Advantages and Disadvantages of assessing online collaborative work
The advantages for the instructor are similar in nature to those of performance assessments. The very nature of the discussion forums and collaborative ongoing conversations creates participatory meaningful conversation and engages critical thinking in the cohorts, and sometimes the instructor as well. Another advantage is that the instructor is able to focus on strategic instruction and guidance, rather than on management issues. The instructor is able to promote active learning communities and act as a moderator within the forum(Oosterhof, Conrad, & Ely, 2008).
Unfortunately, also similar to performance assessments, discussion forum grading can become time-consuming involving reading many student posts and threads (Oosterhof et al., 2008). Another potential disadvantage, is learned restraint on the part of the instructor. The instructor is tasked with developing a sense of when to respond to a post and when not to, for fear of disrupting the burgeoning virtual community. The video for the week was quite clear that the only time an instructor should respond to every student post is when they respond to the student biography post. Otherwise, the instructor needs to hang back, strategically interject pertinent questions, but otherwise allow the learner-learner interactions to flourish (Laureate Education, Inc [Laureate], n.d.).
There are numerous advantages listed in our course materials. For instance, community members get to know one another, learn to depend upon one another, and appreciate peers as active knowledge generators instead of passive knowledge recipients” (Oosterhof, Conrad, & Ely, 2008, p. 203). In fact, “study findings indicate that collaborating learners have higher levels of participation, achievement, productivity, self-esteem, peer interaction, group cohesion, and enhanced critical thinking than noncollaborators do” (Oosterhof et al., 2008, p. 202).
In my own personal experienced throughout the program at Walden, I have learned a great deal through my collaborative discussion interactions. Sometimes the learning was indirect, such as through a resource discovered and shared by another cohort. Sometimes the learning was very direct, deepening my understanding of a concept from a perspective I had not previously considered.
There are disadvantages as well. For instance, there have been courses where it was difficult for me to find a connection or link to the other cohorts. This often became easier as time went on. Another disadvantage is that sometimes you post may not be responded to at all, either by the instructor or another cohort. This can lead to feelings of insecurity (warranted or not). Another disadvantage occurs when a discussion prompt fails to engage novel or creative thinking in the cohorts, rather resulting in regurgitation of the same materials making the posts less engaging (Laureate Education, Inc [Laureate], n.d.).
The video discussion provided numerous ideas for dealing with collaborative assessment. My two favorites were (1) the use of authentic interactions to assess learning in the form of debates, case studies, simulations, role playing and wikis; and, utilizing a “fishbowl” approach wherein teams assess each other on the quality and content of their product (Laureate, n.d.). First, I love case studies. They are my absolute favorite type of discussion topic. They are engaging, descriptive and leave enough to the imagination that just about everyone can find something creative to discuss. Further, they allow the conversation to expand appropriately from the case study as the conversation deepens. Second, the fishbowl approach has been successfully utilized in a few of my courses where students would post their completed product during week seven and the other cohorts would provide constructive feedback.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Assessing interaction and collaboration in online environments [Video]. Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.