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Computer-aided assessment as a holistic learning tool in geoscience

Nicholson, DT (2001) Computer-aided assessment as a holistic learning tool in geoscience. In: 5th International Computer-Assisted Assessment Conference, 02 July 2001 - 03 July 2001, Loughborough University.

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Abstract

A common perception exists that computer-assisted assessment (CAA) is synonymous with summative multiple choice testing. This perception may be partly responsible for a lack of enthusiasm encountered among some academic staff to incorporate CAA into teaching programmes. This has been the experience in attempts to promote the use of communications and information technology in the curriculum in the Earth and Environment Faculty at the University of Leeds. Nevertheless a wide range of CAA applications is in use in the faculty. In this paper, examples of the imaginative employment of CAA in geosciences are used to illustrate that CAA can, in fact, be a major player in a holistic, high order learning environment. In the Earth and Environment Faculty, objective, multiple choice question (MCQ) tests are used for summative assessment, self assessment and as a revision tool. There are also examples of the use of MCQ's primarily as a teaching, rather than an assessment tool, and for the management of student learning. Interactive computer-based learning (CBL) and web-based resources incorporate smart assessment systems with revision loops, where poor scores on a test prevent further progression until a revision area with alternate questions has successfully been visited. A growing number and variety of Virtual Field Resources (VFR's) are being developed by geoscience staff, containing elements of formalised CAA and self assessment. Further developments in CAA are being encouraged at LU using the in-house managed learning environment (MLE) 'Bodington Common'. This facility enables on-line tutor marking of short answer questions and electronic submission of coursework. The latter is of particular interest because it presents opportunities for introducing management tools such as plagiarism detection. Currently, there is no faculty-wide strategy for the implementation of CAA. The challenges for the future are (i) to raise the profile and encourage the use of CAA; (ii) to demonstrate the potential of CAA for learning and teaching at higher cognitive levels; and (iii) to co-ordinate the implementation of different CAA methods within a programme in order that students experience a balanced learning environment.

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