Topic 2 Benefits and drawbacks of digital and non-digital assessments

The choice whether to employ digital or non digital assessment tools in evaluation of an educational course or training involving adult learners depends on several important aspects. According to a new study by OECD which represents an early assessment on the increased adult education and training in the Covid19 times, it is stated that online learning (including assessment of provision and outcomes) highlighted some structural limitations which influenced the quality of endeavor. The challenges include: adequate digital skills, computer equipment and internet access to undertake training online, difficulty of delivering traditional work-based learning online (especially practical learning, exercises), and the struggle of educators used to face to face learning setting. 

Provided that these preconditions are met and ICT/digital technology is available and educators and participants are capacitated to use it, benefits of digital assessment may be numerous.

Key benefits of using digital assessment in adult education and training are as follows:

❑ Allowing a broader range of skills to be tested in a number of different ways becomes much easier for adult educator to make tasks more authentic and align assessments with the learning outcomes of a module;

❑ Digital platforms allow the delivery of assessments to be scheduled. Assessments delivered via digital platforms can be scheduled and automatically released at set intervals, thus enabling the assessment load (and its associated marking and feedback provision) to be spread throughout the term, which can reduce the sense of assessment overload an educator and the learners (using technology can increase assessment efficiency by, for example, allowing the creation of reusable resources (learning objects) and by facilitating automatic marking);

❑ The use of technology to enhance assessment can also be a boost to learners engagement by enabling diverse assessment methods to be implemented, supporting active learning, allowing more frequent formative assessment and by extension promoting deeper learning and improvements;

❑ Increased flexibility as learners can access online assessments at any time and at any place where a connection is available, even on their mobile phones;

❑ Learning flexibility allows adult learners to access assessments at a time that best suits their individual learning approaches and needs and tight schedules;

❑ Readily available statistics on learner performance, which can also enable courses to be more easily reviewed by the educator/provider.

Key drawbacks of using digital assessment in adult education and training are as follows:

❑ Use of resources – both financial and in terms of adult educator time and effort need to be weighed up against the associated pedagogic benefits;

❑ Accessibility issues – i.e. digital literacy among learners and educators even is far from being assumed and as such some learners and educators may be uncomfortable to use digital assessment tools;

❑ Potential for hardware or software issues arising and preventing the assessment from taking place;

❑ Difficulty in confirming the identity of learners completing online assessments outside of the classroom;

❑ Resistance to change by adult learners and educators.

Active Engagement Of Learners – digital or non digital tools and mechanisms for course assessment

If and how the learner is interacting with the content of a course is at the core of learner centered teaching and learning quality assessment. Regardless of the means of content delivery – online, offline or blended learning –  adult learner focused program ensures that the  learner collaborates with other learners and course educator(s) on a consistent and frequent basis and early on from the start of an educational program/course/training that he/she attends.

Adult learners want to be frequently asked about the course they are attending, and they normally like to share experiences they gained from previous courses and training activities. Creation of a digital course interactive community is thus vital for the quality of an online program which is often more difficult to create than when a training program is delivered face to face. 

Active Engagement Of Learners – digital or non digital tools and mechanisms for course assessment

Some tips and tricks to be applied in order to ensure active engagement of adult learners in a (digital) course are:

❑ clearly written structures in the course which address interactions between educator and learner, learner to learner, and learner-to-course resources

❑ A variety of materials used as to address different learning styles of attendees

❑ Sound pedagogy of adult educator

❑ Technical preconditions

❑ Discipline specifics must be uphold in a course delivery (one size does not fit all)

Engagement tools and mechanisms often include one or a combination of the following:

❑ videos or podcast lectures,

❑ weekly reminders & announcements,

❑ feedback associated with grading.

❑ Learners discussion forums

❑ Educators feedback/observations posts daily in the discussion forums

❑ Checklists

❑ Grading/feedback rubrics

What kind of digital and/or non digital assessment tools are you using in conducting adult learners training/course? Why do you choose these particular tools?

What strategies do you use to ensure active engagement od adult learners and their feedback in your program? Write them down and then discuss reasoning with your colleagues.

Suggestions for how to engage adult learners

This topic was devoted to exploring what positive and negative implications comonly exist in using digital/non digital assessments in adult education and training. Some tips and tricks from the observed training deliveries were outlined and some strategies for enhancing active engagment of adult learners in particular when training is delivered in a digital setting is presented.