Saturday, November 13, 2010

A better way to academic success?

Many years ago, as an undergraduate student, I voted in a referendum about whether or not to introduce serious on course assessment into the degree program. At the time we had an arrangement called "terms", where you had to hand in certain papers and sit tests, but the results basically counted for squat. You had to hand them in to be allowed to sit the exam, but the quality of what you handed in had no serious weight on the final outcome. It was pretty much all on the exam.

I loved that system and voted against changing to on course assessment. It seemed to me a much better arrangement to be able to have fun for 80% of the year and then just sample the previous few years exam papers, predict what was likely to come up, and then build a few small data sets that would provide fodder for developing arguments on the topic during the exam. It was a pretty good system that left loads of time for movies, music, golf, back yard cricket and a bit of socialising.

The bad thing about the vote was that my side of the referendum lost. The good thing, at least for me, was that it occurred in the final year of my undergrad degree, so the outcome had zilch impact at the personal level.

The damage was done, however, and subsequent generations of students have endured the scourge of continuous assessment. That, of course, is ancient history.

But now there is another way, although it costs some beer money.

Not too much, it seems.

The last laugh, sadly, is on me. Just yesterday we finished a chapter on the topic of online collaborative writing. I thought we'd covered the most important bases, yet already it seems so five minutes ago ......

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