Category Archives: Social

Why Digital Assessment will kill the percentage grade

A number of academics are not particularly happy with grading – I don’t mean that they don’t like marking essays (although there are some who don’t) but that they are unhappy about the effects of assigning grades to students.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by mikefisher821

This is not a new thing, for a detailed look at the problem try Alfie Khon or for a shorter discussion this from the Huffington post

Now for grades to have become so central to our education they must have some value to people both to schools and to students.  Internally it allows Teachers to know roughly what someone was capable of (oh they are an A grade student I will set them some harder problems etc).  Externally I would assume this has to do with employment, the employer wants some evidence that the person has the skills for the job and the students want evidence to enable them to get the job.

This is because in the past it wasn’t possible to see what students were good or bad at, you couldnt look over their essays and projects, in the digital age we can do better!

Portfolio of evidence

Now when I was at school they made us keep a “Record of Achievement” in a black folder, a paragraph a term on how we had done in various subjects, signed and commented by our teachers.  I took mine to my first job interview, but they didn’t look at it because they didn’t have time and I was sat right in front of them.  I needed some way to get the portfolio to them at the application stage – but I only had a single paper copy.

Recently I had a job interview and when I was writing the application and evidencing how I met all their criteria, I found that for a number of them I had already written blog posts that related to it – so I started including links to those posts in the document.  I certainly hadn’t intended my blog to be used in job applications, it was just a place for me to think in public, but after a couple of years of writing it contains some useful (to me at least) stuff.

So if I can start to create a portfolio of evidence almost by accident when posting in my spare time to my blog, how much easier would it be for students to assemble this if it was part of their studies?  A good example of this would be if you were doing a writing class with Laura Gibbs, at the end of the class you will have a collection of your writing publicly available on the web, which is used as evidence of your learning.

This is also good for involving others with your work for example Joe Blower “told parents that if they wanted to they are doing, then they should visit their child’s blog.

And to give you an idea of what this can look like try this from one of Laura Gibbs students on her writing class  what percentage did she get? I dont know or really care – what I do know is I thought the writing was good.

There is international work in this area this brief review of a conference/workshop will provide you with some idea of what is happening

When someone wants to know what you can do they look at your work, when you want to prove you can do something you would provide examples of that work – tagging will probably become quite important.


Badges work really well with portfolios, they are a simple way of proving that you can do something. Doug Belshaw provides some useful analogies and an overview of how they work.  In essence they are a quick way of indicating what you can do, linked to examples of work that you did in this areas and showing who awarded you the badge.

Just like with the portfolios these will be used to match what you can do with what people want you to be able to do and you can also use it to fill in gaps in your skills. Example – the job says time management is important, what courses are available online that give a time management badge.

Social/Reputational metrics (Whuffie)

When applying for a job you give a couple of people who can provide a reference, recently people have started posting references on each others linked in profiles and endorse their skills.  On social networks we +1 follow and share things people have posted.

What if all the work we did had comment boxes, and people who commented it linked back to who they were (example – most of my commenting comes from my google+ account so people can if they wish see how much weight they would like to give to my opinion)

Evidence from your teacher (and this is a brilliant example of how teachers can gather that evidence using tech) – without grades, just saying what you did well and what they like about your work.

Evidence from other students, your co-workers your boss, your neighbourhood gardening scheme.

Each time you do something it ends up in your portfolio and the people that you (worked with/did it for/trained with) can comment and endorse it raising your reputation.

Closing thoughts

Now a lot of people get hung up on what you should use to host this portfolio and what happens to it in the future.  Now the thing you are using to evidence your experience may stop being hosted, and you may lose some work/evidence but if you don’t evidence your learning somewhere then you are effectively losing everything as soon as you have done it.  So I would suggest just choose something and start! (I like wordpress).

The only thing that is important is that students should own their portfolios/badges/reputation!  Dont lock their work inside an institutional system that they cant access once they have finished studying at your organisation.

In conclusion which would you say is best

“Here is a link to all the work I have done that is relevant for this post, grouped by qualification and badges around the areas you specified as important complete with comments from my teachers, colleagues and other experts I have worked with in these areas”

“I got 87% in a subject with a title that sounds like it fits your job”

Oh and finally this video – because it fits

Mobile and Social are the obvious next steps in education – but are we doing this?

I was watching Steve Wheelers video on How will we learn tomorrow? and one of the things he said leapt out at me.  In the past 10 years the major trend affecting education was every student having a smart phone and being on social media, and this has the potential to enable lots of social learning opportunities. (I have paraphrased massively).

Now this makes sense to me, the fact that we all have access to the internet whenever we need and can also connect with and share thoughts with our friends/colleagues/classmates at any time is a complete transformation compared with how the world was 10 years ago (and even more compared to 20 years ago).

My question then is are educational institutions engaging with this?

I just wrote what I thought we should be telling all students but my institution is not recommending anything yet.  A quick Google search of social media tips/advice for students pulls article after article telling them what not to do (drunk pictures etc) and a few more advanced telling them about cultivating a professional profile to help get jobs, but using social for learning?  Pretty much nothing.

How about mobile  well students are definitely using their mobiles but are we providing courses designed for them or encouraging them to use them for education?

Where mobile is used in the classroom it can generate newspaper headlines as in this one found by +James Clay  but as he subtlety points out in his post, the teacher is doing what James was recommending people do 10 years ago.

Some educators such as +Laura Gibbs are encouraging their students to go social, sharing their work and dancing across the digital spaces.  The problem then comes when the students take a different class – Laura’s institution locks the instructors into Desire2Learn and offers no social spaces.

At my own institution, we have recently added a support forum to all engineering courses. Because our VLE has a mobile app this does allow students use mobiles to post and be notified.  Ok so its discussion forums and not true social as its limited to a individual classes, but its a good precursor and because its faculty wide it does mean that when our staff get G+ (all our students have it and I have high hopes of staff getting it by summer) it should be possible to persuade a few staff to try social.

So to answer my own question – individuals certainly are, but education as a whole really isnt.

My next question is – do we just wait and hope that education adopts these trends or is there something we can do to speed up the process?

By Cartmanland (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cartmanland (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

(the old argument of students not having access is pretty much over with smartphones available on tariffs as low as £10 a month)