Day 3 – Chronicle of 1st D-TRANSFORM Leadership School (Nov. 16th, 2016)

by Jean-François Colas, UOC Doctoral School

Two working sessions (‘New approaches to assessment’ and ‘Benchmarking digital institutions’) and a Keynote (‘What can we learn from small innovative online HE providers?’) were at the menu of the third day of the 1st D-TRANSFORM Leadership School held at the UOC headquarters in Tibidabo.

Carles Sigalés (UOC’s Vicepresident Teaching & Learning) introduced the first speaker Andrea Karpati (ELTE University) who explained with much enthusiasm how assessment should go beyond testing and may be personalised through informal formative assessment methods supported by e-learning platforms. The focus is on performance, not only on knowledge, and peer review—a recurrent topic of the day—is essential for formative assessment as it contextualises performance and causes peers to internalise assessment criteria. In his presentation on alternative assessment methods and their purpose, Albert Sangrà (UOC) noted that new ICT-based performance assessment methodologies should be re-thought to make them match with real learning. They do not have to replicate traditional assessment methods. He described 5 key assessment-for-learning strategies: sharing learning expectations, eliciting evidence, feedback, self assessment, and—again—peer assessment. Ana Elena Guerrero (UOC) presented the pilots scheme and preliminary results of TeSLA, a project for an Adaptive Trust-based e-assessment System for Learning, a much needed solution for a real e-assessment that uses ICT to present, solve, record and evaluate assessment activities. In the Q&A time, Sangrà suggested that the unsolved ‘Authentication and Authorship’ issue might be the product of a somewhat old-fashioned way of assessing. We should try instead to reflect on the kind of students we would like at the end of process of education and, as assessment always shape the way a student studies, prepare accordingly the assessment policy so as to get the desired outcome. Not only new formative e-assessment methodologies could help shaping creative students with relevant lifelong learning skills, they could also represent an innovation driver for education at large. To make new assessments methods real, especially for transforming individual initiatives into institutional ones, Karpati recommended asking first your staff what are their problems, then to have an e-learning center in your institution.

Paul Bacsich (SERO Consulting) opened the second working session by defining benchmarking and observed that benchmarking can be with similar institutions, sector leaders, and/or the occasional exo-benchmark with a game changer (e,g. small private provider, online school etc). When it comes to benchmarking e-learning, he suggested that the most important now is to help individual institutions understand their own positions on opening up learning. For António Teixeira (Universidade Aberta and former EDEN president), transforming digitally a university is about becoming open, transparent, flexible and appreciating the continuous change of the landscape. To respond to the cultural challenge of opening up, the university cannot change radically every 5 or 10 years. It needs therefore to be reorganised, to become a learning organization that can be reshuffled. As well as benchmarking the whole institution, it is wise to look at a few “slices” (Schools, Faculties etc). Slices need not be organisational, they can be programme or function-based (e,g. Distance learning). This unbundling of universities will be a big topic in coming days’ sessions (Universities disrupted, MOOC suppliers etc).

Echoing the exo-benchmark concept of Bacsich, the last session of the day asked ‘What can we learn from small innovative online HE providers?’. Michael Stewart (The Interactive Design Institute/University of Aberdeen) presented some of the possible benefits of a partnership with an online provider for a traditional HE institution: Diagnostic service, Speed of implementation, Customised solution. Jordi Llonch (Sharing Academy) talked about the needs and benefits of peer-to-peer tutoring among students to improve their academic results in universities, a collaborative solution for the dropout risk. The Sharing Academy project, born at the UOC, has achieved significant results in a short period of time. As noted by the moderator Susanna Sancassani (Politecnico di Milano – METID), Llonch remarked that ‘students do not trust the organizations, they trust their peers’. Interestingly, this seems to contrast with, for example, this statement found in Bacsich’s presentation: ‘Students seem more than happy with leading campus-based institutions provided they facilitate digital approaches’. Some food for thoughts for during the afternoon Barcelona Tour…

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