Socially Sourced Feedback: The Experiment

On December 12, 2009, in educational technology, by Leigh Graves Wolf

820 feedback

This semester has been quite a challenge – I have really pushed myself (in addition to my students) in CEP 820.  Quick background – CEP 820: Teaching K12 Students Online is one of the required courses needed to receive the NP Endorsement from MSU.  Additionally, the course can be taken as an elective for the MAED online program.  The main culminating project in the course is the creation of a complete online course module.  The creation of the module is scaffolded through the semester,  students must evaluate and choose a CMS and they are highly encouraged to use content from their professional practice to create the online or hybrid course (or unit.)

I have been involved in educational technology for about 12 years now – based upon my past experience – one might categorize me as an expert (or at least highly proficient) in assisting with technology integration in cross curricular and multi-disciplinary educational settings.  If you’re familiar with the TPACK model – I have the T and P down and I help people who have the “C” (subject matter expertise in science, special education, composition…etc.)  Therefore, to give my students a rich, authentic assessment of their final projects, I wanted to connect them to people who had the “total package” (a play on t-pack.) In essence, people who had experience with online/hybrid course development (T),  veteran teachers (P) and subject matter experts (C).

I am so lucky to have a large and diverse Personal Learning Network (PLN.) This network consists of professors, MAET alumni, PhD students, practicing teachers, online learning experts, and on and on.  Back in November I sent out an innocuous email to a cohort of people in my PLN. <Here is the text of the invite> In short, I was asking friends and colleagues to access a student course and use Jing + Screencast.com (both free tools) to record their reactions, feedback and suggestions for improvement. I specifically targeted people in my network who I thought would match well with my current students.

I was able to collect 16 brave souls willing to participate in the experiment.  I sincerely want to thank the following for giving the gift of their precious time to assist in this experiment:

Now that I had my reviewers in place the next task was to gather the details for 40 student courses and send them on to the external reviewers in individual emails.  I had been giving feedback on the development of the online modules all the way through, so I was very familiar with the content, I also know my PLN very well, so I did my best to match content area experts with content area experts, created a “form email” <see it here> and shipped each reviewer 2 modules to evaluate.

Keep in mind, that we were not working on any prior use model or case study — this was a new venture for everyone involved. I did my best to mediate the fear and trepidation on the student and reviewer side – putting forth the brave front – knowing that this would somehow work out. It could not fail with such a talented and adventurous group of both students and colleagues!

By now I’m sure you’re interested in seeing what actually happened — Here are a few highlights (links open in new windows, make sure your audio is up!):

Troy’s review of Erin’s “6 Traits of Writing” on Weebly Unit
Jessica’s review of Emily’s “American History” Moodle Unit
Sean’s review of Marc’s “Jared Diamond unit for World History” in Blackboard

So….what did I think of the whole process?

The downsides –

  • I am risking the fact that I may be relying too heavily on my PLN. At the end of the semester, something like this is the icing on the stress cake.  I purposely timed the submission of the final project 4 weeks before the official end of the semester to try and alleviate some of this stress.
  • This was incredibly tedious to manage.  I wish I could have figured out a way to make the revier/reviewee process a little more automatic, but it was all done manually.  This required minute attention to detail, making sure the right hyperlinks were going to the right people and making sure no one fell through the cracks. With everyone using different course management systems, keeping track of all the access points was a bit of a challenge.
  • Not everyone turned in their assignment on time.  I’m an understanding instructor and I know things happen (all of my students are working adults, many carrying 2 or more courses plus a full time job) – but it is not fair to the external reviewers to send them late reviews (as they too have full plates.) Laeeq (my teaching assistant), Jess Knott (who graciously volunteered) and I conducted any of the late submission reviews.
  • I was not able to match everyone up with the “perfect” person — I had to stretch a bit when it came to content experts. (All of  my reviewers were expert in online/hybrid course creation and pedagogy.)

The upsides –

  • I have connected my students to AMAZING people
  • My network was able to experience an alternative form of assessment in a “low-risk” setting.  Low-risk in the sense that they could try this out with the 820 students. (We took on the high-risk!)
  • The external reviewers expressed appreciation in learning how to use screencasting as a form of assessment/evaluation.

If I do this again…

  • I will be more explicit with my reviewers and give them some tips on microphone and recording techniques.  (I have a degree in audio production…I can’t help but be picky about production value!) I provided this support structure to the students (screencasting was one of the technologies we focused on during the semester) – it’s only fair I do this for reviewers as well!
  • I will only ask external reviewers to perform one review
  • I will try to adjust the final project due date one week earlier to avoid the end of semester crunch.

Help me continue the evaluation of the experiment
There is so much more to talk about! With the evidence presented — I need to hear from the reviewers and students.  I am on the fence about doing this again next semester (leaning more towards doing it again, I thought it was quite successful…but I am wavering a bit.) CEP 820 students, was this a valuable experience for you? Evaluators, was this too much to ask? Others, are you intrigued to try this – or have you tried this and do you have tips to share, ways I can improve the process? Do you want to be on the reviewer list next semester!?

I look forward to continuing the conversation!

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I had the distinct pleasure of presenting with MAET graduate April Tincher at the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference this past Friday.  Our presentation was called “Repurposing Technology for the Math Classroom.”  It was wonderful to work with April and to share and learn from the Mathematics teacher community…thank you to all who attended!

I have embedded our slides below…please feel free to ask questions or add additional resources in the comments!

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