Assessment, accountability, and evaluation are increasingly common topics of discussion in higher education. Information technology is both the subject of assessment and a means to an end. There are many questions about how IT facilitates learning: some want to demonstrate that IT improves learning, and others want to document what students know. But the answers are only as good as the questions asked—and as good as the evidence we collect and analyze.
This session focussed on strategies that document how technology influences student learning. Several tenets underlay the session:
- The collection and interpretation of evidence is critical to the improvement of teaching and learning.
- There are multiple ways to collect useful evidence on how technology can improve teaching and learning (for example, surveys, interviews, and e-portfolios).
- Evidence is most useful when the right questions are asked and the assessment strategies are matched to those questions.
- Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting evidence is only part of the process; assessment must be linked to improvement strategies and changes in practice.
ELI’s 2006 Fall Focus Session brought together IT professionals, faculty, administrators, institutional researchers, and learning technologists to better understand how evidence supports the advancement of teaching and learning with technology. We explored:
- The difference between assessment, which focuses on student learning, and evaluation, which focuses on broader issues (for example, the cost-effectiveness of technology and measuring satisfaction).
- Knowing what questions to ask, the appropriate metrics to use, and what to do with the answers.
- How to create a culture of improvement that is ready to act on carefully collected, analyzed, and interpreted evidence.
- Assessment as learning and as a tool in sustaining a learner-centered culture.