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Assessment on the Web:
Part 1

What if learning looked like the web?

A series of conversations about the current state and future of learning online. Brought to you by the folks at Peer 2 Peer University.

The Problem Set

As a learning community, P2PU is part of a larger ecosystem of online education with different trends, economic models and approaches to recognition and measurement. From where we sit, assessment is the biggest hurdle to innovation in how people learn. It is designed around the way learning was structured in the past. Every learner was expected to master the same body of knowledge, going at the same speed, using the same learning resources and approaches.

The web has changed the way we learn. The way we recognize learning hasn’t.

Online, we are distributed, and so are our curiosities and interests. There is no “one size fits all” model of the internet. The web calls us to participate in a way that makes us uniquely equal. Sparks of interaction, conversations, moments of feedback on the web are truly peer-to-peer, and assessment on the web needs to reflect this shift.

The Landscape

If you look around the web, this is already happening: communities are coming up with their own mechanisms for feedback and recognition.

Both Quora and Stack Overflow rally responses around a problem or a question. Someone may ask “How does Google Maps pinpoint my location using HTML5?” and members from the community provide answers. The community votes the replies of users “Up” or “Down” based on how helpful or accurate the reply is until a problem is “Answered.” Users receive “credit” for their investment in a correct answer—a status they can (and do) outwardly share.

Other communities like GitHub and Scratch recognize projects by how often they are forked or remixed by other members. In these technical communities, creating projects that other people can build on is a measure of expertise and status.

A New Way to Look at Learning

Participating is learning. By observing and chiming in with your ideas in an online community, over time you’re learning several things: the domain of the community (i.e. code, techno, lolzcatz), and how to communicate within it (i.e. communication tools, but also etiquette, are emotiji appropriate?). An online presence is a blend of “soft” and “hard” skills, and they are interconnected.

Communities decide what’s acceptable. Voting an answer up-or-down, liking a post, or remixing a project--these are different levels of granularity, but anyone in the community can give feedback on any project. The community decides what’s good and what’s not, and folks who make stellar contributions are celebrated.

Feedback is key. It’s actually a core skill in a community of practice. Whether it’s leaving a comment on a post, suggestions on a project, or answering an open question, giving feedback is a way to apply the norms and values of a community. Giving feedback is also a kind of learning--in and of itself.

Our Conception of the Solution Set

We know that the web affects learning. We don’t know how this is all going to play out, but we are going to spend the next few weeks rethinking assessment on the web. This is an open conversation-as an organization, we have an opinion about social learning and recognition-but we still have more questions than answers.


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