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How to Facilitate Assessment in Your Online Course | Erin Cole, Bucks County Community College

We interviewed Bucks County Community College instructor, Erin Cole, about bringing assessment into your online course.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

“I think it is important to begin with the end in mind. Using the backward design process is useful to make sure that the assignments are designed for students to achieve the course learning goals. For example, one of the course learning objectives in my Intro to Sociology course is for students to "'demonstrate the ability to read critically, analyze and interpret information, and construct logical, well-supported positions on current social and political issues."' The Power of Process assignments directly align with this goal.  By looking at each learning objective before designing your course, faculty members can make sure the assignments are aligned with the course from the very beginning.

In my courses, I administer assessments early and often. My course consists of several low-stakes assignments that assess student learning. For each chapter, they have a mix of short quizzes, discussions, reflections, and written assignments. I attempt to assess each learning goal through a series of activities and assignments instead of just one. Also, for this upcoming semester, I am breaking down a large, higher-stakes assignment into a series of smaller assignments with a scaffolding approach. This way I can provide continued feedback as students work towards submitting the final assignment.”

What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?

“The OSCQR Rubric provided as a resource in the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is extremely useful in allowing you to design and evaluate your course based on established standards in multiple areas. Using the standards provided in the rubric can give faculty a guide to designing their courses with assessment in mind.

For example, there is a section that specifically addresses assessment and feedback. It includes criteria such as, “'Course includes frequent and appropriate methods to assess learners’ mastery of content.”' While designing a course, instructors can use this rubric as a guide and also return to the rubric to evaluate their course before it is published. 

As many institutions are continuing with remote or online instruction in the fall, there are also sections to address interaction and building a sense of community. The rubric provides suggestions for activities that build engagement such as ice breakers and ‘meet your classmates’ activities.”

What specific McGraw Hill Connect® tools would you recommend using?

“In addition to the ‘Power of Process’ assignment described above, the ‘In Their Shoes’ assignments is my favorite tool in McGraw Hill Connect® because it emphasizes how you can view social issues from a different perspective. Students place themselves in someone else's shoes in order to explore issues like Gender Stratification, Racial and Ethnic Inequality, and Social Control. This assignment also directly relates to one of my course goals which is for students to, ‘"demonstrate the ability to recognize the impact of social issues on their lives and how that knowledge can provide them with tools to deal with the world around them.’"

What assets or strategies do you find most effective for engaging students in the core text/course content students need to know in an online environment, and how do you recommend deploying them?

“I use concept clips in the chapter quizzes to demonstrate understanding of the concepts. Since, I will be teaching remotely come fall, I am thinking about how I will incorporate Flipgrid into my course. I may use it to replace the written discussion boards.

Flipgrid is a digital discussion board platform. Instructors can assign topics similar to a written discussion board in the LMS. Students record video responses instead of written responses. What I like about Flipgrid is that students can record responses to other students. It is another step in increasing interaction and building a sense of community in the online classroom. While students may initially be reluctant to record a video, they will find that it is more engaging and less tedious than writing discussion posts and reading through other students’ posts to respond to. I also expect responses to extend beyond ‘“I agree’” or ‘“Good Point!’” because students are responding through videos similarly to how they may respond to each other in a face-to-face course.”

About the Author

Erin Cole is currently a part-time instructor at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania where she has taught since 2013. She received a Master of Arts in Applied Sociology from Montclair State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from LaSalle University. Erin has mainly taught Intro to Sociology since 2005. In addition to teaching, she serves as the Assessment Liaison and Scholarship Coordinator for the Department of Social and Behavioral Science. She is also a Digital Faculty Consultant with McGraw Hill and is certified as an online instructor by the Online Learning Consortium. Prior to her position at Bucks County Community College, she was a Licensed Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor for the Mercer County Probation Department in NJ for close to ten years. Erin enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two children, preferably at the Jersey Shore.

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