Digital courseware, with its built-in assessments, holds great promise for faculty hoping to improve student outcomes in higher education. Yet many still eschew courseware. They especially dislike digital assessments.
That’s not because faculty are tech-averse.
Nearly half of all teachers in higher education reported that they have experience teaching online courses, according to Inside Higher Education’s “2018 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology Survey.” Yet, the majority indicated they believe college and university efforts to improve student outcomes with data-driven assessment don’t work.
Some of the reasons behind faculty’s negative take on using digital assessment to increase student achievement are apparent in the survey data.
HOW FACULTY REGARD DIGITAL ASSESSMENT
Among teachers in higher education:
43% are more likely to disagree than agree that they have used assessment information to improve student outcomes
59% agree with the view that standardized assessments are primarily focused on appeasing non-educators
43% disagree with the phrase “there is meaningful discussion at my college about how to use the assessment information”
In other words, many faculty members have the view that courseware-based assessments — along with other digital testing tools — have little to do with student learning. They believe that college leaders have introduced such assessments to please outsiders who want evidence that schools are achieving their missions (state politicians or charitable donors perhaps).
What’s more, faculty seem to believe that courseware and other digital assessment practices have been imposed on teachers without relevant discussion about how such tools should be applied.
WHAT FACULTY CANNOT DO WITH COURSEWARE AND DIGITAL ASSESSMENT
It’s unlikely that the faculty who dismiss the effectiveness of courseware are luddites. Use of technology is growing steadily in higher education. Instead, some teachers may react strongly against the suggestion that courseware can replace their curricula.
It’s true. Courseware cannot replace written papers and exams. It cannot replace qualitative feedback. Verbal and written comments are essential for helping students grasp slippery concepts. And courseware cannot replace the wisdom teachers garner from years of classroom experience.
College educators are experienced with the kinds of students who attend their school. They’re experienced with the age group they teach. Most importantly, they are experienced with the topics in their discipline students struggle to understand.
A teacher of introductory economics must teach more than formulas. Digital assessments can easily check answers to problems like that. But instructors must also introduce students to an entirely new way of thinking. Once students become accustomed to looking at their world in terms of currencies and commerce, the pieces fall together more easily. But that often requires months, even years, of verbal guidance and feedback.
How could courseware possibly assist students with such paradigm shifts?
HOW FACULTY CAN TAP THE POTENTIAL OF DIGITAL COURSEWARE AND ASSESSMENTS
Faculty who use courseware most effectively tend to customize. They don’t implement standardized quizzes and tests right o