Over the past few weeks, I have been exploring various ways to incorporate technology in my teaching practice. I attended a workshop on October 19th about creating, issuing, and displaying digital badges, and I finished a series of tasks required to earn a digital badge in Assessment in Online Language Courses. In looking over the discussion posts I wrote after each webinar in the series, I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of topics addressed. In addition to covering issues relevant to language assessment in any context, I was challenged to articulate my views on “cheating” and plagiarism, and I was introduced to various tools for providing written as well as audiovisual feedback. One of the tools, OrangeSlice, is an add-on for Google Docs that allows teachers to embed a scoring rubric onto student written work shared through the application!
I also realized that when we use technology to assess language, in some cases, we may have to modify our interpretation of the results. For example, rather than being able to say that a particular assessment demonstrated Student X’s ability to participate in a face-to-face discussion in the target language, we would need to state that Student X’s recording through VoiceThread demonstrated his or her ability to prepare for and to record a video in which he or she speaks in the L2. Nevertheless, both methods assess students’ speaking abilities, and assessing students’ language skills using technology may align more closely with the actual contexts in which students plan to use the language (i.e., talking with conversation partners via Skype, participating in online discussion boards, etc.).
One piece of information I didn’t know prior to participating in the Webinar series is that taking an online course requires more discipline on the part of the student (as opposed to a face-to-face format). Furthermore, I was inspired to make a mental note that if I get the opportunity to teach my second language online, I should try to use the target language to help students troubleshoot any technical problems. Finally, for the hybrid course I hope to teach this spring, I am going to look into creating at least one asynchronous lecture that involves a video of me explaining material organized on a series of slides!
One curiosity I was left with after the series, however, is how to go about assessing or responding to student posts in an online class forum or discussion board. While I think discussion boards may be useful for establishing an online community of learners, particularly in the case of asynchronous learning, I am not sure that I have the tools to assess student contributions accurately. In addition, whereas instructors are able to limit the time that students devote to debating a particular issue in a face-to-face or synchronous format, it would be difficult to restrict students’ time for composing a written post. While the flexibility of an online class may be appreciated by learners with ample time to spend on class discussion boards and by writers who do not feel an obsessive need to self-edit (as I do), I think this area may warrant future research. 🙂