Research Questions

Assessment of Participation

How do we assess participation in online learning with particular reference to discussions and tasks that are conducted within a unit of study and which have the character of being 'in-unit' learning activities?

This research question is mostly concerned with updating or reconfirming what we know about the ways in which many different forms of online participation in study can be assessed in aggregate form. While related to later questions concerning online knowledge production, it is useful to approach just on this basis because of the significant number of units taught in universities which continue to assess participation.

It is assumed that students will not undertake learning activities as well, or as consistently, unless they are recognised as being part of assessment. Further, it is assumed that a portfolio approach will be used: a portfolio is all about selecting, collating, contextualising and analysing reflectively work done in a unit of study that is otherwise not assessed.

From these assumptions flows the idea that informal mechanisms of assessment fail on two counts and that a portfolio approach addresses these failures. Without a portfolio approach:

  1. there is insufficient rigour and transparency in assessment that simply relies on a general review by teachers of the total participation of a student in a unit; such a review tends to involve assessing how much, how often students participate; it assess participation, rather than the learning which has occurred because of participation
  2. there is a lost opportunity for students to review their own work, reflect on it and learn from that process; the portfolio approach ensures learning takes place both during participation and in the review of participation.

It is also assumed that portfolio approaches improve the efficiency of the process; for example, it may be possible to assess transparently and with rigour without a portfolio but only at the cost of significant amounts of time; the portfolio approach also helps students by providing them with an end-state to which they are working to assist in moderating the extent of participation and focusing it on most productive forms.

Participation here is limited to that occurring within a learning community as distinct from wider knowledge production (see next question).

See Assessment by Portfolio on the Assessment page

This question is directly researched in the context of NET102, with a followup in NET101. See Applied research task I

Use of online knowledge production

How do we use the concept of web presence to create a way of thinking for students that guides them in understanding the interrelated, ongoing nature of online knowledge production and which provides context for this work?

This research question is mostly concerned with coming to grips with the amorphous nature of the Internet as a 'place' to publish and with centring student work and understanding of that work upon their own identity as a student / user of the Internet.

It is assumed that web presence has value as a learning goal in its own right; it is assumed that students will better understand knowledge production if they are the 'centre' of attention; it is finally assumed that the management of ongoing processes of knowledge production require some kind of 'web presence' core.

The idea of web presence .
See also Assessment and Web presence on the Assessment page

This question is directly researched in the context of NET101. See Applied research task II. It is followed up in NET206.

How do we use techniques involving the creation and management of real-world online knowledge, in multiple forms, to sustain and improve student learning? (And how might we assess it?)

This research question is mostly concerned with emphasising that 'participation' as currently understood involves a series of activities that should move from within a bounded learning community and actually be conducted in the context of the Internet as a whole. It draws upon numerous existing ideas and approaches and attempts to systematise them, with particular reference to knowledge networking.

It is assumed that, in a course of study specifically about the Internet but also by extension into many other courses, students will be more highly motivated to produce knowledge (and thus learn by doing so) when it has a context of real-world consumption, rather than just 'essays' for lecturers to mark. It is also assumed that the fundamental goals of a course of study involving development of skills and knowledge about the Internet must include engagement with real use of the technologies, not artificially constrained substitutes.

It is also assumed that online knowledge production can include a lot of variety, and involve an array of tasks from small to quite substantial. Some of this activity will occur within publications / sites hosted by net studies, and some simply 'on the Internet'.

It is assumed that assessment of this kind of work will involve, on occasion, the specific grading or assessment of a piece of work that is 'published' (or submitted for publication), but that the diverse nature of these online knowledge tasks also makes the portfolio approach suitable.

See Online Knowledge production on the Assessment page

This question is directly researched in the context of NET205 and NET303. See Applied research task III. It is followed up in NET204.

How do we use techniques involving the creation and management of real-world online knowledge, in multiple forms, to sustain and improve student learning? (And how might we assess it?)

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