Need for an Taxonomy to Facilitate E-Assessment
The use of computers in education has a long tradition. Higher Education (HE) has usedasynchronous communication tools (such as e-mail and discussion boards) since the late20th Century. More recently, a range of Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs and wikis, have beenadded to this toolset. Students enjoy the use of technology in their classes (Clarke, Flaherty& Mottner, 2001), and its use is supported by a wealth of long-established pedagogicalresearch, such as
theories on language and construction of knowledge (1987),
and Kolb’s emphasis on the importance of learning through participation
(1984). Subsequentresearch has highlighted the importance of the social construction of knowledge (see, forexample, Pea, 1993). A large body of empirical evidence supports the use of computers in the learning process. A meta-analysis carried out by the Department of Education in the United States (USDepartment of Education, 2009)
concluded that: “Students who took all or part of the class
online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditionalface-to-
face instruction”. The study reported that instruction which combined online learning
with face-to-face learning was most effective. These findings were true irrespective of themeans of implementation [of online learning] and were found to be applicable irrespective of content or learners.
This research paper looks at one particular form of online learning, that which involves theuse of online discussion boards. Online discussion boards are one instance of what has been
variously described as “online writing”, “digital writing”, “digital learning narratives” and “Web 2.0 writing”
, which can take various forms including online forums, blogs, wikis, socialnetworks, instant message logs, and virtual worlds. Many of the issues raised in this paperare relevant to all forms of online writing.This new medium provides new affordances
new ways of utilising the medium tocommunicate and collaborate. For example, online writing may make visible such things asco-operation, collaboration, and self-
reflection; the learner’s thought processes are also
more apparent (Knox, 2007). The inclusion of multimedia (such as audio and video) isstraight-forward. Referencing (hyperlinking) to related resources or information is simple.The asynchronous nature of many online communications makes the time and place of
contributions more flexible, and provides more “wait time” to improve opportunities for
reflective writing (Berliner, 1987). The dialogue may have an audience beyond the walls of the university (perhaps at campus, national or global level). The scope of the tasks that maybe set can be greater, with faculty setting large-scale projects such as collaborative book writing or large-scale software construction (Gray
, 2009). Authenticity can be improvedby tackling real-world issues, and seeking feedback from peers and experts across the world(Gray
, 2009). The potential for producing authentic, large-scale, co-constructed,continuously improved, media-rich works of local, national or international interest is unique.
These “new affordances” have implications for assessment. They provide an opportunity to
assess skills that were previously considered difficult or impossible to assess. For example,collaboration has long been recognised as an important skill but is rarely assessed due toinherent difficulties in measuring this competence through traditional methods. The newaffordances offer opportunities to set new kinds of assessment activities
real activities with
Over 1000 research studies were included in this meta-analysis. Most related to the post-schoolsector; few studies have been carried out for younger learners.
The report noted that the benefits of online learning may not necessarily relate to the medium butcould be the effects of other factors such as time spent learning, the curriculum, or pedagogy.