Kasauti Zindagi er… MOOC ki (The ever changing assessments in a MOOC)

Do the people who design, develop and conduct tests and assessments ever undergo testing times themselves? Oh, yes! We, the people who are a part of the MOOCs, definitely do!  Every single time. Let me take you to our ‘war-room’ today.  And believe me, this IS the correct word! We are a bunch of strategists in this war room with varied perspectives with our very creative Commander-in-chief -Dr. Sameer. It is ‘fun’tastic to have a creative person in that position as it ensures there is no shortage of Adrenalin rush!

war room

Image: internet

We have had multiple runs of this particular MOOC and every run was very different as compared to the other MOOCs. We essentially have multiple quizzes and all the formative assessments that you can think of, each different with only 30% (maximum) of the items remaining same. But the real action in the war-room is seen for the final assessment that leads to certification. Because Dr. Sameer, like me, believes in not just assessment of learning but assessment as learning and assessment for learning!

Every run of this MOOC, has seen larger participation (more than a thousand)  than the earlier run, and we keep re-designing the final assessment that also wouldn’t be daunting for our team as evaluators. All of us working from different cities and towns across India! Did you say ‘automated grading’? Well, we don’t do that here! πŸ˜‰ We do it only for the formative assessments, not for the final one. So, we have quite a task at hand to design them. We have learnt by discovering the loopholes that we never thought of but our ‘genius’ participants had, which led us to formulate ways to tighten the noose so that nobody gets away trying to manipulate the online system. Mind you, NOBODY.

And then COVID-19 happened! We were in the mid of the run, when the lock-down was announced. Though I am in no competition to Sameer’s creativity, I can vouch for some of it at least. I texted him  early morning with the first cup of tea- “Have an idea.” Needless to say, the next cup of tea saw us on call where we were deliberating and the structure of the strategy was almost in place. “Work on it. Let’s finalize it. I think 2 pm should be okay.” It was already past 10 am and I had just a couple of hours to give the entire strategy!  This is the adrenaline rush that I love! And I am always up for it. But testing the strategy needed people to try it out with me. Thankfully it was Sunday. So, here was I ,with Daisy, testing what I had in mind on a Sunday afternoon just after 1 pm! Beaming with the satisfaction that these things were working, the plan was ready. So, by 3 pm, we knew that there was an additional resource and a quiz based on it to be included.  We had included the on-line component that was much needed by the participants in their new struggle of online teaching! By evening, it was tested and uploaded! We were skeptical about the participants’ reaction, but were jubilant when our technical team informed “participants are taking all quizzes even though they have a choice of attempting one. And this is just after one day of release.” This had worked! Even some of our team members said this benefited them. Definitely, a Wow moment!

Tests and assessments in a MOOC are essentially different mainly because: a) they need not be necessarily proctored b) they need to include the diversity of the learners c) they need to be designed beyond the knowledge and understanding level and most importantly, d) they cannot be the same as in the previous run. In fact, we see what all has been asked in the previous runs so that we don’t repeat most of it!

Then as we are moving towards the end of this run of the course, with the lock down still in place, Sameer decided to give the final assignment another creative yet focused twist. The Edu Tech Dept at IITB had already a reference web page that was meant to be a one-stop solution for anybody who was into teaching online (we had contributed our bit in that as well), and Sameer wanted that guidelines to be kept as the reference frame by the participants. We all welcomed his idea. He also wanted a self-evaluation component.  We were doubtful. Now the task of putting this together. So, here we were, at logger heads. ‘You are too strict’ was met with ‘we can’t dilute the standard’. We argue, deliberate, convince before we finally reach a consensus. And all this is done online, with our videos blanked out most of the times! Do you know what such  intense interesting interactions do? We can know the actual meaning behind the words ‘yes’, ‘okay’, ‘alright’ spoken without even looking at the person. Every question item framed, looked for the possible loopholes, misinterpretations, the language and what not. Every single thing being discussed, tested, the plugs being developed…it just seemed endless. And then, finalizing after hours and hours of deliberations! Aha! What satisfaction! I can only imagine what must have happened in those war-rooms of Churchill during WW II that I had visited last year! Yeah, “Keep calm and carry on!”

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