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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Frustrations with Online Learning

Frustrations with Online Learning

Related Tags: Classroom Technology
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I thought we should have a discussion forum where we can discuss things that really frustrate us with online learning. Ideally, this would be a constructive discussion, with contributors suggesting solutions for our frustrations. So, here goes my biggest frustration: Assessment and Marking. How can we take the paper out of the online learning process? I can get students to learn and complete work online. I can get them to submit work online. But when it comes to marking the work and giving feedback, I am yet to find a system that is as quick and as efficient - as well as meaningful - as simply writing comments on a printout of student work. I've tried editing via word processing, but that is cumbersome. I've tried using a digital pen, but that lacked the precision I needed. So, any ideas out there?

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Brad VanSpriell's picture
Brad VanSpriell
Grad Student in Learning Technology M.Ed program; father of 3rd & 1st grade

[quote]Inspired by Letty and Brad, I'm going to give this a try with one of my classes. I'll use Screenium, since that's my particular brand of Screen Capture tool, but I'll also ensure that, as I discuss the merits of the work, I highlight the particular issues I'm talking about.One question however: Does that mean that everyone can look at everyone else's feedback?[/quote]

A couple of options. If your CMS allows you to setup secure folders, you could upload the video feedback into seperate folders that only the individual student has access to. Or, you could use a video sharing site such as Vimeo, where you can...
"Vimeo allows you to upload high quality video and also secure it. Video can be shared with certain people and be password-protected. They have a free account which allows you to upload 500MB per week."

Paula's picture

[quote]I thought we should have a discussion forum where we can discuss things that really frustrate us with online learning. Ideally, this would be a constructive discussion, with contributors suggesting solutions for our frustrations.So, here goes my biggest frustration: Assessment and Marking. How can we take the paper out of the online learning process? I can get students to learn and complete work online. I can get them to submit work online. But when it comes to marking the work and giving feedback, I am yet to find a system that is as quick and as efficient - as well as meaningful - as simply writing comments on a printout of student work.I've tried editing via word processing, but that is cumbersome. I've tried using a digital pen, but that lacked the precision I needed.So, any ideas out there?Practical1Innovative0Persuasive0[/quote]

Paula's picture

Essays or projects can be reviewed, marked and assessed by using audio comments...simply use the sound recorder on your computer to create a "podcast of the review" and send the review to your student.

Donna Luna's picture

I teach in online high school and I do see many great suggestions here. One thing you did not tell us is do you have any live class time with the students? I find that usingn this class time to clarify their understanding combined with guided practice helps students a great deal. We also incorporated four hours per day office hours where ewe are available to our students during the hours we choose. This allows us to do one on one review and to enhance student learning even more. We also use Jing for mini lessons.
I do believe that we are never going to totally eliminate paper and pen, but what is so horrible about adding comments to student papers? I still believe this is one of the most beneficial means to teaching specific ideas to individual students. It may take some time, but this is part of our profession.

Donna Luna's picture

I teach in an online high school and my biggest frustration is the students who refuse to do any work and just take up cyber space. Is there a legal and legitimate way to keep these kids who are planning on doing nothing from even enrolling in our school? It is public, so we have no choice in who we admit. Does any one have any practical, yet legal suggestions? How does your school deal with this issue? Have you found a solution?

Mary Snow's picture

The feedback depends on the online environment. If you are using an LMS (Learning Management System) like WebCT or Blackboard it should support feedback in some context.

If files are being emailed or saved to a server, it may depend on the file type, and the students ability to manage files. For example MSWord supports Track Changes which could be easily used for reviewing essays. Another tool which supports annotation is Adobe Acrobat PRO - this will allow you to create a PDF from most file types students send, once you have the PDF Acrobat PRO will let you mark it up.

I'm a retired programmer turned teacher - very interested in online education. If you post some more specific examples which include types of files and system environment I'll see what I can figure out.

In my past life as a software developer there were times when the best feedback was marking up the paper in spite of numerous attempts to create tools.

