also mentioned the “correspondence school model”, which I think has a lot of promise for online education.

    Both need very good feedback systems to the leaners, before it is worth worrying about certification issues.



  • 2. Stephen Gilbert  |  September 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Back in 2001, my online CS1 Java course was selected for the Sofia Open courseware initiative ( Since then, I’ve taught this and other courses online and been our college online faculty coordinator.

    I used to be a big believer in the open-online world, but I now teach only face-to-face classes, because I really found that my best efforts were pretty ineffective.

    I found the article to be really unconvincing, although it does mirror the thinking of many of the educational administrators that I’ve talked to. Suppose, (just for argument’s sake), that we all agreed that the AP exams were a perfect assessment of the different freshman-level classes that they were designed to target. Would education be less expensive if we eliminated the freshman year, and just had the students take AP exams?

    That seems to be the point of the article. That providing students with free online materials (no mention of where those online materials and the environment will come from, or how they’ll be paid for) and a good assessment will lower the cost and effectiveness of education. I just don’t think that’s true.


    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  September 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      IF the AP exams were a perfect assessment of the different freshman-level classes, AND on-line classes resulted in a very high percentage of AP exam passes (e.g., say, higher than the 80% that we might expect from most freshman-level classes, and higher than the 70% that we might expect from a CS1) without twice-as-high withdraw rate that we typically see in on-line classes, then YES, I would think it would be reasonable to replace the freshman year classes with the on-line classes. The key point, though, is to get an assessment that we believe is rock solid right. That’s the point that I agreed with in the article. I don’t think it’s about certification either, as Alan says.

      My concern is that too few online classes focus on the assessment, but that is the critical factor.


  • 4. Fred Martin  |  September 27, 2011 at 6:39 am

    The Stanford AI course also has weekly problem sets where you will write code. Perhaps you will feed your code input and then run it to determine answers. We were curious about this before — how can you teach an AI class w/o having students write code? So it looks like they will be encouraging the writing of code & perhaps grading results of running it.

    I’ll report back more as we get into it — I have 15+ students I’ve been meeting with weekly who are excited about the class.



    How will assignment work? What programming language should I use?

    Assignments will simply be a series of questions. For many topics writing algorithms will be helpful and is recommended to help complete the assignments, however your code itself is not evaluated so you may use any language you are comfortable with. If you are interested in programming but don’t already know a language we recommend Python.

  • 5. Martin Roberts  |  October 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I believe that the computing is the silver bullet to this problem. Never before have we been able to give students immediate, relevant and accurate feedback — therefore we have designed an entire education paradigm around other approaches. I am convinced that this is the greatest advantage of using computing to enhance teaching.

    So far, with only a few exceptions, educational software has still been designed to enhance teaching but still around the older paradigms of how we should teach topics such as math and science. It is only very recently that we are seeing a trend of computing-powered math teaching that is approaching math education in a completely different way.


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