Alan Silverman's picture
Alan Silverman
Instructional Designer and Educational Technology Specialist

Try CoFFEE, as an Open Source electronic classroom.
https://sites.google.com/a/unisa.it/coffee-soft/
Your students can upload digital documents, such as PDFs or even Web pages, that become an image you can mark up in CoFFEE. You can collaborate online, while going over the details of the assignment.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

This is always an issue, whether we're talking traditional paper and pencil or electronic feedback.
And the success/failure of the online tools fails to take into consideration of how the feedback is received and hopefully implemented by the students.
I can tell you that as a student, I remember getting papers back. I'd scan them for the comments, look mostly at the positive ones, ignore the negative ones, and unless there was a revision process for the project,largely forget about it and move on. It wasn't a reflective process for me on my own, until, frankly, law school.

However, when a teacher sat down with me and went over something, that was meaningful. It was a personal connection, and we could go back and forth, with my trying to explain what I meant, while they tried to mentor me and show me how to get closer to the goal on the next go. That helped me do better the next time around. Otherwise, the assignment was over, the red pen flowed, and we were moving on to the next text ahead.
As a parent, I try to explain to my kids that things like "Corrections" to finished homework for foreign language class and other classes is actually important, because it helps train you on the proper way to do something, rather than your brain assuming it already knows what the right way is, even if it's dead wrong based on your marks. But it doesn't mean that the feeling of re-doing past work or using past "failures" to bolster future success is any less painful for the kid.
e need to find more ways to make the process of doing a project or paper more collaborative along the way to help kids achieve results they can be proud of- because that's where the true learning happens, after all- rather than hoping the after the fact feedback feels like anything less than an IRS audit to a kid.
This collaboration could be a wiki that allows kids to keep track of all the pieces of assignments and project benchmarks, with teachers having access and able to provide comments and coaching along the way. It could be anything.
For those who worry this would mean every kid would get an A- well, every kid would still find a way to not meet all the requirements from the rubric- I see my kids miss stuff every day- so you will still get differentiation in success- but frankly, since the learning is in the process and not all just about the finished project itself, shouldn't we worry more about the coaching and mentoring pieces than the final assessment and grade? And what is really wrong with every kid having an A or B worthy project at the end, anyway?

Lori Niles's picture

Keith and Gess,

I designed an online master's program being very aware of both of your points of view. The "solution" I came up with was to run a modified cohort program, with the continuous community being a small group of 3-4 peers. It is the students' responsibility to find a Skype conference call time on a weekly basis throughout their program. They may be taking different elective courses, but they will always have each other to bounce things off as they process through their program.

While the program has yet to be implemented, this seemed to me to be a good way to bridge face time, peer support, and the need to keep the vast majority of their coursework time/schedule completely at their discretion.

Do either of you have any thoughts about how this might or might not have worked for you?

CL's picture
CL
Higher Ed

I am familiar with Angel, and have also used two other course management systems. If your tech staff is willing to set up Moodle, it is a reasonable solution.

http://moodle.org/

The CMS I usually work with is quite amazing--based on Desire2Learn.
http://www.desire2learn.com/clients/k12/

It connects a dropbox with feedback and a grade; it also connects discussion topics with a grade and feedback. There are regular problems with students posting to the wrong dropbox, so date settings need to tightly fit the deadlines. Exceptions can be made if one student has a real emergency.

Moodle is fairly close to this, but has some limitations in viewing assignments and grades. Deadlines were not all visible at once, and student submissions had to be checked often (where the better CMS had a little tally of unread discussion posts and dropbox uploads on the home page).

My point -- it is possible. Many features are possible, if a school researches their CMS well in advance. It is also worth getting a programmer on district staff, in case permissions are granted for rewriting functionality.

Lori, your question on interactivity -- if you have a discussion board, students might be able to post links and insert images inline. The interaction can be graded, and can require a small amount of research for each discussion.

It is not as motivating as classroom interaction for most students, but it keeps people engaged. It is still difficult to prevent plagiarism and weak input. Sigh.

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